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Cyrus/Christmas in Columbia, 1948 (Reprint from 2005)

Article with 2010 updates; first printed 2005-12-18.

From the ads in an old county paper, Cyrus has woven together a picture of what Christmas was like 57 years ago in Columbia; afterword by an Ancient One on where-what-is-now, follows Cyrus' story
Announcement of the official start of the 1948 Christmas shopping season appeared in the December 8th edition of the Adair County News in this brief entry:
Columbia Decorated for Christmas

"Thanks to the efforts of the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, Columbia's Public Square is gaily decorated with colored lights, adding greatly to the "Christmas Spirit." which prevails at this season...

"The beautifully decorated shop windows surrounding the Square, filled with all types of gifts to tempt even the most discriminating purchaser and the bright colored lights which are turned on at dusk, makes one realize that Christmas is almost here."
And my-oh-my--the treasures one could buy on and near the Square! Just a sampling:

The Rod & Gun Shop (Bakery Bldg.) offered Marx electric trains. Marshall Variety Store, "the store of thousand varieties," had practical gifts, games of all kinds, "toys the kiddies will love, 10c and up," beautiful dolls, dinner ware, and story books, to name just a few. The Nu-Art Studio urged readers of the News to "give a portrait this Christmas, your most appreciated gift."

For Dad, The Men's Shop had stocked "the most complete line of Men's Gifts in the history of our business" while theWillis Dress Shop proclaimed "the pick of Santa's Pack" for wives, mothers and sisters. The Style Shop (Lacy Bldg.) also offered a cornucopia of clothing delights for that special lady.

Brown Drug Store and Paull Drug Co. had their usual wide selection of gifts for all, everything from fancy box soap to jewelry for her to cuff links to shaving mugs to Hollingsworth's Unusual Candies to Sparklet. (Anyone know what Sparklet was? It cost ten dollars--a bargain, no doubt!)

Marshall Furniture Store had "gifts you will always enjoy," including upholstered rockers, cedar chests, radios and washing machines; and Wooten's Dept Store had a wide selection of choice merchandise for the Lady, for the Gentleman, for the Children, and for the House.

My favorite ad was for Columbia General Appliance (Jamestown Street, Phone 207A) that offered the Stuff of Dreams for big kids: electric stoves, starting at $199; electric blankets for $39.95; a "sensational full size Philco Console Radio-Phonograph" with deluxe features for $169; and the very latest in household appliances, a sit down automatic ironer for her (hey--I didn't write the ad copy) for only $179.95.

Central Ohio Bureau Chief


Comments from an Ancient One, a nearly grown 8-year-old in 1948

Thanks, Cyrus.

This brought back a lot of memories.The biggest is it solves a "mittery" (Graham's word) for me. And that is how much the Philco Radio-Phonograph cost in 1948. I believe it was that Christmas that Daddy bought one for the living room. It really set off that front room, the one formal room we had. When the Philco was added, we had everything in that room that most everyone aspired to in those days: A sofa and matching chair, an upright piano with player mechanism, a coffee table, carpet with only a narrow border of dark brown painted floor, and after that Christmas, the polished wood cabinet of the Philco Console. I had always thought the cost was over $300, but that, in today's terms would have been way too much. I did compare 1948 dollars to today's, and I come up with about $1,400 as the 2005 equivalent of $169 in 1948. That's about what my 1991 Walkaway Car, currently my main transportation, is worth.

And, just for the record some locators:
  • The Rod & Gun Shop (Bakery Building) was where Moore's Pool Room is located today. Next to the Columbian Theatre, on the North Walk Off the Square.

  • Joseph Allison's Nu-Art Studio was located in the Hotel Miller building. It fronted on Greensburg Street, where the parking area is for the Courthouse Annex today.

  • Herb Taylor's The Men's Shop and Hattie Lee Willis' Willis Dress Shop occupied the building between what is now Harris & Harris Law office and the Mike Mann's Building on the Square (2010: Cafe on the Square). Amazing to think that, in those days, the finest apparel almost anywhere could be bought in Columbia, KY. Those who had too much post-war wealth and needed to flaunt it went to Louisville to Stewart's, but in those days, Columbia was a retailing center.

  • Tom Brown's Brown Drug Company was located in what is now Harris & Harris. Paull Drug Company was located in what is now the left side of Reed Brothers Insurance Agency.

  • Columbia General Appliance was located in the back of the Russell Building (Lerman's then), on the corner of Jamestown and Reed Streets.
  • Marshall's Variety Store was in the building which now houses Grimsley's Jewelry. It was owned by Mr. Paul Marshall. My aunt, Stella Cooley at the time, was a clerk in the store for a time.

  • Marshall's Furniture Store was owned by Clyde Marshall, I believe. It was operated at various times by Bobby Marshall and Charles Marshall. It remember the business in what is now Rumors Salon on Campbellsville Street, but I don't know it was there then.

  • I can't place just where the first Style Shop was located, but I do remember that Paul and Mabel Jones were two of the most professional retailers ever in Columbia. The last Style Shop location was facing the Square in the corner with the Well Wallk.

  • Wooten's Department Store, owned by two wonderful people, Ruel and Runie Wooten, had two full floors and a balcony, a total of about 3,200 square feet, in the Ben Arnold building south of Mike Mann's M&M Furniture Building.
A final note, at one point in Columbia's history, you could have said that Columbia was decorated for Christmas all year round. Christmas lights on the courthouse steeple weren't taken down. Just turned off after the Christmas season.

-Ed Waggener

PS--Oh yes, please don't give it out to just everyone, but our telephone number was 192A, and our ring on the four-neighbor party line was two longs and a short.

This story was posted on 2011-01-02 08:50:28
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