Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Bazaar of All Nations

My first experience with reported alien sightings took place during the late 1960s in Clifton Heights. It was there that my friend Wayne swore that there were people walking the oval laps at The Bazaar of All Nations who were surely not of this Earth.

Of course I had experienced the wonder of “The Bazaar” before (Wayne always called it “The Bizarre.” Unfortunately, since that sounds exactly like the real name people never got the joke unless he explained it to them.)

There were at least four entrances, but you just had to go through the front door to get the full treatment. The smell of fresh soft pretzels mixed with cinnamon buns and Italian water ice was a roller coaster ride for the nose. The effect was an overall sense of well being that I don't believe has ever been duplicated by any drug, legal or otherwise.

Although I'm not sure that “all” nations were fairly represented, you could buy the widest variety of necessities there, as well as items that no one could ever possibly need. If you had a craving for a Road Runner cartoon T-shirt, an Edd “Kooky” Burns comb or the latest Rolling Stones single … you went to the Bazaar. Gym shorts, Pong, bright yellow yarn, a half-pound of boiled ham? There's a booth for that. In fact, the Bazaar of All Nations was your one-stop shop for anything from pickles to pianos. And you could buy a monkey there, too. Really.

But Wayne was right.

There was something unusual about the people you'd see at The Bazaar. There was the day that it seemed like everyone walking the oval was on crutches. Another day, everywhere you looked you saw redheads with perms. One day it was an unusual number of men (and women) wearing overalls, the next it was funny hats.

Wayne and I never left without having figured out the theme for that day. And I'm embarrassed to admit that it took us years, and dozens of visits, to realize that we were walking that oval, too. That we were part of “The Bizarre” for all the others. And the theme on our visits was fairly obvious: “Dumb Kids Day.”


  1. This is really a great memory as I recall walking the "Bizarre" as well. I was too young to truly appeciate the things you mention... the bizarre part. But, I do remember those great smells... and some not so good ones to.

    Wonder what is thought about the parents who brought their young ones here?

  2. And just about every set of directions you got in that part of the county referenced the Bazaar in some way, shape or form.

    As in "Go past the Bazaar and..." or "Go back behind the Bazaar and..." or "The Bazaar will be on your right, and then you turn..." Very confusing for me at the time, since I had no idea where or what the Bazaar was.

    But the Bazaar will never be gone as long as Booth's Corners Farmers Market ("The Sale") is still with us. That's where all of the Bazaar shoppers you describe in your blog have gone!

  3. I love your reminiscing, Jack. Your memories are colorful and evocative.

    Part of this one reminded me of an experience I had when I first started college in New Orleans in '73. Those were the days of streakers, who, when well-dressed, wore neckties. I don't seem to remember more that one female streaker, but she wore no neck-tie. However, and more to the point, I remember the colorful crowds who would sit in the UC sipping coffee from styrofoam cups (had to sip fast or the coffee would eat through the foam), many of them Viet Nam vets going to school on the GI bill, or others who were kind of a cross between Charles Bukowski, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and William Burroughs. All of us sat in the UC by the large plate glass windows discussing John Waters' "Pink Flamingos" or George Crumb's music, or what class to skip next, waiting to see what might happen. I remember thinking that I was somehow different and apart from this experience when the epiphany hit me -
    "Heavens, the place is like a zoo, but I must remember that I'm here too."

    As above (in Delco), so below (in New Orleans).

  4. It's quite a revelation to find we're part of the show, isn't it, Eileen? Thanks for your story ... I love it!

  5. Hi Jack, I just linked to this post at our Phila. Daily News blog:

    I don't have your email, but I'd like to gather some of your memories for a story I'm working on for next month ahead of the documentary's release. Can you email me: