December 8, 2019

The Heartwarming Christmas of 1920

The Christmas of 1920 was both old-fashioned and heartwarming.

1920 was one of the earlier years that the Forest Service began to require permits for people to get a Christmas trees. This policy was initiated for better timber management. The permits showed the bearer where he could harvest his tree (in an area that needed thinning.) There was only a charge for commercial harvesters back then. Individuals could “cut trees for himself and his neighbor if he chooses” for free, the paper reported.

The Forest service stated that 100 Christmas trees had been harvested off of 15 permits. “Forest Service officials are making sure that Whipple Barracks will have an ample supply of trees,” the paper reported; providing a tree for each ward as well as one for each room where the patients were bedridden.

The municipal Christmas tree program on the Plaza began at 7:30 pm on Christmas Eve “replete with Christmas carols and a short religious service,” the paper recalled. The Courthouse was “appropriately decorated and lighted.” 

Since 1916, charity baskets were provided to needy families in the city. In 1920 forty-two families had their Christmas brightened “by the distribution of large baskets of goodies and supplies,” the paper wrote, “bearing the label ‘Christmas cheer distributed by the public charities.’” It was the Chamber of Commerce who made sure that “no family in the city lacked for a Christmas dinner and other good things.”

This was the first year that the city “had outside assistance in caring for its needy.” Due to Prescott contributing “heavily to the Salvation Army,” they sent someone from Los Angeles to take care of the charity baskets. There was no need for the many Prescott charitable organizations to solicit money from the public that year.

As was the usual custom, it was the Boy Scouts who actually took the baskets to each home.

The delightful story of the first Christmas tree ever erected on the Courthouse Plaza in Prescott. It was also the first municipal tree in the state of Arizona.

Tom Mix, silent-movie superstar, sent an expensive, engraved Christmas greeting to the Chamber of Commerce. It simply read: “Christmas greetings and best wishes for the New Year from Tom Mix.” Prescott was a sort of second work-home for Mix.

One little girl used the mail to write Santa: 

"My Dear Santa,

   "I want a doll, and some candy, and some nuts, and a doll purse, and some doll bed things, please, and a doll trunk and that set of jewelry….."

Unfortunately, the paper noted that she neglected to give her name nor address.

A more desperate “letter to Santa” was written by an adult and addressed to Judge Sweeney of the Superior Court. Sweeney was the Exalted Ruler of the local Elks “who dispense(d) a great deal of cheer in the community in a quiet and tactful way,” the paper said. He was also the city's chairman of the Salvation Army committee which was distributing the charity baskets.

“Santa Claus answered the letter promptly with a goodly supply of Christmas dainties,” the paper reported, as well as a “crisp $5 bill with which to purchase whatever it was that Santa might have overlooked."

The holiday was also celebrated with many parties and celebrations making sure no one was left out. Santa’s “first official visit” to the city was to the Red Cross Community home. There he met over 100 guests from Whipple Barracks and the city. The large room was “tastefully decorated in red and green with streamers, pine branches and dainty red candles,” the paper described.

The Christmas tree was “loaded with gifts” as Santa and Mrs. Claus called the recipient of each gift forward. A luncheon which included “many varieties of cakes and candies” was served followed by an informal music program.

Those who performed at the Red Cross hall then went to the Whipple hospital to repeat their performances to each of the bedridden—much to their joy.

On Christmas Day the American Legion arrived at Whipple with four young female “fairy spirits” who brought a tree, Christmas cards, and a promise from the Legion of future transit to anywhere in town they wished. In the afternoon, a comfort bag was given each veteran which contained a box of candy, a writing tablet with envelopes, a "bon-bon snapper" and a pack of cigarettes for each patient(!) The Great War had just concluded two years previous and everyone wanted to make sure the veterans at Whipple were well provided for.

The Mile Hi Club held a Christmas tree party “at the Blue Triangle Center on North Marina St." Each Mile Hi member (was a) hostess to a brother or sister adopted for the day to share in the pleasures and excitements of the tree,” the paper revealed. Candy, apples, dolls and toys were distributed to needy children before they enjoyed a holiday meal. "The Blue Triangle room looked its best in holiday attire,” the paper described, “festoons and greens, crimson candles and mistletoe add(ed) their part to the general scheme of decoration.” Later, dinner was provided by the “Y” and included: crab salad, turkey with the usual sides, fruit cake, candies, coffee, and lichee nuts. 

Every need was met that Christmas.

One poignant story involved an octogenarian who was caught stealing potatoes from a sack stored in the garage of the Courthouse. “Hearing suspicious noises coming from that part of the building,” the paper reported, “Deputy Sheriff Payne pussy-footed down the stairs and into the basement just in time to see the would be burglar filling his pockets with choice spuds from the sack."

“What’s the idea?” asked the deputy.

“I’m hungry!” the old man replied.

“After a conference in the sheriff’s office it was decided that the old man was indeed hungry.

“‘Your discharged,’ the sheriff said, ‘Take the potatoes as a gift and beat it. Merry Christmas!’”

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Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/22/1920; Pg. 6, Col. 5.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/22/1920; Pg. 4, Col. 4.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/22/1920; Pg. 6, Col. 4.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/29/1920; Pg. 4, Col. 5.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/22/1920; Pg. 4, Col. 5.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/22/1920; Pg. 4, Col. 3.
Prescott Evening Courier, 12/24/1920; Pg. 5, Col. 5.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/22/1920; Pg. 4, Col. 3.
Prescott Evening Courier, 12/27/1920; Pg. 1, Cols. 1-2.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/29/1920; Pg. 5, Col. 7.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/29/1920; Pg. 6, Col. 7.
Prescott Evening Courier, 12/23/1920; Pg. 4, Col. 2.

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