As the last hours of the century's last Christmas shopping season ticked away, customers were crowding the last stores open downtown.
Along Massachusetts Street, stores began closing on Christmas Eve at 2 p.m., with most shut down and dark by 4 p.m.
At Weaver's Department Store, Vice President Earl Reineman said Thursday was busier than Friday.
"Man, it was great. Elbow to elbow," Reineman said.
While there was more elbow room Friday, customers were still seeking the most popular items: leather coats, women's sleepwear, men's sportswear, and perfumes and cologne, along with items for the home.
Across the intersection from Weaver's, Third Planet Manager Matt Fisher looked up anxiously as an item fell in the front of the store.
He and five employees were working the specialty store.
"We've been hit pretty hard today," Fisher said, although larger crowds of shoppers seemed to be drawn out by Thursday's nicer weather.
Third Planet was staying open as demand required, Fisher said, but he anticipated closing by 6 p.m.
"It's been pretty steady," Fisher said.
At Border's Books Music and Cafe, General Manager Lisa Bakke seemed calm amid the swirl of Christmas Eve shoppers. With an hour and 15 minutes left before the store closed, she anticipated a rush of last-minute shoppers.
She said Thursday and Friday were equally busy for the store.
Bakke, too, thought warmer weather played a part in the last days' shopping activity.
"It got cold first, then it started warming up," Bakke said.
Susan DePrenger, Borders' community relations coordinator, said most last-minute shoppers did not come in with a list.
"Gift certificates are hot, if you can't find the title," she said.
Among the top-selling items were calendars and books looking back at the fading 20th century, Bakke and DePrenger said.
-- Erwin Seba's phone message number is 832-7145. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.