By Lindsay Starr Platt, The Belton Journal
At Saturday’s Celebrate Cochran, Blair and Potts is the oldest department store in Texas, and their display windows are a prominent feature of the storefront to this day at the store. Nothing used to say Christmas more than the large display windows from a time and era gone by. The scene is all too familiar of a child and family standing in front of a store gazing in at the widows and hoping Santa would bring gifts they were looking at through the window. Many of those storefronts are long gone, but you can still see those nostalgic windows in Belton’s Cochran, Blair and Potts department store.
“With the way the windows are laid out, we can use that to achieve that ‘small town storefront’ feeling,” said Robert Potts, owner, Cochran, Blair and Potts. “Now, my wife Ashley takes care of the windows. She is part of the seventh generation. We hope to be here another seven generations.”
Because Cochran, Blair and Potts have been in business for so long the display windows have the chance for old and new to be displayed together. It gives a sense of nostalgia to customers, some who have been shopping there for two and three generations.
Roscoe Harrison, Jr., Temple resident, was reflecting about the shop local movement and it reminded him of when his father Roscoe Harrison, Sr. used to work at the historic Cochran, Blair and Potts.
“Daddy worked at Cochran, Blair and Potts for 44 years as manager of what was called the “work clothing department (today it is western wear). Daddy started working at Cochrans in 1923 when he was 21 years old as a porter and janitor. In later years he was promoted to a sales clerk and manager,” said Harrison. “Mr. Roy Potts, Sr. and daddy grew as close as brothers. They even created a small group of influential men called ‘Cochran’s Cool Corner.’ However, that is a story I will tell later.”
Harrison said Cochran. Blair and Potts was like the Neiman Marcus of Central Texas in those years. People came to shop at the store from all over the area.
“The Christmas season was an exciting time of year at the store,” commented Harrison. “During the Christmas season the store was carefully and artistically decorated by him. And he even decorated the show windows, with the help of Mrs. Alma Robbins, who was the manager of the women’s department.”
“I can remember daddy coming home late on Christmas Eve. He said, (there) would not be anyone remaining in the store about 7:00 p.m. and Mr. Potts would say, “Roscoe, go andlook on the street and see if anyone is coming.” Daddy would tell him the street was vacant. Mr. Potts would say, “Let’s shut it down,” said Harrison.
Robert Potts said they are still open on Christmas Eve.
“We don’t have a set close time we wait until everyone is taken care of, and then we go home to our family for Christmas.”
Santa used to make an appearance at the department store. Children would line up to see him, lists in hand to make sure Santa knew what they wanted for Christmas.
“As I reflect upon this time, I feel like John Boy Walton. Good night, to a forgotten era. The store is now in its seventh generation and going strong. And there are plenty of potential customers on the street,” said Harrison. “Mr. Potts passed away in 1967 and daddy died six months later.”
Michael Potts said he remembers hearing about Roscoe and that his legacy lives on.
“His son still comes in and shops at the store.”
Rob Potts, Sr, said. “Roscoe senior, and my granddad passed away the same year. My dad said we lost 100 years of experience from the store.”