In the 1950s, many of us faithfully went to see western movies at the Liberty Theatre located at 221 E. Main Street. The building on the west (Fountain Square) side at 219 E. Main was the Darling Shop, a ladies clothing store. If we were to turn the clock back to Christmas 1914, we would have encountered another business operating from that site – the London-Kirkpatrick Hardware Company.

That year, the business issued an 8-page advertisement printed on slick high quality paper that was chocked full of ads, including pictures of their merchandise. In addition, there were 49 jokes to amuse the reader.

Today's feature is a nostalgic excursion through those eight pages. Along the way, you will encounter Christmas gifts that were exchanged exactly 100 years ago this month. The sales ad offered these comments: 

“The advantage in Christmas shopping is always with the early buyer. Firms make special efforts to provide desirable goods adapted for presents and many of these are sold almost exclusively at this time of the year.

“No merchant desires to carry over goods from one season to another, consequently their stock is adapted to meet the probable sale. Again, when stocks are depleted, it is frequently impossible to secure a further supply in time for the holidays.

“You have a certain number of Christmas presents that you wish to make and would feel miserable and mean if you did not. Therefore, do not put it off until the last minute, but make your selections at once.

“Our store offers exceptional advantages. Perhaps you do not realize the many thousands of articles that we carry and if you would only take the trouble to call on us and look around, you would not fail to find many which would be just the thing you are looking for. We will be glad to lay aside your purchases so that you may be sure to have them at the proper time.

“By purchasing in advance, you not only secure the advantage of complete stocks but you may be sure to receive the full attention of someone who is conversant with the goods and may be of real assistance to you in making your selections. You may depend absolutely on any statement which will be made.

“We carry the best makes procurable in each separate line and to have purchased from us is a recommendation for quality.

“Decide now to make us an early call and you will be surprised how large a proportion of your presents you can purchase from us.”

Gifts for the Family: “What to give the different members of the family, as well as our many friends who are closely associated with us, is always a difficult problem. Our stores offer exceptional advantages for procuring suitable presents for all. We shall not attempt to make a list as it would be out of proportion to the space, which we can devote to this purpose. Below, we provide a few suggestions which may be of value.”

Gifts for Mother: “Mother would appreciated any kind of present and it need not be expensive either, for it is the love and respect of the giver, which she cherishes most. To be remembered is the all important thing. Any article of household use, which she has felt the need, would be very acceptable, even though it might be nothing more than a paring knife. Of course, you will give mother as nice a present as you can afford and put her name down on the list first.”

Gifts for Father: “Any old thing will do for dad. He pays the bills and doesn't expect much in return, but all the same, he will appreciate any Christmas remembrance. Tools of many different kinds or a pocket knife, razor, strop of anything of this kind would be most appropriated.”

Gifts for Sister: “Sister is a little more particular than mother or father as to what she would like. It would probably be a nice set of scissors, a fancy pen knife, manicure set or something of this class. If she is very small, a little sadiron or other hardware  toy would tickle her.”

Gifts for Brother: “Brother is very decided in his wants. He has probably been making them known for some time before Christmas and it will not be difficult to make a selection. However, it is a good plan to encourage him in the use of tools. You could purchase a small set or select a few tools for his very own that would give him necessary groundwork. A pocket knife is a favorite present for a boy, but the things he wants are too numerous to mention here.”

Percolators and Bake Dishes: “The appearance of the dinner table seems to add or detract from the pleasure of the meal and that is one of the reasons that the recipient of a percolator or a bake dish would be very pleased. We have different patterns and finishes and the prices vary accordingly.”

Chafing Dishes: “Every girl and woman longs for a chafing dish and has visions of a luncheon at which she presides and serves dainties prepared in one. We have selected some beauties, which vary in price according to size and finish. We have chafing dish forks and spoons also.

Useful, Appropriate Gifts: “Articles for kitchens and household use make appropriate presents for housewives, especially for those who delight in such work. Having the tools to lessen or improve the work makes an otherwise irksome task a pleasure. There are many articles of this character, which you cannot fail to note at our store.”

For the Ladies: “Manicure files, cuticle and nail scissors are only a small portion of articles of real worth, which we can supply. We want to call attention to our first line of scissors, pen knifes and other articles.”

Buy Her a Washer: “The store wrote a little poem for those ladies whose husbands needed to give her the tools to lighten her household chores: 'When I think as I strive, Like a bee in the hive, Without tools to lessen the task, If hubby but knew, How much there's to do, He'd surely get all that I ask.'”

We Knew It All the Time: “Another rhyme challenged the husband to be more proactive in providing her with the things she needs to care for her family: 'When mother is in the kitchen, She always pleasure brings, So why should you deny her, She needs a lot of things.”

Cross-Cut Saws: “The speed with which a good saw will cut through a log is the best reason for being extra particular to get the right article. We carry all you can wish in this line in sizes to suit you with handles of different patterns, also designed for one or two men.”

Guns and Ammunition: “Do you recall to your mind the many pleasant hours spent in the open air, free from care? Does it call to mind a need for the future? If it is a gun, a rifle, loaded shells or cartridges, remember that we are in a position to aid you. Or if you are in need of a hunting coat, leggings, gun or file case or hunting equipment of any kind, right here is the place to purchase it.”

Air Rifles: “Whether he be a small boy or a youth in his teens, if he does not already own an air riffle, he dreams of being the proud possessor of one. There are pop guns for the small boys and many kinds of air rifles for the youth. The prices range from 25 cents up.”

Tools for the Boy: “Tools are always desirable presents for boys and young men. They encourage the inventive instinct but most of all tend to keep them from bad company or idleness at a critical stage of their life. Good tools are long lived and the money spent in a kit is the best investment parents can make.”

Wagons, Coasters and Go-Carts: “Only an empty purse can be offered as a valid excuse for denying children of these heart gladdeners. Express wagons are especially desirable because of the many uses they can be put to.

A coaster or an automobile wagon is the dream of every boy who does not possess one. A doll's go-cart will gladden any girl's heart.”

Roller Skates: “Whenever there are a few roads of good walk or pavement, roller skates are in demand. Children get a world of enjoyment out of the now well-established sport and an abundance of muscle-building exercise. It also aids largely in lung development. Good skates can be secured at almost any price you want to pay.”

Nut Picks and Cracks: “It is hard to find a present that combines so much real worth for the price as a set of nut picks and cracks made of steel, beautifully knurled and nickel plated. The are practically everlasting and may be had with the cracker wrapped in paper or in more expensive cases.”

Electric Flashlights: “Electric flashlights have proven to be wonderfully useful, convenient gifts and are always on the job. Push the button and you have a light. They are made in different shapes and sizes. Some are quite inexpensive. We carry batteries and lamps for renewing.”

Pen and Jack Knives: “We have pen knives and jack knives in great variety and of every description. They include knives with pearl, tortoise shell, celluloid, stag, horn, aluminum or bone handles. These splendid values sell for $.50, $.75 and $1.00.”

Ordinary and Safety Razors: “Ordinary razors are as popular they have ever been and our stock embraces every shape, size or style of grinding. A good razor can be secured for $1.00 and cost as much as $3.50, depending upon the brand, finish and grinding. Let us help you in the selection. We sell safety razors of merit. You can get a splendid one for $1.00. Silver of gold plating, extra fine cases and equipment cost $2.00 to $6.00 and higher.”

Carpenters' Tools: “A tool box, chest or cabinet, is a sort of central office where you may find what you wish as the beginning of a workshop. A set of tools is an investment that will repay many times the outlay. Good tool cabinets can be obtained for $7.50, $10.00, $15.00 and up.”

Sleds and Skates: “To illustrate our complete line of either skates or sleds would require more space than we can devote. If there is any particular style, quantity of finish you desire, you may be almost sure to find it in our stock. Call and be convinced.”

Aluminum Utensils: “Pure aluminum ware, because of its age-resisting qualities, make it particularly appropriate for Christmas presents. An article of such beauty, perfection in finish, that is not only good to look upon but will wear long, will be appreciated by any housewife.”

Silver Plated Ware and Table Cutlery: “In buying silverware, quality is the all-important consideration and on that you may depend if secured from us. We are prepared to furnish the latest patterns of knives, forks, spoons and fancy pieces, single and in sets, with or without cases.”

Scissors and Shears: “We carry 15 varieties of scissors and have many others in addition. Ladies' scissors range from four to six inches in length and in several different grades. We have embroidery scissors, buttonhole and pocket scissors, nail and manicure scissors, scissors with fancy handles, scissors in sets and fancy cases. Prices fare $.15 up. We can supply you with a pair of shears at almost any price you wish to pay.

“If you desire a pair that will last almost a lifetime, retain a good edge, cut smoothly and to the point, we can provide it. We carry a large assortment of the most celebrated shears to be had, which we guarantee. Sizes range from 6-12 inches and include straight, bent or draw cut. Splendid values from $.50 to $1.00.”

Carving Knives, Forks: “Let us show you our complete line of carving knives and forks, which includes carves of the most celebrated manufacture. We have beautiful handles of any material with or without a steel to match, packed in elegant covered and fancy-lined boxes or cases. A wide variation in values. Excellent carving knives and forks with prices ranging up to $15.00 and exceptional values from $1.50 to $5.00.”

Kitchen Knives: “We carry knives for the kitchen, including butcher, bread and cooks' knives of several sizes and prices. We have paring knifes in a large variety of shapes and finish, as well as cake knives, slicers, kitchen cleavers, cooking forks and many other similar articles for the kitchen. Splendid values are available from $.25 to $1.00.

For 10 Cents or Less: “You will find hundreds of useful articles in our stock that may be bought for ten cents or less which will fill a long-felt want in your shop, household or kitchen.”   

The Holiday Hints went beyond advertisements to make their publication entertaining as well as informative. It was loaded with 49 jokes such as this one: “A stranger entered a church in the middle of a sermon and seated himself in the back pew. After a short time, he grew tired and leaning over to an old member of the congregation whispered, 'How long has he been preaching?' '30 or 40 years,' the old man replied. 'I will stay then,' decided the stranger, 'he must be nearly finished with his message.'”

The next time you are in downtown Johnson City, stand in front of 219 E. Main Street and try to visualize Christmas shopping there in 1914. Imagine shopping there this Christmas for the items mentioned and the prices quoted. 

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The Comet newspaper offered a Christmas message for its readers in December 1909. Here is a paraphrase of it:

Furniture Store Ad from 1909

It would be hard to imagine a world without Christmas. This time of year is one of merrymaking, with each family choosing its own special way of celebrating the special day with mouth-watering feasts and eye-popping festivals.

Christmas belongs to no one nation alone, nor to one tongue, nor to one latitude or longitude, nor to one color or creed. Neither is it a movable feast, though it comes with the frost of winter and with the perfume of drooping blossoms in the southern hemisphere.

Although we associate Christmas with the jeweled and candled tree and the blazing Yule log, though the deer of St. Nicholas prance over the snow and young hearts are merry and old hearts are glad.

Yet even they are but the outcome and fulfillment of that deeper note which marks this day a note of good will to men that were sung first by the angels of Bethlehem.

It is the spirit of will to others that all men feel or should feel on Christmas. It is this spirit which makes the day distinct and pre-eminent. It is this spirit, which distinguishes the day from all other days? 

We have given it joyous ceremonials. We have given it services that have grown in beauty and sentiment through the centuries. Although we have done this for Christmas, Christmas has done far more for us. It has given to the world this one day, when all about its hemispheres like a finely wrought web, one thought is woven in the minds of men, inspiring the best and noblest actions of the year.

There is no one who does not feel its influence or in failing to feel it does not pity himself that his joy is dead. The poorest, the keenest sufferer, the happiest, the most prosperous of men all obey one common impulse. They give their best, poor as some their offerings may be for the joy of others.

It is this that Christmas has done for the world, stirring men to common action and with such a chain of thought about the world, growing stronger and wider with each one of these 1909 years. Who can doubt that in its spirit may be found the true secret those great philanthropic measure, which beyond all other events, mark the enlightened legislation of our day

There are self-appointed censors who see none of the joys and only the burdens of Christmas. They dwell on the obligations of the day and the burden of making gifts. But the spirit of Christmas is not with such as these and the gifts at which they murmur never belonged to the day.

It is one of gifts that one must think on Christmas, since it was on that day the greatest of gift was made to the world. A present must always be free, be untrammeled, impose no obligation and have no taint of selfishness in it, nor any spirit of barter or gain.

Giving must spring spontaneously from the highest and most noble impulse in ourselves. There is a joy and a blessedness in giving, but there is something even higher than this when the thought of the good belonging to others prevails over these. We have only to look at the world's greatest gift and draw our meaning from it

There lies in each one's hand a great privilege on Christmas day beyond all other days. Whether by word or good cheer, of hope and encouragement, whether by kindly greeting or a gentle act of courtesy, or whether by gifts or merrymakings, or by the simplest things we do or by the greatest, the privilege and power are ours of making another feel all the joy that is our own.

For joy is God-given and belongs by right to each and all of us and as through joy in Christ, we came to a knowledge of the common brotherhood of man, so through joy in each other we may learn to know Christ again, until all hands are joined and all heads are bent and the prayer of Tiny Tim is the prayer of each of us … “God bless us every one.”

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A comparison of letters written to Santa Claus today with those penned in 1909 shows noted similarities and differences. Let's sample a few. You just might recognize a relative or friend listed:

Robert & Charles Naff: “Please bring us a tricycle, candy, nuts, oranges, firecrackers, a little wagon to haul wood on, a little pig that we can wind up and it will run, a knife, some Roman candles and bring little Vaught a rubber ring to chew on. We are good little boys. We have to walk two miles to school.”

Kathleen Naff: “Please bring me a little bed, cloak and a go-cart for my doll. Her name is Edith. I want some candy, nuts, oranges and raisins. Don't forget Vaught. Bring him a rattle trap. I am a good little girl four years old.” (I bet Mom and Dad helped with your note.)

Thomas Love: “I want you to bring me a gun and I would like to have some more toys for Christmas. I would like a wagon too and a sled to ride down the hill on. I am bad in school, but I work hard.” (I love that.)

Leonard Millard Dunn: “I am a little boy 12 years old. I go to school every day that I can. My teacher is Miss Tomlinson and she is a good teacher. I want some books, and a sled, some raisins, apples and oranges, a pair of skates, a wagon, candy and a gun.” (One vote for Miss Tomlinson).

Frank Snodgrass: “I want you to bring me a little wagon and a little bicycle and some nuts, candy and oranges. I want some firecrackers to shoot Christmas night. Buy the poor children some toys too. I want you to bring everybody some nice things too.” (Nice comment, Frank.)

Elmer Ellsworth: “I would like a gun, a football, a steam engine, a balance bat, toolset, a wagon, a pencil box, a billy goat, a harness, some oranges, apples, bananas and some books to read.” (Nice variety, Elmer).

Stanley Harvey: “I have been good in school every day. You must bring me some oranges, candy, a gun that will kill rabbits and a wagon that I can ride down the hill on.” 

Guy Marten Young: “I am a good boy in school and I want a gun, bicycle, some candy, nuts, caps for my cap gun, a knife and a collar for my dog. Goodbye.” (Goodbye.)

Sam Harriss: “I am  a good boy in school and I want a Morrow Coaster Brake bicycle and some candy, nuts,  firecrackers and an apple.” (According to a sales brochure, the brake not only stopped the bike, it drove the wheel forward and gave a smooth, easy ride while coasting.)

Lawrence Brown: “I am a good boy in school. I want you to bring me a gun and a Studebaker wagon, candy, nuts, fruits and a tricycle. Your friend.”

Lyle Barton: I am going to tell you that I want a bicycle, a pony, a lot of candy and a box of cartridges. (Wow, a pony.)

Frank Humphrey: “I have been a good boy in school and tell you that I want a box of cartridges, apples and nuts. 

Charlie Keys: “First of all, I want a shotgun and cartridges to shoot in it. I want a magic lantern. Then I want all the other people to have a merry Christmas and I want firecrackers, Roman candles, sky rockets, candy, nuts, oranges and that is all for this time.”

Cecil Bolton: “I want a pony and little wagon, a gun, some candy, orange, apple and some fire crackers and that is all I want for this time.”

Charles L Ruffin: “I am not very bad at school. I like my teacher very much. Will you please send me some things that you think I want. Don't forget the poor people on Christmas Eve night. I want some oranges, nuts, dates, figs, and a big horn.” (Very thoughtful of you, Charles.)

Goldie Thomas: “I want a big doll that can open and shut its eyes. Bring my teacher a pair of button shoes and lots of pretty dishes and lots of things. My teacher's name is Miss Tomlinson. I want you to please bring me a pair of nice shoes and a story book and candy, oranges and nuts. So I will close. Bring all the poor children lots of things.” (Nice note, Goldie, and a second vote for Miss Tomlinson.)

I hope you enjoyed the letters from youngsters of 1909. I hope they got what they wanted.







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Without question, my mother's oft-listened to radio program in the late 1950s was the “Joe and Mo Show,” broadcast each weekday morning over WETB-AM 790 on the dial. Her favorite personalities were Joe Goodpasture (Joe) and Merrill Moore (Mo). The smallish cinder-block station was located just outside of Johnson City on the Erwin Highway. Mum was the word at our house when the creative zany pair were “doing their thing” over the airways. In recent years, Joe and Mo became good friends of mine. Mom would be proud.

Today's column offers a wistful glimpse of what it was like during Christmas Day 1957 by examining 21 holiday-themed WETB radio listings. See how many you recognize. Note the sponsors, where the businesses were located and the people who owned or managed them. You older readers will likely recognize many of the names. The schedule signed on at 6:00 a.m., which also included news on the half-hour and signed off at 5:15 p.m. I bet Joe and Mo can relate to some of these offerings.

6:00 a.m. “Christmas Clockwatcher,” Johnson City Tobacco Board of Trade.

7:05 a.m. “The Little Match Girl,” National Farm Loan Association (New Jonesboro Highway).

7:15 a.m. “The Small One,” Cecil's Texaco Service Station (201 W. Main, Cecil E. Rhines).

8:05 a.m. “Ames Brothers,” Taylor Electric Co. (803 W. Walnut, Earl L. Taylor). 

8:35 a.m. “Christmas Favorites,” Orange Crush Bottling Co. (112 W. Jobe, John W. Moulton, Herbert W. Cox).

9:15 a.m. “The Juggler Of Our Lady,” Lodge Service Station (111 Lamont, Smith A. Mast).

9:30 a.m. “Christmas Bells,” S.B. White Co. (331 W. Walnut, J.B. McKinney).

9:45 a.m. “Three Suns' Christmas,” Campbell's TV and Radio Center (151 W. Market, W. Howard Campbell. The trio played a guitar, accordion and organ. Their first big hit was “Twilight Time.”)

10:35 a.m. “That Glorious Night,” Greene's Texaco Service Station (1212 E Unaka, W. Norman Greene).

11:00 a.m. “Return to Christmas Island,” Volunteer Oil Co. (2200 E Fairview, Rex E. DeBord).

11:35 a.m. “God's Blessings on One and All,” Peerless Steak House (Kingsport-Bristol Blvd., Jim Kalogeros).

12:15 p.m. “The Happy Prince,” Grady's Dry Cleaners (1023-27 W. Market, Grady B. Caughron).

12:35 p.m. “Angel with the Cold Nose,” Klopman Mills (2500 W. Walnut, Frank H. Kelly).

1:30 p.m. “Christmas Miracle,” Wallace's Shoe Store (215 E. Main, Mrs. Gertrude Wallace).

2:00 p.m. “Christmas for Eve,” Gulf Distributor (930 W. Walnut, J.B. Thomas, Jr.).

2:35 p.m. “Song of Christmas,” East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (142 Legion, William W. Whisman, Denver B. Marion).

3:30 p.m. “A Christmas Carol,” Empire Furniture Co. (B.C. Vaughn, L.H. Shumate, W. F. Shumate, Mrs. Nancy Shumate, H.B. Mohler).

4:00 p.m. “Happy Holiday,” Williams Grocery (1101 E. Unaka, R. Lee Williams, Myrtle Williams, Mrs. Rosalie Walker).

4:15 p.m. “Christmas Melodies,” Walker Furniture Co. (312-14 E. Main, David H. Walker).

4:35 p.m. “World's Happy Face,” Morris Funeral Home (305 N Roan, Forrest K. Morris).

5:00 p.m. “Christmas Day News,” City Auto Parts (New Jonesboro Highway, William L. Bates).

I hope you have some reflective enjoyment and memories with today's column. I certainly did.

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Today's column is a nostalgic TV Guide excursion back to a simpler Christmas in 1961:

“Westinghouse Presents” – Carol Lawrence and Robert Goulet star in “The Enchanted Nutcracker,” about a little girl who receives a wooden soldier for Christmas. After she places it under her pillow overnight, it comes to life in the morning and takes her on a guided tour of the magic Kingdom of Sweets. This show received top billing that year. 

“The Lawrence Welk Show” – The bubbly band leader, with his characteristic “and-a-one and-a-two,” plays host to the families of his Music Makers for “Jingle Bells” and other holiday songs, including a rendition of “The Night Before Christmas.”

“The Jack Benny Program” – A Christmas party is thrown by skinflint Jack for the regulars on his television show (Don Wilson; Eddie “Rochester” Anderson; Dennis Day; Frank Nelson; and Mel “Bugs Bunny” Blanc, who was recovering from a near-fatal traffic accident).

“Our Miss Brooks” – “A Christmas Carol” is produced at Mrs. Nestor's elementary school. The characters include Miss Brooks (Eve Arden), Walter Denton (Richard Crenna) and Mr. Conklin (Gale Gordon, who became a regular on “The Lucy Show”).

“Art Linkletter's House Party” – Art and his family members show film footage of their trip to the Holy Land the previous year.

“The Millionaire” – A lonely, embittered man takes a very unlikely job as a department-store Santa, unaware that his life is about to get a financial boost from the generous Millionaire (Marvin Miller).

“Make Room for Daddy” – Danny (Thomas) attempts to teach his son,  Rusty (Rusty Hamer), the true spirit of Christmas. The cast includes daughter, Linda (Angela Cartwright) and wife, Kathy (Marjorie Lord).

“The Shari Lewis Show” – The famed puppeteer and her make-believe gang entertain with a Christmas party that includes Mr. Goodfellow and Jump Pup.

“The DuPont Show” – Fred Waring, the popular bandleader who became known as “America's Singing Master” and “The Man Who Taught America How to Sing” and his group, the Pennsylvanians, entertained viewers with an hour of holiday music. 

“Pete and Gladys” – Aunt Kitty is coming for a Christmas visit unless the couple (Harry Morgan of “Mash” fame and Cara Williams) can figure out a way to prevent it. Many of us likely recall when this lady was on the Red Skelton Show in the role of a Raggedy Ann doll. She briefly came to life and danced in the park with a lonely Freddy the Freeloader.

“Leave It to Beaver” – Wally (Tony Dow) wants to ride with Lumpy Rutherford to a country club party, but the Cleavers (Barbara Billingsley and Huge Beaumont) insist that Lumpy is a reckless driver. Jerry Mathers portrays the Beaver.

“NBC Opera” – The annual Christmas presentation of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” featured a poor crippled boy being visited by the three kings on their way to pay homage to the Christ child.

“Bachelor Father” – In “Deck the Halls,” bachelor Bentley (John Forsythe) plans a different kind of Christmas for Kelly (Noreen Corcoran), his young niece.

“Lassie” – While walking thorough a snowy woods on Christmas Eve, Lassie, Timmy and his friend stumble upon an overturned sleigh with an old man pinned beneath it. They are convinced that Santa has had an accident.

“Dennis the Menace” – Mr. Wilson (Joseph Kearns), much to the delight of Dennis (Jay North), insists that the Mitchell family chop down a 15-foot Christmas tree in the nearby snowy woods. 

“Car 54, Where Are You” – Toody (Joe Ross) and Muldoon (Fred Gwynne, who later became Herman Munster) headed up the committee for the precinct's Christmas party.

“Bonanza” – While the Cartwrights ride home through wintry mountains during the Christmas season, they encounter a young boy wandering alone in the snow.

And finally, “The Gift of the Magi,” a musical adaptation of the O. Henry story about a poor newlywed couple (Jeanne Crain and Farley Granger) who sell their cherished possessions, her hair and his watch, in an attempt to give the other a Christmas gift.

Ah, what pleasurable memories of Christmas 1961. Below is a collage of Christmas advertisements from the 1950s.

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Between 1945 and 1956, Thanksgiving morning was reserved for going with my dad to the annual Burley Bowl Parade in downtown Johnson City.  Our normal viewing spot was in front of the Tennessee Theatre on E. Main. Since it was usually freezing cold, we took thermos bottles of hot chocolate with us and kept in mind the fact  that Mom would have a hot Thanksgiving dinner waiting on us when we returned home.

After that, I began viewing the other Thanksgiving Day parades on our black and white 19 inch RCA television set with a limited option of stations available. Later, after color sets came into existence and became the rage, I was able to watch them in full color on a slightly larger screen. A perusal of old TV Guides recently provided me with a nostalgic tour down memory lane.

At 10:15 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1958, Detroit's 32nd annual J.L. Hudson department store's parade was hosted by everyone's favorite skipper, Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan), in a 45-minute telecast. A long-established feature of the parade was the presence of over 100 large “Italian heads” worn by cavorting clowns, which included 40 new ones that year. The normally scheduled game shows, “Dough Re Mi,” “For Love or Money,” “Treasure Hunt” and “Play Your Hunch,” were preempted that holiday morning.  

At 11 a.m., another parade commenced – the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. It was televised in a one-hour broadcast hosted by Bert Parks (best known for hosting the annual Miss America telecast from 1955 to 1979) and Frank Blair (anchor on the NBC News “Today Show” for 22 years). In addition to the giant Popeye, Spaceman and soldier balloons; celebrities (and the floats they were seen on) included Dick Clark (Cinderella), Ginger Rogers (Flower), Benny Goodman (Showboat), Dolores Hart (Mother Goose), Johnny Jellybean (Circus) Charlie Ruggles (King Cole) and Ed Herilihy.

The crowd favorites, without question, were the giant balloons that hovered overhead. They almost didn't make it into the parade in 1958 because they were to be inflated with helium, which was in short supply that year. The dilemma was resolved by inflating them with air and using cranes to propel them. The live broadcast preempted two network game shows: “The Price is Right” (with Johnny Olson's famous utterance, “Come On Down”)  and “Concentration.”

A third parade marched down the streets of Philadelphia that morning –  the 38-year-old Gimbel parade, which was the country's oldest. It was picked up nationally on CBS's “Arthur Godfrey Time” with country singer, Jimmy Dean (country singer and sausage producer) as the grand marshal.

At noon, the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions faced off in a Thanksgiving Day football game. The contest resulted in the  cancellation on that day of “Love of Life,” “Search for Tomorrow,” “The Guiding Light” (all three being soap operas), Walter Cronkite's newscast, “As the World Turns” (another soap) and “The Jimmy Dean Show.” “Art Linkletter's House Party” was picked up in progress at the finale of the game. Detroit won with a score of 24-14.

A college football game between the Aggies of Texas A&M and the Longhorns of Texas at Austin, Texas,  kicked off at 2:45 p.m. A&M ran a single-wing offense while Texas used a split-T attack. Jim Myers coached the Aggies while Darrell Royal provided leadership for the Longhorns. Texas won 27-0. The game affected five additional regular programs, “Haggis Baggis,” “Today Is Ours,” “”From These Roots,” “Queen for a Day” and “County Fair.”

In 1958, the only available networks were ABC, CBS and NBC; the DuMont network. The latter one, which I am sure many of my readers recall, had ceased operations three years prior. Those were the days before cable. Good reception required a quality antenna. An ad from that era urged consumers to purchase a Channel Master “Traveling Wave” antenna. Sending in a coupon and a dime brought a pamphlet on how to spot antenna trouble. 

This was television and we were pleased to have it even if it was often challenging to watch. Happy Thanksgiving.

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During Christmas 1928, Johnson City was merrily clad in holiday yuletide adornment as the holiday spirit prevailed throughout this area where hundreds of enthusiastic people had arrived to shop. The much-awaited day fell on Tuesday that year.

Because Johnson City merchants knew that shopping would occur on a far greater scale that year, they secured additional stocks of goods several months prior in order to take care of shoppers’ expectations. Store windows throughout the downtown area were elaborately and colorfully decorated, enhancing the excitement in the air. Many people shopped early to beat the ever-growing crowds.

Special programs were given in local churches and schools as the big day neared. Attendance was so good that some houses of worship had to schedule additional services. The “white gift service” that had become an annual tradition in many area churches resulted in churchgoers placing gifts wrapped in solid white paper under a selected tree for distribution to the city’s needy folks.

Steam driven trains that were crowded to capacity chugged along on all railroads tracks passing through Johnson City as the festive season approached. College students and people from all sections of the country were en-route to their homes to spend the holidays with friends and loved ones. It was truly a joyful time of the year.

Typical chilly weather prevailed that year in East Tennessee, although little snow had covered the ground. Weather forecasters offered news of the possibility that the North and Middle Atlantic States might enjoy a white Christmas. However, fair weather with temperatures somewhat below normal was predicted for the South Atlantic and East Gulf states. Rain or snow was anticipated for the Ohio Valley and parts of Tennessee.

Christmas trees were available in abundance. In the downtown section, large numbers of them lined the sidewalks and in vacant lots all across the city, hundreds of well-shaped trees were being sold at below normal prices. Area markets were stocked with plenty of turkeys and chickens while local stores carried an abundance of cranberries, nuts, celery and other food items considered essential for a delectable Christmas dinner.

As had been present in previous years, large Christmas shopping crowds were jamming city streets on that Saturday afternoon before Christmas. A majority of those seen on city streets were out-of-towners making Johnson City their shopping headquarters. Many residents can recall when Main Street was so jam packed with people on Saturdays that it was an effort to maneuver through the downtown district. Automobiles, buses, cabs, trains, streetcars and other means of conveyance were everywhere. Shoppers swarmed the city on the Saturday before Christmas, visiting the various stores until late at night making purchases. Christmas Eve also brought a frenzied swarm with late shoppers buying last minute gifts.

King’s Department Store advertised a “Half Million Dollar Holiday Campaign” that year, which included a family night dinner on its fourth floor from 5:30 to 7:30 on the Tuesday evening before Christmas. The menu included fried chicken, creamed potatoes, creamed asparagus, fruit salad, hot rolls, chocolate pie and a choice of coffee, tea or milk. The cost was fifty cents. Since the downtown was nearly filled to capacity as Christmas approached, many businesses extended their store hours to accommodate late minute purchases.

Times were happy that Christmas of 1928, but unknown to the masses, within ten months the dark ominous clouds of the Great Depression would abruptly descend on the economy adversely affecting Christmas shopping for several years to come.  

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Each Christmas, I get in the holiday mood by playing old Christmas radio shows from my collection. Unlike television, radio lets its listeners formulate images of their favorite radio stars without displaying them on a small usually black and white screen. My four favorite programs from the 1930s and 40s are listed below. For you youngsters, they can be heard on the Internet.

Lum & Abner (1938): This 15-minute episode began with a brief intro: “Well, it’s Christmas time in Pine Ridge (Arkansas) and all businesses and other activities have been cast aside in preparation for celebrating the holiday. A heavy snow has fallen and it’s now way after dark.” Lum, Abner and Grandpappy Spears (voice of Lum) help a young couple named Mary, who is about to give birth, and her husband, Joseph. They are holed up in an abandoned barn adjacent to a burned down house on the east side of Pine Ridge. The three old codgers trudge through deep snow following the East Star to take them an ample supply of food from their Jot ‘Em Down Store, warm clothing, an oil heater and bed “kivvers” (covers). The narrative clearly parallels the events that took place in Bethlehem.

Fibber McGee & Molly (1945): This Johnson’s Wax-sponsored program has Fibber foolishly trying to spray paint a Christmas tree that he has purchased. The usual characters come by one-by-one to chide him: Dr. Gamble (local physician), Mrs. Carstairs (town socialite), Harlow Wilcox (series announcer who cleverly worked a commercial into each weekly program) and Teeny (the little girl next door who is really the voice of Molly).  The highlight of every season was the special rendition at the end of each show of the classic “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” featuring the King’s Men and the Billy Mills Orchestra. It beautifully captures the unique sound of the 1940s.

Amos & Andy (1947): Andy takes a job as a department store Santa in order to raise money to buy his daughter, Arbadella, a special doll that she wants. The young people standing in line give Andy so much grief that he constantly summons the floorwalker for help. The show ends with Andy delivering gifts at Amos’ place. Andy puts his young daughter to bed and turns on the radio to help her go to sleep. When “The Lord’s Prayer” is sung over the station, she asks him to turn it to some Christmas music. Amos then gives his classic recitation explaining how the words to the song relate to the true meaning of Christmas.

The Jack Benny Program (1948): Arguably Jack had the funniest Christmas show to be broadcast over radio. He and his wife, Mary, are in a department store in Palm Springs shopping for gifts. The show’s regulars are also there: Dennis Day, Eddie Anderson (Rochester), Phil Harris, Don Wilson and Frank Nelson (famous for his drawn out exaggerated line, “Yeeessssss”). Mel Blanc (the versatile voice of Bugs Bunny and many other Warner Brothers characters) works in one of the departments. Jack repeatedly buys a gift from Mel, has it wrapped and then returns it before leaving the store to exchange it for something else. Each time, the attendant has to unwrap the item, put it back on the shelf and then wrap another one for Jack. Finally, the aggravated clerk has had enough of Jack’s antics and goes ballistic, creating one of the most hilarious scenes in radio history.

Other Christmas shows from that golden era include The Great Gildersleeve (1942), Burns & Allen (1940), The Bing Crosby Show (1947), Edgar Bergan & Charlie McCarthy (1939), The Fred Allen Show (1937), The Abbott & Costello Show (1945, Hallmark Playhouse (1949), Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch (1946), Our Miss Brooks (1950) and My Friend Irma (1950). Many of the shows became an oft-repeated holiday event to the delight of its faithful listeners.

If you have a favorite radio show from the past, drop me a line. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, folks. It is a pleasure producing this weekly column.

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Margaret Hougland recently mailed me some old newspapers, including one dated Wednesday, December 19, 1945. My column today is a summary of local news from that holiday paper.

One dispiriting bit of news was that 82,000 homebound soldiers across the country faced the possibility of being stranded in West Coast ports during Christmas unless jammed rail facilities were cleared. Three Johnson City men were said to be heading home: Shipfitter Third Class Max Brandon (aboard the USS Rudyard Bay, USNR, husband of Mrs. Mary S. Brandon), Sgt. James Gillespie (traveling on the USS Celeno, husband of Mrs. Lacinia Gillespie) and Sgt. Gordon E. Kendall (on the USS Marine Adder).


“Much colder” was the weather prediction after a wintry artic blast blanketed the countryside with two inches of fresh snow. Washington County schools dismissed at the close of Tuesday’s classes. A large volume of telephone calls forced the Inter-Mountain Telephone Company to issue a plea to residents to use the phone sparingly and to limit calls to only those necessary. On Tuesday, the company handled 72,806 local and 1,400 long distance calls.

Captain Don Vendeville, commanding officer of the Salvation Army citadel, announced that lists for grocery orders and cards would be closed Wednesday evening for delivery to needy families on early Thursday morning. Each package, based on the number of family members, contained a complete holiday dinner. 

Representatives of various area churches of Johnson City participated in carol singing around the community Christmas tree on Fountain Square. Weather conditions on the previous night prevented choirs from the Church of God and the Salvation Army from participating.

The tenth annual children’s Christmas party given by Gloria Rayon Mills was held at the Municipal Auditorium (corner of W. Main and Boone). Several hundred employees and their families attended the event, which had become a Yuletide custom. Approximately 360 colorful gift shopping bags filled with fruit, candy and four different toys were presented to children who were 10 years of age or younger and whose parents worked at the plant. Also included were children whose fathers were on military leave from the mill. Children from Bernard School were invited to appear on the program. 

On Tuesday, Christmas music was presented to the Rotary Club by the music department of East Tennessee State College under the direction of Dr. M.E. “Montie” Butterfield. The newspaper also provided particulars of numerous organizations holding Christmas events: Central Baptist Church’s Fidelis Class, Monday Club Auxiliary, Thirty-Niner Club, Theta Alpha Chi (Elizabethton School of Business), John Sevier Chapter of the DAR, Juvenile Music Club, Young Farmers and Homemakers Club, Junior Music Club and several others.

Several businesses placed ads in the newspaper: Fuller-Fields Co. (office machines), Penney’s (quick tips for late shoppers), The Chocolate Bar (lunches at 30, 35 and 40 cents), Nelson’s Jewelry Stores (“Home of Blue White Diamonds”), Powell’s Dept. Store (popular W. Market Street firm), Feather’s Furniture Co. (new and used furniture), Fields (on Fountain Square), R.W. Bowman Jewelry (121 W. Market), U.S. Loan Office (“Pay Cash and Save Dollars”), King’s Dept. Store (five big floors of shopping), and The Little Stores (beef roast priced at 27 cents/lb.).

Actress Bette Davis and her husband spent Monday night in Kingsport for a Christmas shopping spree. “We wanted to stop here,” she told a reporter, “because we heard that Kingsport was a charming and progressive city.”

Thanks to Ms. Hougland for affording us a nostalgic glance back to Christmas 1945. 

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Tennessee celebrates Arbor Day on the first Friday in March, but originally it was observed in the fall. The holiday, which began with a mission to plant trees across the nation, traces its origin to the 1870s. Each state soon chose a date for its observance that corresponded with the ideal tree-planting time for that region.

The October 31, 1905 edition of the Johnson City Staff newspaper featured an article with three headings: “Will Celebrate Arbor Day – November 14 Will Be Celebrated at Home – Revolutionary Heroes to Be Remembered and Every State in the Union to be Honored.”

The text began with the words, “Arbor Day, created by the several states and directly for the purpose of planting trees to beautify the earth’s surface, is at once a beautification that in the future will have a tendency to call forth favorable comment on the perfecters of this excellent work. In keeping with this thought and at the same time to additionally encompass the well-being of our surroundings, our excellent Governor (John I. Cox) has set aside Saturday, November 14 as Arbor Day at this (Soldiers Home) Branch. Sergeant Major Charles Troutnun directed the festivities. On that occasion, about 500 trees will be planted on the reservation, which will grow apace until the future will present a wilderness forest whose leaves will shade and comfort those who will take the place of the present membership in the years to come. The program as mapped out will be representative of every state within the united galaxy.”

One group of trees was planted on the south front of the President Andrew Johnson Barrack to commemorate the two regiments of brave East Tennesseans who met at Sycamore Shoals in Elizabethton and honored themselves and the Continental Array in the historic battle of Kings Mountain in the Revolutionary War.

The Daughters of the American Revolution of Bristol, Tennessee, in keeping with the patriotic spirit of the occasion, dedicated the Revolutionary group with patriotic ceremonies. Johnson City, represented by its foremost citizens, planted a section of trees interspersed with speeches appropriate for the occasion. Another assemblage of persons known as the Watauga Settlement Group made their apt contributions to the soil to fitly commemorate the heroic deeds accomplished by those fighting in the revolution.

An individual was chosen to represent every state of the union. For every star that emblazoned Old Glory, the selectors paid homage to the cause by planting a tree. Each state was allowed to plant from six to eight trees; all but one was planted prior to the Arbor Day ceremonies. For the remaining lone tree, it was the wish of the governor that members of the Soldiers Home branch club and state appointees form an organization and select from their numbers a spokesman who, upon planting the remaining tree, would enlarge upon the honor in a carefully worded speech that befit the occasion.

It was the first time in the history of the National Home that such an honor was conferred on its members, behooving them to take an interest in the furtherance of the project that would demonstrate in the years to come that they had been moved by what the survivors of the Civil War, Spanish American War and veterans of the Philippians did for the beautification of those who were to follow.

During the day, the Soldiers Home band provided a wide range of music that spanned the gamut from “Reveille” to “Taps.” The occasion was described as being “fruitful of all that is patriotic and joyful.” The fruits of that tree-planting labor are still being enjoyed over a hundred years later.  

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