Page 29 - Scene Magazine 41-12 December 2016
P. 29

Scene In Time
BY MARY BUTLER, Heritage Battle Creek
   Over the years, the holiday season has meant many different things to many people – partying with friends, feasting with family, attending midnight church services, shopping for gifts, playing in the snow, opening presents around the Christmas tree.
Then, as now, the Christmas season frequently began with shopping. In the 1890s, many stores held festive holiday openings, complete with elaborate entertainment and
refreshments. The 1896 Christmas “opening” of Robinson’s department store was lovingly described in the Battle Creek Journal.
“The finest opening ever held in the city occurred last evening at L. W. Robinson’s. At an early hour the crowd began to congregate and their attention was at once attracted by the handsome display.
“It had been fitted up to portray a street scene in Venice. In the background was a Venetian palace, with quaint turrets and gables, from the many windows of which bright lights gleamed. Looking through one of these, one could discern a lovely lady resting on a couch and all about were strewn pretty novelties, while ladies arrayed in dainty costumes stood here and there.
The little gondolier was there, oar in hand, and seated in front of him in the pretty gondola was a beautiful lady richly gowned.
“When the doors were thrown open and the throng surged in, their eyes rested on a scene of splendor. Beside the fine display of beautiful fabrics, there were introduced many little designs which proved a pleasing addition to the display.
Wreaths of holly and mistletoe were suspended from the ceiling by gay
Celebrations of Christmas Past
ribbons; in the center in a golden chariot drawn by three large white swans stood a beautiful maiden gowned in white with golden curls, holding vari-colored ribbon reins.
“There was a Christmas tree all aglow with tapers and laden with little gifts, a spinning wheel that dear old grandmother used in days long gone by, and a real old-fashioned fireplace with kettle suspended over the embers
their usual masterly manner throughout the evening.”
While the adults were shopping, the youngsters prayed for snow. Playing outside in a new snowfall is one of the universal joys of childhood. One winter pastime, described in this reminiscence from the archives of the Historical Society, was enjoyed by farm children – the “hop-bob.” As the author recalls:
“We didn’t have snow suits or galoshes then, just the full length, badly-rolled underwear beneath sev- eral pairs of long, black cotton stockings. Of course we girls wore woolen petticoats and dresses – the boys wore their overalls, then with hand-knit sweaters, stockings, caps, scarves, wristlets, and mittens, we were ready to brave the coldest winter blast
from the north.
“The wait in the
cold frosty air seemed interminable, but even- tually some farmer, either going to or coming from town, would drive along our country road, with a husky team of horses pulling the four- runner ‘bobsled.’ We’d choose sides and hop on the runners for a long ride through the crisp snow. Then wait for another ‘bob’ to ride back home.
“This fun wasn’t without its dangers; you could miss the runner and get a badly damaged foot, or fall as the team made a sharp curve. And sometimes a farmer wouldn’t want us riding and would speed up his team, also taking a few cracks towards us with his buggy whip. But mostly they were wonderfully patient men, giving us children a joyous ride down the snow covered roads to the merry voices of the sleigh bells, which were always fastened to each farm sled.” continued
 and stockings of all sizes hanging form the mantle ready to be filled by Santa, whose round, red, bearded face was just emerging from the fireplace. Nearby stood a dame with a large basket on her arm, who had probably come with the intention of helping Kris Kringle.
In the rear of the store was a little booth filled with cushions, and in an alcove above on the first landing of the staircase was stationed the Germania orchestra who rendered selections in
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