The Kaufman's store located on the left of the photos is not related to the Kaufmann's department store chain that is now part of Macy's empire and along with Hecht's lost its individual identity to the Macy's brand. Incidentally, the Kaufman's building no longer exists; it was demolished a year ago. The large brown-brick building in the distance at center was a huge department store named Gable's, which was the centerpiece of the downtown.
Altoona's downtown is one block from the railroad tracks. In the heyday of the Pennsylvania Rail Road, Altoona was an important stop, mainly as a center for car repair and engine building shops. There's a railroad museum across the tracks from the downtown, next to the more or less moribund Station Mall, a small one-story mall that never could compete with the larger Logan Valley Mall and perhaps never intended to, as it was anchored at its high point by a grocery store and a Hills Department Store (think of a K-Mart before they launched the Super K or Giant K or whatever). As with most rail towns, Altoona has seen its high mark receding into the distant past, but it clings furiously to the memory. The downtown is plastered with murals and posters depicting the glory that was the railroad.
The one above is an older one that was done while the downtown still had some shops and shoppers roaming around in it. As the downtown has become ever more desolate, the murals have become more ambitious, compensating for the fact that the lifestyle they allude to is gone forever, if it ever existed before anyway:
The downtown is currently full of empty storefronts with great historic (and some not so historic) bones. The train still stops twice a day -- once going east, once going west -- and the station -- which also doubles as the bus terminal -- is at least more permanent than the trailer that sat next to the tracks when my family boarded the train for an Arizona vacation in 1979.