Olden Days, 1921: Businessmen Put Up ‘Community Christmas Tree’

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Exactly one hundred years ago, the residents of the small borough of Hellertown (population: 3,008 in the 1920 Census) were busy preparing for Christmas.

A Dec. 17, 1921 update regarding borough happenings published in The Morning Call sheds some light on what the community’s celebration may have been like back then.

Just like today, there must have been much excitement for the upcoming holiday among students in the borough’s schools. Under “School Notes” the newspaper reported that “all the rooms in the various buildings have a Christmas tree fully decorated,” and that students would be off from school from Saturday, Dec. 24 to Tuesday, Jan. 3.

A number of local congregations also announced special services for Christmas in the newspaper.

For example, a congregation in Ironville (present-day Wassergass) was planning to hold services on the evening of Dec. 24, while “Christmas exercises” were to be held St. Paul’s Evangelical Church in Hellertown on Monday evening, Dec. 26. Presumably, this was because Christmas Day that year fell on a Sunday, as it was also noted in the paper that Lower Saucon-Reformed church’s regular Sunday morning services would be held on Christmas, while “the Reformed Sunday school of the church will render a Christmas program on Monday evening, Dec. 26.”

Adjacent to the lengthy Hellertown update was an ad for various foods that would have been needed to cook a sumptuous Christmas dinner, which were priced accordingly:

  • Little Fresh Roasting Hams – 20 cents per pound
  • Prime Boneless Rib Roast – 24 cents per pound
  • Fine Creamery Butter Tub – 43 cents per pound
  • Granulated Sugar – 4.5 cents per pound

Perhaps the most telling bit of information the article contains concerns a “Community Christmas Tree” that several local businessmen were planning to erect in Hellertown.

By today’s standards, doing so barely a week before Christmas would have been considered unusual. However, a drawn-out “Christmas season” lasting from Thanksgiving (or earlier) until well after Dec. 25 didn’t yet exist in 1921, so putting up a tree a week or so before the holiday probably wasn’t that unusual at the time.

The article notes the following, with regard to the community tree:

“Last evening the committee of business men in charge of the community Christmas tree project held a short meeting relative to the placing of the tree and the arrangement of the exercises. The tree will be planted on Sol Steven’s lot, opposite the Hellertown garage. It will be illuminated with numerous electric lights, the installation of which will be in charge of Elwood Boehm. The committee is composed of E. E. Funk, Elwood Boehm and Franklin Sutton.”

The exact location of the tree is somewhat unclear, based on the description provided.

Also unknown are what “exercises” were planned at it.

Today’s tree-lighting in Hellertown is a grand affair held the day after Thanksgiving in Dimmick Park, where it is known as Light Up Night. Click here to see photos from this year’s event.

Olden Days is a regular Saucon Source feature documenting the history of the Saucon Valley area.

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