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This and That — More Christmas memories PDF Print E-mail
Friday, December 27, 2013 9:00 PM

My son-in-law, Jim Dickman, is good at finding all kinds of books at antique stores, old book stores and flea markets. He loaned me one of his finds “It’s a Wonderful Christmas – The Best of the Holidays 1940–1965.”

A quote from inside the dust jacket reads: “Christmas has always been special. But Christmases during and after World War II were just a little bit more special. Men stationed on palm-covered islands dreamed of snowmen and winter wonderlands. Homefront families looked forward to the day when ‘home for keeps’ would be a reality. And when that day finally came the celebration was enormous. Christmas acquired a jubilant glow, a festive lavishness that persists to this day.”

From the toy catalogs to Bubble Lights to Rudolph’s bright red nose, a number of today’s traditions date back to that special time. Even Santa’s appearance changed over the years.

Originally Santa Claus was known as St. Nick (St. Nicholas) and had more of a thin figure. Clement Moore pictured him as a “right jolly old elf” who sometimes had trouble getting down the chimney. Soon we saw more and more of that famous Coca Cola Santa in his bright red suit.

Even Christmas trees changed. In 1900, only one in every five American families had a tree. Most of them were green with real candles. The Addis Brush Company of America, a manufacturer of toilet bowl brushes began making artificial brush trees and shipped thousands of the Addis trees to Great Britain. They were green. At that time many Americans were using the green “feather tree.” Then in 1950, Addis patented the “Silver Pine,” made of aluminum and came with a flood light and a revolving color wheel. The fad in the 1960’s was the flocked tree. Many people liked the “white tree” but some even wanted other colors. Examples of these trees can be found at the Delphos Canal Commission’s Christmas Tree Festival.

Woolworth’s introduced ready made “German” ornaments in 1880. Germany dominated the ornament trade until after World War II. Several American companies began making glass ornaments and they started coming in many shapes and sized. The earliest tree toppers were a pendant shape (upside down) but stars and angels quickly became common.

Shinny silver tinsel, made of lead, came on the scene. By the end of the 1960’s, the lead tinsel was banned as hazardous to the environment, as well as to children. Later tinsel was made of plastic. Then came icicles, garlands and angel hair.

Electric lights first appeared in New York City in 1882. It took a few years for homes to have electric Christmas lights on the tree, since only 25 percent of rural homes had electricity by 1939. Some farm homes in this area, even on Route 190, north of Delphos, didn’t get electricity until 1946, after the war. Noma became famous for making electric Christmas strands of lights. Noma brought out the Bubble Lights in 1946. Then Sylvania introduced fluorescent pastel lights. In 1955, Noma marketed its first set of flashing lights. Fairy Lights and mini lights became popular in the 1970s. Early mini lights were wired together on the same strand and when one bulb blew out, the whole strand went dark. Electric window candles, Santas and other decorations became popular during this same time period. Homemade Christmas stockings were very special. Then came the outside lights and all the contests. I might add that the computerized light display at the Fiedler home on Route 224, at the east edge of Ottoville is a “must see.”

The peak year for Christmas cards was 1958. Many of us enjoy getting the photo cards. In 1961, first class mail was four cents. America’s first Christmas postage stamp came out in 1962. Christmas seals were sold for years to help stamp out tuberculosis. The Hall Brothers of Kansas City, founders of the Hallmark Company, began manufacturing their own holiday wrap in the 1930s. Then came the curly ribbon, followed by the pre-made bows. The Christmas season didn’t start until Thanksgiving, when Santa Claus arrived in town in all the parades. Every year, we drove to Fort Wayne to see the elaborate window display at the Wolf and Dessauer Store. They also had this large Santa with his sleigh and reindeer on the side of the building.

Robert May of Montgomery Ward invented Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer, the bashful, small, unappreciated reindeer. Due to a paper shortage, May’s story could not be printed during WW II. The story was brought back in 1946, then Gene Autry made the song a real hit in 1949. I know I have that original record buried in my collection.

The place to go in Delphos at Christmas was the second floor of the Western Auto Store. That was a favorite spot, with all the toys. It was a wonderland.

Riding toys, such as a tractor, fire truck, tricycle, scooter, wagons and bicycles were really in demand after the war. Timex watches debuted in 1946 and the first transistor radio came on the market just before Christmas in 1954. During the war many, many things were rationed, especially metal.

This Christmas book, listed the toys as they came out. This includes: 1942 — Little Golden Books, 1943 — Chutes & Ladders, 1945 — Slinky, 1946 — Lionel trains return to production with many added features, 1947 — Tonka trucks and equipment, 1948 — Silly Putty, Candyland and Clue. Late in the 40’s or early 50’s plastic models (cars, boats, planes, etc.) were available. Lionel hit its “highwater” mark in quality and popularity at that time. Doll houses with a vast array of plastic furniture were popular with little girls and many adult women. Then came Howdy Dowdy puppets, etc. Then the list continues: in 1950 — Buzzy Bee by Fisher–Price and Hopalong Cassidy lunch boxes, 1952 — Mr. Potato Head and the first Matchbox car, 1953 — Gumby (favorite toy boy), 1954 — Robert the Robot and 1955 — “Cissy” Doll by Madame Alexander, Davy Crockett on TV, along with 3000 Davy Crockett items. His raccoon hat was really a top item, making Raccoon fur jump from 25 cents per pound to $8. Then in the mid-50s, Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy were popular so gun and holster sets were wanted by many little boys. In 1956 – Play–Doh and the Yahtzee game, 1957 – When–O’s Frisbee and Prehistoric Times Play Sets by Marx, 1958 – Hulu Hoop and Skateboards and Barbie was the real hit in 1959. Ken joined the crowd in 1961, then Midge in 1963 and Skipper in 1964; 1960 – Chatty Cathy, The Game of Life and Etch-a-Sketch by Ohio Art; 1961 — Ideal’s Mr. Machine; 1962 – LEGOS and Sea Monkeys and Tammy (by Ideal); 1963 – The Mousetrap and the Easy Bake Oven; 1964 – Troll Dolls; and 1965, Super Ball (by Wham-O), G I Joe and Creepy Crawlers (made in the Thingmaker). Much to my surprise and disappointment, the book did not mention Monopoly. I know we were playing it during the winter of 1945–46 during that month of January when Fort Jennings didn’t have school because of all the snow. And, don’t forget the Red Ryder bee-bee gun, like Ralphie had on “The Christmas Story.”

Some of the great movies that came out were “White Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “ Miracle on 34th Street.”

Then many wonderful Christmas songs made their debut. In 1942, it was “White Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” in 1943; 1944 – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”; 1945 – “Let It Snow”; 1946 – “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”; 1947 – “Here Comes Santa Claus”; 1949 “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” by Gene Autry; 1950 – “Frosty the Snowman,” “Silver Bells” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”; 1957 – “Jingle Bell Rock” and “The Little Drummer Boy”; 1958 – “The Chipmunk Song”; 1962 – “A Holly Jolly Christmas”; and in 1962 – “Do You Hear What I Hear?”. There are more, such as “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and “Snoopy and the Red Baron.” We could go on and on.

Those were sure the “Good Ole Days.” Hope you are having a blessed Christmas season and Happy New Year! God bless you all!


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