How Muncie observed the Christmas of 1929

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I like to have a good vacation. Such observances do a lot to mark the passage of time, like an eternal metronome that recalls the years gone by. Holidays also transcend generations. I don’t always know how my ancestors celebrated Christmas, but I’m sure many did. In a way, knowing this ties me to the strangers who fill my family tree. Americans have long liked the idea of ​​progress; always forward in something new. But a sustainable vacation, at least for me, anchors us in the Ferris wheel of time.

Some holiday traditions change over the years, while others remain timeless. If we were, say, brought back to Christmas 1929, we would find many Munsonians preparing for the day in familiar ways. Then and now, giving gifts was an important part of the Christmas season. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, traders filled local newspapers with gift announcements. For example, Anspach’s, Muncie’s “bargain basement” at 116 S. Walnut St., offered big discounts to last-minute shoppers, including $ 1 men’s outlet pajamas and women’s gift slippers at. $ 1.19. The doll that “the little sister asked Santa to bring her” would cost $ 4.95, while an air rifle would cost the merry elf 79 cents. The Meyer’s Drug Store on the corner of Jackson and Walnut has announced several gift suggestions, including 200 cigarettes for $ 1.19 and a five-pound box of chocolate for $ 1.98.

The Kroger grocery store at 309 E. Main, circa 1929.

Just like today, the Munsonians made a concerted effort to feast on Christmas Day. The town’s grocers happily provided the equipment for the season. The Kroger grocery store at 309 E. Main sold dressed turkeys for 37 cents a pound and geese for 30 cents a pound. The Ideal Fish Market at 106 W. Charles was open late Christmas Eve, offering fresh oysters and “lots of rabbits” for the more adventurous Christmas eaters. At the Delaware County Jail, a pig has been “carefully prepared with an apple in its mouth and ready to roast” for those behind bars.

Ideal Fish Market Christmas Eve advertisement, 1929, from the Muncie Morning Star, December 24, 1929.

The Munsonians were also charitable this feast. Even though the depths of the Great Depression were still a few years away, the previous October stock market crash had sparked a chain of events leading to layoffs. The Muncie Evening Press reported on Christmas Day that although “the volume of business has not been significant this year, due to the fact that so many factory workers have been out of work recently, the citizens of Muncie responded to the call of the poor. . “The Muncie Fire Department delivered 75 baskets of food to the needy, while the Salvation Army delivered 200 through the Magic Town. The Muncie Social Service Office gave the names of 150 impoverished families.” to generous citizens who wish to offer baskets of food and other gifts “.

Formerly Muncie:The murder of Elmer Hamilton

Local newspapers also reported an increase in crime that season. On Christmas Eve, a gunman stopped several motorists on Burlington Drive, running away with about $ 20. On the same day, a man named Victor “Peanut” Templin was found guilty of breaking Volstead Law. Apparently, Peanut was arrested the previous July for selling a “large quantity of Canadian beer and other beers” at a stall near Inlow Springs. His accomplice was (I swear I’m not making these names up), Luke “Ribs” Wilmuth.

Baptist Church of Calvary.

For the faithful, St. John’s Universalist, St. Lawrence Catholic and First Presbyterian offered services on Christmas Eve. At Calvary Baptist, a special vigil program was held with a cantata entitled “Mrs. Santa Claus and Christmas Dolls.

For those looking for a more secular way to celebrate the holidays, the city’s theaters offered an assortment of entertainment. The Rivoli screened two films, “Pointed Heels” and “Untamed” by Joan Crawford. The Vaudelle offered the Munsonians “The Drag”, while the Wysor Grand presented “Shanghai Lady” and “Song of Love”. The Liberty, best known at the time for vaudeville, featured a live number of dancing black bears titled unimaginably, “Captain Andrews Troupe of Four Performing Bears.”

Liberty's advertisement for a dancing bear at Christmas, which appeared in the Muncie Evening Press, December 24, 1929.

Muncie was also undergoing a political transformation this holiday season. The November municipal elections saw an epic turnout from Munsonians who voted against the Republicans. Guess it was a response to the crash. The Democratic sweep of municipal government certainly foreshadowed the crushing national elections of 1930 and 1932. George Dale defeated Robert Barnes for mayor, with 8,727 votes (Barnes polled 7,378). Democrats also won the office of city clerk, city judge and a majority of city council seats.

Outgoing mayor John Hampton reportedly phoned Dale on Christmas Eve to discuss the transition of administrations. Hampton grabbed the mayor-elect with a bad headache and joked, “I’m not surprised you have a headache, George. About four years ago, I developed a pretty annoying headache myself, because so many people were looking for a job for me. I want to tell you, however, that I am not asking you for a job.

George Dale was elected mayor of Muncie in 1929.

Despite the realities of political and economic life, Munsonians woke up to a White Christmas in 1929. In the week leading up to the holiday, successive storms had engulfed much of east-central Indiana under a thick layer of snow. Two days before Christmas, the Muncie Morning Star reported that “automobile traffic on the roads and streets of the city center was progressing with difficulty… no effort was made to clean the streets”. A day later, the sky poured out several more inches, causing 16 car crashes in the city. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 100 workers armed with snow shovels “began to plow and de-ice the streets of the chic district”.

Dusty snow had also destroyed train and intercity train schedules, causing significant delays in travel and shipments. Muncie’s deputy postmaster Emory Niday said that “this year’s Christmas mail season was perhaps the most important in the history of the city”. The stranded trains delayed the delivery of many packages until after Christmas.

Emory Niday (seated), was the Deputy Postmaster in 1929.

Ninety-two years later, we find ourselves celebrating another Christmas season under a cloud of uncertainty. While our problems in 2021 are very different from those faced by our ancestors in 1929, perhaps we can take comfort in the fact that good food, gifts, family, charity, and faith remain steadfast traditions of the season. of Christmas. I hope our successors in 2113 will remember the holidays of our time and recognize the same.

For those who celebrate, have a merry Christmas!

Delaware County Historical Society

Chris Flook is a board member of the Delaware County Historical Society and is the author of “Lost Towns of Delaware County, Indiana” and “Native Americans of East-Central Indiana”. For more information about the Delaware County Historical Society, visit delawarecountyhistory.org.


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