December 25 is rapidly approaching, bringing with it “A Christmas Story,” television's annual Christmas story highlighting Ralphie Parker's obsession with chasing imaginary ruthless hombres using an air-operated Red Ryder Carbine.

I never get weary of watching this nostalgic classic, released in Nov. 1983 but portrayed to be in the 1940s. This year, I purchased the DVD option, thereby allowing me to watch it whenever and wherever I please.

During my youth, I always wanted a Red Ryder BB air gun, but I never acquired one. The Johnson Avenue Gang, that extended from Clark Street to Knob Creek Road and beyond, always seemed to have one or more air guns sitting around.

The age-old reason I never possessed one was that of the longstanding fear of shooting my eye out. In actuality, I borrowed an air rifle on occasion, as I grew older.

Recently while at a flea market, I purchased a Red Ryder carbine and carefully hid it in my garage workshop. The Daisy rifle box offered seven safety suggestions:

“Air-operated guns are recommended for use by those 10 years of age or older and under adult supervision. Know your air gun by reading your operation manual before using it. Always keep your air gun pointed in a safe direction.

“Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. Keep the air gun unloaded with BBs until ready to use. Always wear eye protection. Always know the target and what is beyond it. The box also included an owner's operation manual and another safety booklet.”

Specifications of my BB Gun are as follows: Action: Lever Cocking, Spring Air Action. Ammunition: .177 cal., 4.5 mm BBs. Maximum Velocity: 350 fps. Maximum Distance 195 yards. Capacity: 650 shot. Stock/Forearm: Stained Solid Wood. Safety: Crossbolt Trigger Block, Length: 35.4″ and weight: 2.2 lbs. I can just see Red Ryder and Little Beaver standing there with Red holding it with pride.

Another caution on the box stated: “This is not a toy. Read all instructions before using. The purchaser and user should conform to all laws governing the use and ownership of airguns. Do not brandish or display this air gun in public; it may confuse people and cause people to think it is a firearm. Do not alter the color of your carbine so as to confuse people.” It was to be treated as a toy.

Article Text: Read From Top to Bottom, Left-Right

“Daisy BB Guns Catalog Daisy Handbook, 10 cents, Last Chance To Get Daisy Handbook No. 2. Rope 'Em Both For A Thin Dime And An Unused 3-Cent Stamp Partner – Red Ryder 128 Pages Of Comic Strips, Science, Jokes, Cowboy Lore – Plus Gun Catalog!”

Readable Text From the full Page Ad

“Hundreds of thousands of lucky boys have owned and enjoyed the exciting Daisy Handbook No. 2. Are you one of them? If not, here is your last chance! Only a limited supply left. No more will be printed.

“This big, thick, pocket-size, 128-page book has comic strips galore, cowboy-ranch cartoons, pages on magic, inventions, jokes, camping out, Marksmanship Manual, many others.

“Latest BB Gun Catalogue is bound inside the Handbook. Rush coupon and one thin dime plus an unused 3-cent stamp – we will mail your Handbook and Catalog postpaid. Money refunded if handbook supply runs out – so hurry!”

Shoot The Famous BB-Shot Red Ryder Cowboy Carbine

“Looks, feels, handles like a real western cowboy's saddle gun! Genuine Carbine Ring. Red Ryder's picture is branded on the pistol grip stock. Buy at hardware, sports goods or department stores, $4.95.

Own Daisy Pump … King Of All BB Guns

“Finest, most accurate Daisy! A 50-shot force-feed repeater. Cocks by pulling the slide back. Pistol grip, walnut finish stock. Beautiful “gold” engraved jacket. Ask Dad to get yours now. Only $6.95.

“Big news is coming later on how to be a champion shooter and win wonderful medals! Mark your coupon!”

A One Bolt Take Down Model, No. 25, $6.95

“Leather Saddle Throng Attached to Carbine Ring. Do not order BB Guns or shot direct. See your dealer (prices higher in the Rockies, West Coast, and Canada).

“Announcing New Daisy Giant Pouch of Bulls Eye BB Shot to use in Daisy BB Guns. Daisy Manufacturing Co., Dept. 1285, Plymouth, Michigan, U.S.A.”

Mailing Instructions

“The mail coupon said to enclose a 10-cent coin and an unused 3-cent stamp for Handbook No. 2 & the Catalogue, Rush Postpaid. “Send me FREE, when ready, complete details on how to be a champion shooter and win medals.”

Maybe this year, Ralphie will be more careful handling his carbine. Evidence that I enjoyed writing this article is that, as I penned it, I hugged my Daisy Carbine in my lap the whole time. What wonderful memories they were. /

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A few days before Christmas 1907, shortly after the noon hour, the suburban home of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Hall, located about nine miles west of the city, was the scene of a beautiful wedding. Miss Cordelia Hall was united in marriage to Mr. Robert L. Dyer of this city. Rev. S.G. Ketron officiated with Miss Cora Allison serving as bridesmaid and Mr. G, S. Galliher as best man.

Wedding Feast

Following the ceremony, a wedding feast was served in superior old plantation style when quantity follows quality, being a close second. The bridal party returned to this city about six o'clock. Among those in attendance from here were: W.0. Dyer and wife, H.W. Webb and wife, H.H. Dyer and wife, J.P. Dyer, G.S. Galliher, Miss Cora Allison and others.

Planters' Hotel

At six o'clock that Christmas evening, in the parlors of the Planters' Hotel (once located at 110-12 S. Railroad Street, just a short distance from the Windsor Hotel), E.B. Hensley, proprietor and a select assemblage witnessed the marriage of Sir Charles Johnson of Ironton, OH to Mrs. Elbera McAlpin of Birmingham, AL.

The contracting parties came to this city Tuesday night on train No. 42 and expected to get married that night, but the vehicle was four hours late and delayed the ceremony. Following the service, Mr. and Mrs. McKee gave a dinner in the couples honor.

Those present were Rev. and Mrs. James J. Robinette, Pastor of the First Methodist Church (located downtown at Main and Roan streets where King's Department Store once resided), Mr. and Mrs. Hartman, W.B. Coon and wife, Mrs. Goldie Posttewait, and Mr. and Mrs. A.D. McKee. The bride and groom spent several days in the city and were honored at several dinners while present. 

Surprise Party

On the day after Christmas in 1907, several young people gave Miss Lucile McCown a surprise party at her 105 E. Unaka Avenue home. Her father was an employee of Wofford Brothers. The evening was pleasantly spent and delightful refreshments were served.

Those present were Misses Sarah Broyles, Rhea Hunter, Glennie Pence, Edith Barton, Ethel Barton, Lena Sanders, Ruth Lyle. Winnie Wheeler, Lucy Sitton, Martha Allen Martin, Mary Hardin. Messrs. Faw Broyles, Fred King, Dave Moser, John Wade, George Wade, Guy Seaver, Elmer Beals, Steve Sanders, Allen Hurlburt, Lonnie McCown and Ward Friberg.

(On a personal note, Dr. Friberg, physician and surgeon of the old Appalachian Hospital on Boone Street, proudly delivered me on Oct. 22, 1942. Mom recalled that he was very short, extremely polite and smiled a lot.) 

Home From College

The Christmas holidays brought college children home for the holidays to spend the festival week with their loved ones. Among those returning that week were Misses Rhea Hunter, Emma Lee Weiler, Glennie Pense, Frae Matson, Dora Campbell and Sarah Brace Coe. Messrs. included Oran Ward, James Young, Bronce McLain, Blaine Milborn, Faw Broyles, Hunter Galloway and Loyal Setton.

A Christmas Tree

A few days before Christmas at four to six p.m., the parlors of the Planters' Hotel were filled with children, all of whom were pleasure bent. Mr. Andrew and Lillian McKee, proprietors of the hotel, gave out Christmas trees to the schoolmates, which included their own children, Louis and Adolph. The Christmas tree and parlor were beautifully decorated. After two hours spent at play, each guest received a package from under the large tree and went merrily on his or her way.

I hope some of my readers will recognize a name or two in these six Christmas festivities. That was 109 years ago.

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Vintage letters to Santa have become a regular in my column at Christmas time. Today, nine of them from 1904 are presented without regard to spelling, punctuation and grammar; they are just as they arrived at the North Pole:

“Dear Santa Claus – Bring me an air gun an bicycle and some oranges apples candy and nuts and bring my baby brother a bugle or rattler. (Cyrus Lynn Scott, Watauga, TN).

“Dear Santa Claus – As Christmas will soon be here, we thought we would write and let you know what we want. Kathleen wants a story book, candy, nuts, oranges and some bananas. Eva Lee wants a doll, a doll bed, nuts and candy. (Kathleen and Eva Lee Campbell, Johnson City).

“Dear Santa Claus – I can hardly wait till you come. I am so glad Christmas is near I want so many things I dont know which the worst. Please bring me a doll dressed in pink and ring and lots of things and don't forget to bring my doll dressed in pink and my ring because I'll try not to loose it and be sure to bring my little sister and brother something nice for Christmas. Your little girl, (Sarah McCown, Johnson City).

“Dear Santa Claus – I am 10 years old and live at 207 Pine and Buffalo St. Please bring me a foot ball sweater a pair of leggins a pair of kid gloves a little search light a story book please bring 4 big and 4 middle and a box of little fire crackers a few roman candles and a few sky rockets that is all this time. (Lynn Mitchell, Johnson City).

“Dear Santa Claus – I am a little girl eight years old and am in the third grade. I want a few things for Christmas. Please bring me a game of old bachelor a horn a story book and a clown doll also some candy nuts and oranges just as many as you can carry. Don't forget mama and papa mama wants a pretty fur to keep her neck warm and papa wants a 2 foot boxwood brassbound rule. Bring all the little folks something. Come into the hall our room is the first on the left I will leave the door unlocked so come right in. Wishing all my little friends in Johnson City a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Your friend. (Kathleen Hodge, letter mailed to Johnson City newspaper from Leavenworth, KS).

“Dear Santa Claws – I want you to bring me a watch and a tricycle and some story books a lot of candy. (Byron Eiseman, Johnson City).

“Dear Santa Claus – I thought I would right you a letter and tell you what I want for Christmas I would like a pare of rubber shoes to wear to school and a pare of warm gloves a doll and some sweet meets I am eight years of age and go to school. Miss Painter is my teacher. I love her very much. (Lula Tonhay, Johnson City).

“My dear Santa Claus – It is so kind of you to give us a chance to write to you and I hope I will not ask too much. Please send me a great big doll in a bed a doll in a go cart and a set of dishes and please bring my brothers in Brookline, Mass., all they want. (Helen Wood, Johnson City).

“Dear Santa – I am a little boy five years old and I want you to bring me a story book and a horn and candy and anything you have. (Wan. C. Miller, Piney Flats).”

In addition to letters to Santa, the same newspaper offered 11 news items from Boone's Creek community:

“Misses Lena and Buena Hale have been visiting Miss Lee Miller on Kendrick's Creek a few days.

“Mr. D.J. Hickman, salesman for the Cox Hat Co., is at home for the holidays.

“Miss Mary Carter is on the sick list. Mr. and Mrs. Massengill of Bluff City have been visiting their daughter, Mrs. D. Hale.

“George Naff of Johnson City visits on the creek quite frequently.

There will be a Christmas tree entertainment at the Baptist Church at Flourville, Dec. 24.

Misses Lottie and Lula Hankal were in Johnson City Christmas shopping last Wednesday.

“Messrs. James Wine, Earl Garst, Paul Bowman and Misses Anna and Pearl Garst visited on Knob Creek Saturday and Sunday.

“There are few rabbits left in this neighborhood because Messrs. Culp, Hankal and Wine went hunting Saturday.

“Rev. C.D. Hylton has closed the meeting at Knob Creek. As a result of the meeting, six people joined the Boones Creek Church and eight at the Knob Creek Church.

“There will be an entertainment at Boones Creek Seminary Thursday and Friday nights. Dec. 22 and 23.”

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On Christmas day, 1951, President Truman told the nation that there had arisen a new spirit of hope in the world, that a true and lasting peace may come from the sacrifice of free men arming and fighting together. Mr. Truman's message was prepared for broadcasting from his fireside at Independence, MO., just before he pressed a telegraph key and set the nation's Christmas tree aglow with colored lights at the White House.

The president harked back to when the nation found itself fighting for survival in the most terrible of world wars. “The world is still in danger tonight,” he said, “but a great change has come about. A new spirit has been born and has grown up in the world.

“Tonight, we have a different goal and a higher hope. Despite difficulties, the free nations of the world have drawn together solidly for a great purpose, not solely to defend themselves, not merely to win a bloody war if it should come, but for the purpose of creating a real peace, a peace that shall be a positive reality and not an empty hope but a just and lasting peace.

The president spoke in moving terms of the men on the Korean battlefields that Christmas Eve and of the loneliness of those who waited for them at home.

“We miss our boys and girls who are out there,” he said. They are protecting us and all free men from aggression. They are diligently trying to prevent another world war. We honor them for the great job they are doing. We pray to the Prince of Peace for their success and safety.”

Mr. Truman said the Korea conflict is unique in history in that the free nations are proving that man is free and must remain free, that aggression must end, that nations must obey the law.

The victory we seek is that of peace; that victory is promised to us. It was promised to us long ago, in the words of the angel choir that sang over Bethlehem,  “Glory in the Highest, and on Earth, Peace, Good Will Toward Men.” 

On another note, that same year found Christmas pilgrims from 30 countries assembled in freezing cold, rallying in Bethlehem. They were there to celebrate the holiday on the spot where Christ was born.

Bone-chilling cold, which marked the Holy Land's worst Christmas, weather wise, failed to stop the annual pilgrimage.

More that 2,500 persons passed barbed wire barriers through Jerusalem, across the Mount of Olives to Bethany and then to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

There were priests in colorful robes that were assembled to honor the birth of Christ with ancient rites.

That pilgrimage, like the shepherds and the three wise men, many years prior found in Bethlehem a town of dome-roofed houses and narrow crooked streets.

The sun broke through a hazy overcast on Christmas Eve for the first time in 10 days and the women of Bethlehem devoted most of the morning to hanging out washings.

Pilgrims that year found Bethlehem's population doubled from it former figure of about 12,000. The increase was caused by an influx of Arab refugees from Israel, many whom lived in caves and rain-soaked tents on the outskirts of the town, which was situated in the Arab territory of Jordan.

Hostilities ceased between Israel and Jordan, but there was still a technical state of war. Only by special arrangement were Israeli Christian Pilgrims permitted to make the traditional journey to Bethlehem.

Friends shouted a Christmas greeting across the barbed wire barriers, waiting impatiently to be cleared by the blue-clad Israeli police and the Khadi-clad soldiers of Jordan's Arab Legion.

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The advertisement that accompanies today's column came from a Dec. 1, 1957 Johnson City Press-Chronicle. Note that the former “Johnson's Depot” carried the tag, “The Christmas Town,” stating that the city was ready with thousands of Yuletide delights!” Everywhere shoppers glanced, they saw dazzling, glittering arrays of gifts to put under their Christmas tree; toys to make a child's eyes grow wide with excitement; brilliant glowing lights and sparkling ornaments for decoration; Santa's Yule-tide pack overflowing with magic from all over the world to make Christmas the happiest, most thrilling they'd ever had; a need to hurry because time was a-wasting; join the holiday shopping throng now without delay.

Twenty-three downtown stores agreed to keep their businesses open until 8:00 p.m. on six nights between December 9 and December 23: Advance Store, Carder Hardware, Charles Store, Cooper's Office Equipment Co., Davis-Mottern Jewelers, Dosser's, Free Service Tire Stores, Gregg Electric Co., Hannah's, H.E. Hart Jewelers, Kyker Furniture Co., London Hardware, Masengill's, Parks-Belk Co., Penney's, Sears-Roebuck Co., Singer Sewing Machine Co., Sterchi's, The Jewel Box, The Music Mart, The Nettie Lee Ladies Shop, The Nettie Lee Boy & Girl Shop and Wallace's.

The Chamber of Commerce placed in the newspaper a message of thanks” to the hundreds of business firms and thousands of Johnson Citians whose support of the Chamber program had made this a most successful and joyous year.

George Kelly, in his editorial 12 months prior, challenged the local business and professional people to “come off the sidelines and get in the game.” He noted that the Chamber was the organization in which business men and others pool their experiences and talents for the economic good of the community.”

The results that year were quite impressive: “three new industries; an Industrial Park; called on 157 industrial prospects in 16 states; conducted a Dairy Institute; conducted two sales clinics; conducted “Business Education Day” and “Education Business Day”; approved $2 million Industrial Bond Issue, entertained college freshmen enrolled at ETSC, Milligan College and Steed College of Technology; and continuous activity in many areas of community development such as highways, fire prevention, health, sanitation, tourism, parking, retail, aviation, transportation, conservation, legislation, inter-city relations, traffic and safety and others.

The organization further stated that “It is our hope that 1958 will be another 'milestone year' in the annals of the progress of Johnson City.

The Chamber of Commerce concluded with “Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This message was sponsored by the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce by the following progressive, civil minded firms:

Browns Mill Company, Cash & Hall Wholesale Grocery Co., Diamond Cab Co., Gregg Electric Co., Hannah's, Holston Distributing Co., Home Federal Saving and Loan Association, Orange Crush Bottling Co., Harman Ice and Coal Co, Lodge Service Station, Mullins Hardware Co. Nave's Automotive Brakes, Wheel and Supply Co., Pet Dairy Products Co., Summers Hardware & Supply Co., Smith Higgins Co., Wofford Brothers, Radio Station WETB, Red Band Enriched Flour, Johnson City Press-Chronicle and Tennessee Motor Co.

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In December of 1957, the Johnson City Press-Chronicle created something enjoyable aimed at youngsters 10 years old and younger, which they titled “The Little People's Coloring Contest.” Four pictures, depicting the Christmas holiday, one per day, were posted in the newspaper, beginning on Tuesday, Dec. 3 and ending on Friday, Dec. 6.

One of Four Drawings for the Christmas Photo Contest

Christmas Coloring Contest.' After you finishing coloring this one, put it with the other three that you have colored, and you're ready to send or bring them downtown to the 'Little People's Christmas Coloring Contest' editor of the Press-Chronicle.

“Just in case you missed the first three drawings, you will find them in the past three issues of this newspaper if you still have them. Don't forget; the deadline for entries is Saturday midnight. All entries must be in our office or postmarked by that time. Each of the four sketches must have your name, age and address on it.

“Remember, if your colored drawings are judged the best, you have a chance to win $5, $3, $2 for first, second, third place winners in the two age divisions: up to six years old and from seven to ten. But that's only the beginning.

“The two sets of drawings, judged the best in the local contest, will be sent to Cleveland, Ohio and entered in the big national contest. These luck boys and girls will have a chance of sharing in the grandest list of prizes ever offered.

“The grand prize will be a $500 United States Savings Bond and a set of Britannica Junior Encyclopedia. There are also walking dolls, flash cameras, a beautiful bicycle, record players, table radios and other encyclopedia sets among the big list of national awards.

“So get those entries in early and remember to follow the attached 9 rules carefully to avoid being disqualified.”

The color contest had some basic rules to follow:

“1. Every boy and girl up to and including 10 years old is eligible, except relatives of employees of this newspaper.

“2. Clip out each of the four drawing in the contest as they appear this week in the Johnson City Press Chronicle.

“3. Color these drawings or reasonable facsimiles, without any assistance from others.

“4. Colored pencils, paints, crayons or any other coloring materials of your choice may be used.

“5. All four drawings must be submitted at one time. Save them until you have colored and signed each one. “Then mail or bring them to “The Little People's Coloring Contest” editor at the Press-Chronicle office on W. Main Street at Boone Street (adjacent to City Hall. Any number of sets may be entered by each child.

“6. All entries must be received by Midnight Saturday.

“7. Judging will be on the basis of beauty, imagination, coloring, neatness and originality. Decisions of the judges will be final. The Press-Chronicle will not be responsible for entries lost or damaged in the mail so package them carefully or deliver them in person. Drawings will become the property of the Press-Chronicle and cannot be returned.

“8. Local contest winners will be announced and prizes will be awarded at that time.

“9. The two best entries in the contest will be entered in The Little People's National Coloring Contest and will be eligible for additional prizes. Results of the contest will be announced on or before January 1, 1958.”

I attempted to locate the names of the winners but came up short. I would have been 15 years old at the time, making me too old to participate.

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During Christmas 1899, the Comet newspaper had for some time made an observation that Northern publishers dominated the field for magazines, leaving potential Southern ones “sitting on the side of the dirt road.” The news publication felt there was a bona fide need for a first class Southern magazine, reflecting the best literary talents of the South.

The answer, they surmised, was to convert the existing “Sunny South” weekly magazine, which had been in publication in the Southern states for 80 years, into a high-class literary monthly one. The first monthly edition, dated December 1899, had a Christmas theme, consisting of an 86-page book printed in color and handsomely illustrated. It contained the beginning of a new story, “The Professor's Secret,” by Mrs. Mary E. Bryan, “Little Davie,” a short story by Joel Chandler Harris and many other good articles.

From beginning to end, it was filled with splendid, original matter. The cover page carried a poem, beautifully illustrated, from Frank L. Stanton. The magazine's annual cost was one dollar, which included a bonus to those who subscribed at once – Readers received a Christmas present free and post paid of Shakespeare's complete works.

The bonus book was described as being an immense and beautiful edition, containing 487 pages and over 50 elegant engravings. It measured 8×12 inches and weighed over 2 pounds. It was printed on high quality white paper and bound in leatherette, a flexible binding.

Surprisingly, the publisher made another offer. Anyone desiring to view sample pages of the book, revealing a portion of its reading matter, could drop a line to the publisher and receive sample pages to examine. Anyone displeased with the magazine would be promptly refunded.

Newspaper Advertisement from 1899

In that same issue, The Comet featured a clever, humorous and educational poem, not about Christmas but  about how many bones are in the human body:

“How many bones in the human face? Fourteen, when they're all in place.

“How many bones in the human head? Eight, my child, as I've often said.

“How many bones In the human ear? Four in each, and they help to hear.

“How many bones in the human spine? Twenty-four, like a climbing vine.

“How many bones in the human chest? Twenty-four ribs and two of the rest.

“How many bones the shoulders bind? Two in each-one before, one behind.

“How many bones in the human arm? In each arm one, two in each forearm.

“How many bones in the human wrist? Eight in each if none are missed

“How many bones in the palm of the hand? Five in each with many a band.

“How many bones in the fingers ten? Twenty-eight and by joints they bend.

“How many bones in the human hip? One in each, like a dish they dip.

“How many bones in the human thigh? One in each and deep they lie.

“How many bones in the human knee? Two in each, we can plainly see.

“How many bones in the ankle strong? Seven in each, but none are long.

“How many bones in the human foot? Five in each as the palms are put.

“How many bones in the toes half score? Twenty-eight, and there are no more.

“And now altogether these bones wait.” 

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During last Christmas, I featured some letters of area youngsters who wrote Santa Claus a letter in 1909, telling the jolly ole fellow what they wanted for Christmas from him. Since some of my readers identified a relative in the list, I decided to produce another column this year of letters to Santa. The date for this one is 1908. Only minor editing was done.

George Houston: Please bring me a wagon and a sled and some nuts and a football and some candy and some oranges and some of everything. And please bring me a tricycle and I think that is all I want for this Christmas. I will be asleep when you come. I am in school now. I live at 112 King Street. Good bye. 

Earl Nave: I will write you a few lines to let you know what I want for Christmas. I want you to bring me a little storybook, and I want you to bring me two oranges and some candy, too. Ithink this is all for today. Your little friend. 

Gertrude Candler: I want you to bring me a big doll and a doll carriage, and I want you to bring my little sisters something too. I want some candy and some nuts, oranges and lemons. Bring me a little doll, a little bed and a set of dishes. Please remember my mother and teacher. And, Santa, whatever you do, please see to it that all the poor children get something. I would like have a teddy bear and some clothes for it. I will close for this time. From your little friend.

Lawrence Jones: I will write you a few lines. I want you to bring me an automobile and a football and some oranges. I will be asleep when you come. Your little friend.

Lawrence Brown: I thought I would write you a few lines and let you know what I want Christmas. I want a wagon, some firecrackers, candy, nuts and oranges. Yours truly. 

Edna Campbell: I will write you a letter to let you know what I want you to bring me a big doll and a little bed for her to sleep in, and bring me a whole lot of candy and some apples, nuts, and oranges. And bring me a cradle for my doll. 

Clifton Little: I will write you to tell you what I want for Christmas. I want a wagon and a suit of clothes and some candy and nuts and some oranges and fire crackers and that will be all this time. Good bye. 

1908 Sterchi Furniture Company Advertisement

Frank Carroll: I want you to bring me a bow and arrow that will shoot high up in the sky. And bring me a gun and a box of cartridges. I would also like to have a sled and a wagon. Your friend. 

(No Name, but Santa Knows): I want you to bring me a doll for Christmas and some candy and apples and oranges, a new dress, new ribbon, a handkerchief, a coat, a hat, a ring and some colored pencils. I will close for this time.

Willie Beekelhimer: I thought that I would write you a letter to tell you what I want you to bring me. I want a gold ring and a bracelet and some candies and some oranges and some apples and bring mama some presents. Bring papa something too. Bring little brother something nice for Christmas. Bring me some bananas and bring Miss Sarah Nugent, my teacher, some presents.  

Ruth Williams: Well, the first thing will be a little doll which cost about 10 cents and is 5 inches tall. Another thing I want is a horn and some fruits and candy. Another thing I want is a book of fairy tales, and oh Santa Clause, I want some little dishes to have a little party. Please do it. I will write you again next Christmas. Are you any fatter? Write me. Good bye.

Thelma Houston: Will you bring my teacher a pretty doll, and will you bring me two dolls and please bring me a doll carriage too, and will you bring me a doll bed? Will you bring my mother a new dress and bring my father some shoes? I am in the second grade. Please bring me a ring. My teacher's name is Miss Nugent. Your friend. 

Cyril Coly: I am writing a little letter to tell you what I want. I want a fire engine. That will be all this time. Good night. 

Children are children, but their Christmas wish lists have certainly changed over the years.

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Jay Prater, a frequent contributor to my Yesteryear articles, wrote me saying that he had diligently searched for his Duncan yo-yo after reading the Red Shield Boys’ Club article last week on the History/Heritage page. So far, he has not located it, but won’t stop looking for it. Today’s column deals with Valentine’s Day.

The W. Maple Street lover of downtown Johnson City history further noted that he uncovered some vintage Valentine cards several months ago, but it just came to his mind this week that it might be appropriate for a Valentine’s Day column. I think many readers will readily identify with these valentines. I remember exchanging them during my formative years while I was at Henry Johnson School in the early 1950s. I only wish I had saved mine like Jay did.

Each year on February 14th, many people exchange cards, candy, gifts, special meals or flowers with their special valentine. The day of romance that we call Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century, but has origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia.

The above photograph collage contains 30 valentines that Prater saved from third grade students at Columbus Powell School in 1952. The cards were signed by students and given to their classmates. Although a number of the cards were signed with the student’s first and last names, some contained only the first or last one. Some signatures were on the front of the cards; others were on the back. Jay was able to supply the missing part of the name in several instances. Those missing are flagged by a question mark:

Marcia ?, Phillip Mitchell, Freddie Lee, Janice Harmon, Carolyn Woodby, Lenna ?, Martha Harne, Brenda Spain, Pete (?), Jean Ann Senter, Bobby Crum, Sandra ?, Beth Ann Wallace, Frank (?), Bonnie Lee Fisher, ? Tipton, Kenneth ?, Alma ?, Gary Hoilman, Helen ?, Phyllis Arnett, Kyle ?, Teddy Young, James S. ?, Bob ?, Jimmy ?, Leroy Wood, Miss Thomas, Mrs. Moody and finally, according to Prader, “the proverbial anonymous heart-stopper signed only with ‘I Love You’  and all words underlined.”

I remember a few students from the list as I too attended the third grade in 1952. One in particular, Jean Ann Senter, transferred to Henry Johnson School. I recall her being in my 6th grade class under Miss Sophia Boring. Others were in Science Hill High Schools class of 1961: Bonnie Lee Fisher (father was manager of the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. in the 1950s and 60s), Brenda Spain and Phyllis Arnett.

Prater said the third grade teacher at Columbus Powell was Miss Anna Thomas. He noted that she passed away just a couple years ago. He further stated that she and his mother became close friends up until “their graduation into Glory.” The school principal was Mr. Leland.

If you were in Miss Thomas’ class in 1952 or perhaps know someone who was and can supply a student’s first or last name, I would like to hear from you. Thank you, Jay for sharing your cards with us.

Happy Valentine’s Day, folks.

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During Christmas 1906, Gov. Bob Taylor submitted a depiction to The Comet newspaper, offering his views of what Christmas is all about, from both the spiritual and traditional sides of the holiday:

Bob L. Taylor in One of His More Reflective Poses

“The season of peace and good will joins upon us the command to love one another and this command all mankind cheerfully complies with during the time of cheer and good feeling. A man can love even his successful political opponents at Christmas.

“I love to think of that first Christmas in far off Galilee. I see the lovely maiden mother holding to her heart the Holy Babe, dazzled by the radiant purity of its angel face. The rapture of a young mother when she clasps her first-born to her breast is an ecstasy but little lower than the angels feel as they bow before the throne of the Most High.

“In that first exalted moment, she molds and shapes Him to a high, pure destiny, such as the mind of a man scarcely conceives and triumphantly spanning countless eons of eternity, she hears his name ringing ever louder and clearer through the ages and wraps herself with sublime humanity in the thought that she has given to his Maker's service a man.

“Thus mothers have brooded and dreamed since time began and their pure aspirations and high hope and enduring faith clear the world of sin and baseness. God walks with them in their communings and God's listening ear attends rather their prayers and supplications than to the records of mans' misdeeds.

“His power, which fashioned man in His own image, reaches out to touch our hearts and renew man's allegiance to Him at this blessed Christmas tide. I think He is nearer to us at this time than any other. His thought is manifest in every rock and hill and vale, in every brook and river, which bears upon its bosom crystal temples to His glory.

“The rustle of His wings is in every zephyr; His might is in every tempest. He dwells in the dark pavilion of every storm cloud and the heavens above us teem with His myriads of shining witnesses.

When I was a young man in my teens and twenties, the Christmas season was the brightest of the year. I used to take my fiddle under my arm at evening when the whippoorwill began to sing and the stars began to twinkle and hie me away to the merry makings in the mountains. We always gathered at the happy home of some jolly warmhearted old neighbor who threw open his doors to the young folks for an evening of mirth and pleasure.

“During the candy pulling and the country dance amid peals of laughter and shouts of merriment, we pulled the taffy into golden hanks and the glad hours floated away on silver waves of music that rippled out like mountain brooks from under the bridge of my fiddle.

“When the old-fashioned clock that stood on the floor struck 12, our carnival of candy and kisses and wheeling and whirling in the Old Virginia Reel had reached the high tide of unspeakable bliss and unutterable joy. The moonbeams danced in the air to the melody of the fiddle and the bow.

“The drowsy hills awoke from their slumbers and clattered back in echoes the jangle of the dwindling shoe soles. When the clock struck two, the sound of revelry had died away, the fiddle had fainted with exhaustion, the lovers scattered into dark corners where each Romeo sat and held his sweetheart's hand in silence until the chickens crowed for day and then we went home with the girls in the morning.”

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