December 22, 2019

Christmas 1950: The Children’s Voices Rise

As winter approached in 1950, anxiety about the Korean conflict and the affect it might have on America’s booming economy was palpable. However, in the midst of this, it would be the children of Prescott who would bring the cheer of Christmas.

Things were bustling around Prescott in the days before the 25th. Downtown stores were staying open late for the benefit of procrastinating shoppers.

The decorating of home exteriors was becoming increasingly popular. The newspaper published several columns offering both suggestions and encouragement. Additionally, the paper sponsored a contest for the prettiest decorated house in Prescott. Prizes were $50 for 1st place, (over $500 today,) $25 for 2nd, $15 for 3rd and $10 for 4th.

The Hassayampa was the meeting place for several Christmas parties that year. Forty people employed by the Valley National Bank enjoyed several performances of Christmas music and were presented bonuses equal to two weeks pay.

A Prescott club called the Zontans enjoyed an evening featuring dinner and music at the Hassayampa. Gifts for each guest were distributed from beneath a beautiful Christmas tree. Holly, juniper, and candles made up the rest of the holiday decorations.

The Hassayampa also was the scene for the Christmas party for the Prescott Sportswear Manufacturing company. The Bill Martinez Starlit Studio group performed holiday music and it was broadcasted on Channel 7.

The Prescott Record club got together to listen to “an outstanding recording of the Messiah,” the paper reported.

“Smoki braves and squaws gathered at the Pueblo,” the paper detailed, “for their annual Christmas Pow-Wow.” 1950 was the first year they included a pot luck which “was voted a huge success.”

The rooms in the Pueblo were decorated with evergreens, candles, and a Christmas tree. There was a gag-gift exchange dispersed by a Santa Claus who wore a pair of Indian moccasins. “Fake money, false noses and other surprises were immediately put into use,” the paper explained, bringing “gales of laughter.”

After the feast and the gifts, dancing to a 3-piece orchestra commenced.

The delightful and sentimental story of Christmas in Prescott, AZ (and America) in 1966.

The Smoki people also took the opportunity of the season to gather a large amount of material to donate. “All members provided gifts for the Navajo Christmas party” which was held on their reservation. “A large shipment resulted, which (was) transported by truck so that the Navajo children (would) have their share of Christmas cheer,” the paper related. “Many articles of warm clothing, shoes, food and other comforts were donated.”

Needy families within the city received Christmas baskets full of toys and good things to eat provided by the Lions and the 20-30 Clubs. Old, broken toys were collected and reconditioned by the Odd Fellows lodge to be included in the baskets.

A special fund was set up for one particular family that was suffering one of the worst holiday seasons imaginable. The father worked at a packing plant near the Granite Dells. He saved his money and bought a much needed used car as the “family’s” Christmas present. A mere three hours after he purchased it, a telegram arrived informing him that his mother had suffered a stroke in Wisconsin and was not expected to live.

“The family scraped together every cent they had and started for Wisconsin.” Three miles outside of Gallup, NM, they stopped to get gas when a drunk driver “came careening across the highway and plowed into the little group,” the paper described. 

It would be 8 weeks before the father MIGHT be able to walk with crutches. The mother would be in a cast for a minimum of 3 months. A week after the accident, the 7 year-old son was still unconscious; his younger brother suffered internal injuries.

“That’s the kind of Christmas the Schoenburgs are having,” the paper declared. People were asked to give generously.

However, above the pain and war anxiety rose the voices of Prescott’s children. In addition to singing at the many Christmas parties held for them, the newspaper also recorded no less than seven special programs performed by the kids. 

St. Joseph Academy put on a Christmas program that involved every grade. A new school orchestra “showed encouraging promise,” the paper declared. The 5th & 6th grade students at Miller Valley school presented “The Christmas Story” which was broadcast on KYCA radio. The Monday Club enjoyed an “elves choir” performance. “The 35 little children made an attractive picture in their white surplices with big red bow ties,” the paper said. While the Owa-Ma-Manta Campfire girls presented a program of carols at Fort Whipple to the delight of the men there.

It was the Kiwanis who held the most popular and anticipated party for the boys and girls of Prescott. The 5 year-old festivities brought “a record crowd of youngsters” and grew more popular each year. There was candy, special music, story telling, group singing, and a free movie. The Kiwanis expected 1200 youngsters to attend this year.

In the end, Christmas 1950 was a year when the spirit of the season was loudly proclaimed from the hearts and the voices of the children.

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Prescott Evening Courier, 12/19/1950: 
   Pg. 1, Col. 7. Pg. 2, Col. 8. Pg. 7, Col. 8.
   Pg. 8, Col. 1; 2; 2-3; 4.
Prescott Evening Courier, 12/20/1950:
   Pg. 2, Col. 4. Pg. 4, Col. 1; 1-2; 2; 4; 8.
Prescott Evening Courier, 12/21/1950:
   Pg. 2, Col. 3. Pg. 3, Col. 1.
Prescott Evening Courier, 12/22/1950:
   Pg. 1, Col. 4. Pg. 5, Cols. 6-8

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