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.