A little bit of home for the holidays

Published 7:14 pm Friday, December 24, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Franklin native Tony Surace makes a point of decorating his home each holiday season to help set the scene for Christmas, and for decades now, included in his decorations has been a front page from The Tidewater News dating back to the early 1900s.

“It’s got a good story behind it,” he said.

He noted that in the past, when people would build their houses, they would insulate the inside walls with newspaper and whatever else they could gather.

On a day in the early 1970s, Surace’s brother, Dickie Surace, was helping demolish a house somewhere in Franklin when he discovered a colorful front page from The Tidewater News dedicated entirely to a Christmas-themed artistic work that prominently featured Santa Claus.

“(Dickie) doesn’t even remember the house that it was at, but he saw it when they pulled the wall down,” Tony said. “He says, ‘I’ve got to have that.’ So he cut it out.”

In short order, he gave it to Tony, who framed it himself soon thereafter.

Tony highlighted some of the details of the front page, noting it was from the Friday, Dec. 12, 1913, edition of the paper.

“That’s pretty old,” he said. “This one has got damage on it in different places, but it’s held together.”

He pointed out a faint label on the paper near the top of it that seemed to indicate who had owned it.

“You can see the owner of it was T.H. Barrett, and there’s the date, October the 8th, 1914,” Tony said. “So that’s kind of weird, a year later, but maybe he ordered it a year later, I don’t know.”

Tony cited the price of the paper in 1913 as listed at the top of the page — “As you can see, ‘$1 a year in advance.’”

He noted that the color on the page has held up quite well.

“I didn’t even know they had color in 1913,” he said. “I was surprised it wasn’t black and white.”

Tony and his wife of 52 years, Joani, live in Chesapeake but grew up, went to school and married in Franklin.

Incorporating the now-108-year-old front page from The Tidewater News into their Christmas decor serves as a fitting reminder to the Suraces of their own history and also that of the city from whence they came.

“We’ve been putting that picture up over the fireplace for over 40 years,” Tony said.