The first stop is under the clock at the old Loveman’s department store in Birmingham.
Two years ago, Hollis documented the history of Loveman’s longtime competitor, Pizitz.
The History Press, the publisher for both projects, hired Hollis for “Loveman’s: Meet Me Under the Clock” approximately two weeks after the Pizitz book hit shelves in 2010.
“From the time History Press contacted me about doing a book on Pizitz, I had about six months to get it researched, written and turned in for them to have it out by the time of year they wanted,” Hollis said. “For the Loveman’s book, I had about two and a half years, so I was able to get a lot more in-depth with my research.”
Hollis said most customers will remember Loveman’s as a more upscale department store than Pizitz during their heyday.
Loveman’s also stayed in business longer. Founder A.B. Loveman relocated it from Greensboro to Birmingham in 1887, and the store closed in 1980 after its owner, City Stores, went bankrupt.
The building was later renovated for its current tenant, McWane Science Center.
Other than its iconic clock on the corner, Loveman’s is also fondly remembered for its “Breakfast with Santa” program, which began in the late 1960s as an answer to Pizitz’s Enchanted Forest.
Santa Claus and local television personality Cousin Cliff were the hosts, but Hollis said the real star of the show was Del Chamborden.
Chamborden, who began her career with Loveman’s as a bookkeeper during World War II, was only 4 feet tall and played the part of Twinkles the Elf during Breakfast with Santa.
“Of course, all the kids thought she really was an elf, and they just loved her,” Hollis said.
Chamborden celebrated her 90th birthday last fall at the nursing home where she resides. Hollis and the last surviving president of Loveman’s were among the attendees.
Hollis’s second book to be released in the past month is “Part of a Complete Breakfast: Cereal Characters of the Baby Boom Era.”
Some readers may be surprised to learn that Kellogg’s Snap, Crackle and Pop date back to the radio era.
However, many of the cereal characters that remain household names today such as Tony the Tiger and Toucan Sam were developed in the late 1950s and 1960s for televison.
Hollis said the book also details numerous characters who have long since been forgotten because their popularity was short-lived.
“Any time they tried to do a character that was trendy, it eventually started looking outdated,” Hollis said.
He added that one character who defied the odds was Dig’em Frog for Sugar Smacks, which is now known as Honey Smacks.
Although Dig’em still wears his trademark baseball cap, T-shirt and sneakers, Hollis noted that his appearance has taken on an urban edge in recent years to appeal to a new generation of customers.
While the designs of many cereal characters have changed over the years, some have been given new personalities.
For example, Hollis said Lucky the Leprechaun for Lucky Charms was once much more antagonistic.
“When the kids would catch him, he would genuinely be furious. There are commericals from the 1960s where he would magically zap the kids to some precipice. It looked like he was really trying to kill the kids to stay away from them,” Holllis said.
The book ends with the story of Popeye the Sailor Man’s brief stint as the new face of Instant Quaker Oatmeal in 1990.
The advertisements were not only unpopular with the public at large but the religious group known as the Quakers, who were offended at the violent Popeye calling himself “the Quaker Man.”
“The church didn’t like Quaker Oats using their name when the company started, so that was just the culmination of a 100-year relationship that they really didn’t care for in the first place,” Hollis said.
“Loveman’s: Meet Me Under the Clock” and “Part of a Complete Breakfast: Cereal Characters of the Baby Boom Era” are available online. “Loveman’s is also available in Birmingham-area bookstores.