This submission written by storyteller and FHC volunteer Libby Franck (written in 2009)
Christmas at Shoppers World in Framingham (1951-1994) used to be truly festive. Two levels of stores surrounded an open courtyard. Bridged walkways let you walk from one side to the other. With Jordan Marsh at one end and General Cinema at the other, this was an inviting setting for Christmas shoppers. In the courtyard Santa held forth in the gazebo with a pen nearby for his reindeer. Huge blocks spelled out Joy to the World. And then there were the soldiers – a platoon of 24 wooden toy soldiers - the smallest of them 10 feet tall and the 20 foot tall General who commanded them. All were garbed in red, blue and gold, each smartly presenting a shiny black wooden rifle.
The idea came from a woman in the promotions department. The actual soldiers were made by Shoppers World maintenance worker and celebrated woodworker Hal Purrington. An underground workspace beneath Windsor Button Shop was turned into a veritable Santa’s toyshop from March Thanksgiving 1975. Each soldier was made up of 3 pieces, the head and body, the legs, and the gun. The legs were bolted to the body and the gun is detachable. Each piece was hand crafted assembly-line style. The train, the gazebo, and the Joy to the World Blocks were also the work of Purrington. When Shoppers World got ready for Christmas the soldiers were placed facing out each against a pillar on the lower level. The huge General had a fancier hat, no cross on his chest and held no gun. All were stored under Windsor Button Shop to await the next Christmas Season.
In 1994 Shoppers World was demolished and no one could manage the removal of the 20 foot General. Rumor has it that he lies buried under the rubble of the historic shopping Mall. The other soldiers were given away or sold.
In 1996 or 1997 the soldiers reappeared, scattered about Framingham, assigned their posts by the Parks and Recreation Department: the Common in Framingham Center, the Memorial Building, the bank next to Dunkin Donuts, the Common in Downtown Framingham, Bowditch Field, Amazing Things Arts Center, Cushing Park, ADESA Car Auction on the site of the old GM plant. Other soldiers can be spotted at the Sherborn Inn and two rest in a private garage on Water Street.