Holiday season in 1958 Richmond had a few things in common with 2014

By Linda Emley

like to consider myself a time traveler, but my “time machine” only travels one direction because it’s always stuck in reverse.

When I feel the need to travel, I pull an old newspaper off the shelf and start my next journey. Sometimes I’m surprised by what I find, but most of the time I find fond memories of the good-old days.

I was born in 1956 and don’t remember much about the 1950s, but I’ve always loved the images of the early days of rock ‘n’ roll.  James Dean and Elvis are two of my favorites.

I was devastated the day I realized that James Dean died a few months before I was born and we never walked the earth at the same time, but his “coolness” will always live on in his movies.

Please join me now as we travel back in time to the 1958 Thanksgiving season. On Nov. 24 that year, the Richmond News front page said “Thanksgiving. Most Richmond businesses and all public offices will be closed Thursday for Thanksgiving. The Richmond News will publish on schedule Wednesday, but that edition will not be delivered to rural subscribers until Friday morning. The News today carries a number of grocery ads offering all the ingredients of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.”

This all sounded pretty normal and would still apply to Richmond in our modern world.

The Wednesday, Nov. 26 issue told about the local church service and once again it sounded pretty much like things are today because we still have a community service.

This is what the paper had to say, “Thanks Services. The annual Union Thanksgiving service in Richmond will be held at 7:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning at the Richmond Church of the Nazarene. The Rev. Bill Robertson, pastor of the Christian Church, will officiate at the service. Thanksgiving will be the topic of the message to be given by Rev. W.A. Lindsey, pastor of the First Baptist Church. Special music will be provided by Rev. Wyss, pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. He will sing ‘Thanks Be to God.’  The pastors of the other Richmond churches will take part in leading of responsive prayers. The service is sponsored by the Richmond Ministerial Alliance, of which about eight Richmond ministers are members. Thanksgiving Mass will be held at 8 a.m., tomorrow at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Richmond. Rev. John F. Huhmann, pastor, will remind his congregation that ‘All forces for wholesome progress in this, the land of the free, are the blessings of almighty God.’”

In 1958, the Friday after Thanksgiving was the start of the Christmas season and the same Richmond News from Nov. 26 had the following headline: “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, IT’S CHRISTMAS SHOPPING WE GO … Dollar Days in Richmond Friday & Saturday. Richmond merchants are starting the Christmas shopping season with a tremendous array of bargains priced especially low for the Merry Christmas Dollar Days this weekend. The Richmond News will publish a special Dollar Days edition this Wednesday that will be distributed to every home in Ray County. Use that copy of the News as your Christmas shopping guide for Merry Christmas Dollar Days in Richmond Friday and Saturday.”

I thought “Black Friday” was a new invention, but it looks like Richmond had its own version in the good-old days. The stores didn’t open up at midnight, but they did kick off the season with some good deals.

An article simply titled, “Decorated” followed, “The Christmas decorations on Richmond’s business district streets are in the process of being put into place. Weather permitting, it is hoped the decorating can be completed by Friday night. This year’s decorations include two new candy canes and four plastic Santa Claus figures, along with the decorations from last year. Most of the Richmond stores have already completed decorating for Christmas or have plans of finishing before the Christmas Dollar Days Friday and Saturday.”

We don’t still have these plastic Santas, but the new Christmas lights going up on Richmond’s square is keeping the Christmas spirit alive in our town.

The 1958 newspaper was full of tidbits about life around town. Jim Johnston’s Super Market was offering “Big, Tender, 16-to-22 -pound average ‘Tom’ turkeys for 33 cents a pound.” You could also get Long Island duck for 49 cents a pound, a young goose for 55 cents or baking hens for 49 cents a pound. Oysters were 69 cents a can, two stalks of celery cost 29 cents and Libby’s pumpkin pie mix went for 10 cents a can.

The prices were good, but there was another reason for being at his store because Harry Chiti was going to be there on Friday.

Harry was the Kansas City Athletics star catcher who was on hand from 1 to 6 p.m. to answer questions, sign autographs and meet the citizens of Richmond.

When I run across an article like this, I always wonder what little Richmond boys went to see Harry and if any of them still have his autograph. After fast-forwarding to the Dec. 1 issue of the Richmond News, I found the answer with a picture of Harry signing an autograph for young Bob Snowden, who was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Elton Snowden of West Plains. They were in town to spend the holiday with Mr. and Mrs. Robert Snowden of East Lexington Street.

So what were some of the bargains to be found around town in 1958? Rader’s Clothing and Shoes offered free gift wrapping,  Pioneer Savings Stamps and some great deals on clothing. Curlee suits were $35 to $59, suede jackets were $18, men’s pajamas $3 to $8, and if none of those were the perfect gift, you could select a gift from the Gift Bar that offered jewelry, billfolds, manicure sets, comb and brush sets, tie racks and belt racks. Rader’s motto was “Where Quality Costs No More.”

Carp’s department store had “dainty dusters” for $2.79 and the top of the line dusters were only $5.95. Mode O’ Day had felt skirts, metallic skirts and full-circle skirts for that “holiday whirl” stating at $6.99. Sadly, all three of these stores are no longer with us, but I did find a few local merchants that have survived over the years.

Pointer’s Jewelers had a nice selection of Bulova ladies’ watches. The Bulova Diamond La Petite with two brilliant diamonds, 23 jewels, with a lifetime unbreakable mainspring only cost $59.50. I was in Pointer’s just a few weeks ago and it was good to see that they still have a wonderful selection of nice items.

Another local favorite that is still around today is Blair’s Furniture. In 1958, their ad said “Right up to the very last minute. This is your store for Important Gifts. Everything in this ad is a carefully chosen gift. Chosen for its appeal to every homemaker on your list … chosen for its ability to give the room a bright new ‘lift’ and chosen for its obvious quality and value. These home gifts are indicative of the wonderful choice you’ll find throughout the store. Solve all your gift problems as you choose wisely and well.”

There was a picture of Santa taking a nap in a recliner, and if you had the heart to kick a sleeping Santa out of his “comfortable recliner” you could take it home for only $79.95. Blair’s still sells furniture, but they have expanded their store to include many different items today.

Our walk down memory lane would not be complete if we didn’t mention two other merchants that are still in Richmond, The Jones Store and Swafford’s Ford. The Swafford ad pictured an Edsel and a Mercury. “Real Eye Openers. See and Drive these Two Fine Cars Before You Buy. See Us Now or Phone For a Demonstration.” You won’t find Edsels anymore, but you can take a “demo” drive in a new Ford.

And finally, I must mention two of my all-time favorites, J.C. Penney and Sears. There is nothing I enjoyed more than shopping for Christmas gifts in their “Christmas” catalogs. My sister and I would spend hours looking over the toy section and circling all the toys we wanted Santa to bring us.

It was a long drawn-out process of picking out each other’s toys and then going back over them again and crossing out a few as we narrowed down our list.

As I got older, I also checked out the jewelery section. I’ll never forget that black velvet Timex watch that Santa got me one year. The black velvet band broke soon after Christmas, but that Timex watch is still tucked away in one of my jewelery boxes. I would love to have one of those old catalogs so I could look back and see what kind of items I had picked out.

If anyone has an old Sears or J.C. Penney Christmas Catalog, please let me know because it would make a wonderful addition to our Toy Room at the Ray County Museum. There will come a day when the kids of Ray County will not know what a catalog is. It would be nice to show them how much fun it was to flip the pages of a real “Christmas Wish Book.”

May everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving and stay safe if you venture out on Black Friday.

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