LOOKING BACK: Christmas 1923

Published 5:12 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2023

One hundred years ago, as the people of the Southampton – Isle of Wight community were preparing for the Christmas holiday, The Tidewater News editions were promoting strong shop-at-home themes. Local businesses were promoting their products and services by offering suggestions for Christmas gifts. Dr. Jordan B. Powell, Franklin optician and jewelry store owner, announced that he was closing his OPTICAL rooms until Jan. 1, 1924 — so that he could deal with the Christmas rush. E. P. Jones (Sr.) of Jones-Hayes Co. was offering discounts on women’s dresses and coats – with prices ranging from $9.98 to $19.98. Joe Bynum Gay was offering wide selections of clothing for men, women, and children. George Parker of Parker Drug Co. was promoting their usual line of Christmas cards, books, candies, etc. Sol Rawls (Sr.) of Rawls’ Garage was advertising their line of automobiles as “big” gifts – a Chevrolet roadster was special priced at $600.00.

G.H. Steinhardt & Co. was promoting their huge stock of toys, with a few suggestions: dolls, bicycles, and guns for the boy that loves to shoot. W. T. Pace Co. was promoting their “Loth’s” hot blast coal-fired space heater. Jones Drug Co. was offering specials on “Dunn” fountain pens and “Houbigant’s” Paris perfumes. The Virginia Pharmacy was suggesting manicure sets, candies, and cigars. L. A. Whitley Hardware was promoting their wood-fired cook stoves. Both Reese Motor Co. of Courtland and White Motor Co. of Boykins were offering Ford sedans for $685.00. C. A. Cutchins & Sons was promoting the use of Purina Chicken feed for increased egg production.

One of the major out-of-town competitors of that time was the venerable Miller & Rhodes Department Store in Richmond which was running advertisements in The Tidewater News – encouraging people to come to Richmond to shop. 

Paul Scarborough, editor, published a Christmas oriented editorial in the Dec. 21, 1923 edition of The Tidewater News:

We are about to celebrate Christmas again. In spite of all the fun poked at Christmas by magazine writers, whose minds have been soured in steam-heated skyscrapers and are consequently unable to enjoy Christmas on the level of folks in the streets, and notwithstanding the cynical jibes at Santa Claus by those who being old themselves are unable to recall the days of their youth, we are glad it’s Christmas. 

Indeed, we turn with a sigh of relief from some of the humdrum things of everyday life to the consideration of Christmas once again. The year of our Lord, 1923, has been a queer one in many respects – a succession of crime waves, murders, burglaries, automobile accidents, coal strikes, wars and rumors of wars, problems of bootleggers, rum runners, fundamentalists, modernists, Ku Klux, anti-Ku Klux and what not. It is well for us to approach once each year a season of peace on earth and goodwill to men, and to find in the celebration of Christmas the ever-recurring miracle of the Christ Child and its eternal influence upon human lives.

America, of all nations, ought to observe Christmas with a thankful heart – we are blessed above all peoples of the earth and in material things, at least, have more than all others besides in the measure of prosperity which has been so bountifully heaped upon us. Not only are we grateful for what we have but for the inclination, too, to help the unfortunate. Our country has during the year now closing given freely of its means to the unfortunate of the earth – to the orphans of the Near East, the sufferers in the Japanese earthquake, and to those of our own land who have been dispossessed of home and property by fire and flood. Wherever and whenever there has been a call for help, America has heard and heeded it. 

Do your shopping at home. We believe that Franklin merchants are better equipped to take care of holiday requirements than we have ever known them to be. They have everything and anything your fancy desire – sentimental and practical gifts, toys for the children, and more substantial remembrances in things suitable for the home or family. Franklin is rapidly becoming a trading center for miles around and the people of the county and adjoining counties are finding what they want here, and are spending their money where a great part of it goes back through the channels of taxation into local needs – schools, roads, and public improvements.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net.