With the dawning of the new year ahead, the Time Traveler took a trip back in time in the old time machine to yesteryears past, feeling a good bit like the Ghost of Christmas Past created by our friend Charles Dickens.
With each approaching Christmas, families across DeSoto County were busy buying presents and placing them underneath the tree, although some Yuletide gatherings were melancholy affairs with sons and brothers, and later during World War II and Vietnam, sisters and daughters and even mothers, far away from the homeplace during war-time.
The newspaper known as the “Press and Times,” forerunner to the DeSoto Times-Tribune, heralded the holiday this way in December of 1877: “Boom, bang and the bells a’ringing and every conceivable and imaginable noise was made Christmas Eve and Christmas morning by the young people and the old boys standing back paying the bills. Go for it, boys, Christmas comes but once a year.”
At least one local baker was busy baking goodies for Christmas Eve that Christmas more than 142 years ago.
Henry Meng, the proprietor of the Hernando Bakery, was said to be quite busy, “making fresh bread, cakes and pies and confectionaries of all kinds, furnished to holiday parties and balls at the shortest notice. Warm bread will be furnished to families every morning and evening.”
Merchants like W.W. Adams’ Family Groceries, on the east side of the DeSoto County Court Square, were urging citizens to stock their shelves of groceries and supplies in preparation of Christmas dinner. “Lard, bacon, flour, molasses, tobacco and canned fruit,” were in abundant supply.
While some local children might have been wishing for their own two front teeth that Christmas, it seems that local farmer B.F. Griffin just wanted his old gray mare back.
During the holiday season of 1877, Dec. 26 to be exact, Griffin placed an advertisement in the newspaper for his “dark, iron-gray mare mule,” which had a “light gray nose about 15 hands high, medium size, four years old. The undersigned will pay the above reward on delivery of said mule, six miles northeast of Hernando.”
It seems that Charles Dickens’ ghostly, dark and mysterious characters were also out and about that Christmas season.
The newspaper reported the “garroting and robbery of our Postmaster, J.M. Clark by three thieves.” It seems that Mr. Clark was out walking along the square shortly before Christmas and was accosted and robbed of more than “six hundred and thirty dollars on his person in Post Office money, all of which the thieves took from him at the muzzle of a pistol.”
It would also be a sad and solemn Christmas at the County Poor House, a place where people worked off their debt. The newspaper that year reported the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors approved the contract extension for the county poor house for the next two years.
It would also be a dark and drizzly Christmas for participants in the Southaven Christmas parade.
No, the Time Traveler is not reporting on the bright, festive and cheerful parade recently held despite a few raindrops, but the Southaven Christmas Parade of 1970 that carried valiantly on despite a steady downpour.
That year, the Southaven Christmas Parade went on as scheduled despite the rain, as reported in the Thursday, Dec. 19, 1970 edition of the newspaper.
The Southaven Moose Lodge took top honors, along with the Southaven PTA and the Southaven Chamber of Commerce. Parade participants in December of 1970 were singer Jerry Lee Lewis, the Colt Pee Wee football team, the Southaven YMCA Twirlers, under the direction of Carolyn Wilson and Miss DeSoto County of 1970 Donna Logan.
Big news that year, splashed across the front page, were winners in the Christmas Flower Show, sponsored by the Hernando Civic Garden Club. Mrs. Paul Cooke, Miss Ann Gill and Mrs. Noah Holmes, Jr. took top honors in the annual flower show. Judges were entertained at the home of Mrs. Henry Yates after the judging.
The Bank of Olive Branch got in the Christmas spirit by the hanging of the greens but instead of garlands it was dollar bills. The bank that year entertained the public with an exhibit on the “history of money.”
This gem came from W.W. “Bill” Kerr, executive vice president of the bank.
“Most of the paper money issued during the American Revolution was printed on copper plates engraved by Paul Revere.” Even then, it seems, took “a little of the green stuff” to make Christmas a merry one.
With just a little imagination, one can imagine Paul Revere shouting, “Santa is coming! Santa is coming!”
ROBERT LEE LONG is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.