Christmas 1945: A Mixture of Holiday Joy, Cold Weather, War Recovery

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.