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Gifts of Christmas past

Dibbles Dabbles

December 28, 2011
By Billie Dibble - Westfield Historian, 1975-2006 (

This article first published December 22, 1983:

For the benefit of you Christmas shoppers who do not have your gifts all wrapped up by this time, here are some suggestions from a hundred years ago - from The Westfield Republican, of course.

"What to give as presents and how to give them - One of the annoyances peculiar to this time of year is the difficulty everyone finds in selecting appropriate Christmas gifts for his relatives and friendsThe following suggestions will be of value:

Article Photos

Photo from Mateer Collection courtesy Patterson Library
Christmas shopping in Westfield around the turn of the century. The tall man at the right is Carl Goetz who operated a men’s clothing store on Main Street for many years. Note the holiday decorations dangerously close to the gas lighting fixtures.

"A husband in selecting a present for his wife is confined to narrow limits. It must be either a sealskin sacque or diamond earringsBut, some of our readers say, 'she may have both.' To which we answer: It makes no difference; no true wife will sniff at a sealskin sacque or a pair of diamond earrings, provided they cost a little more than the ones she already has.

"A woman in selecting a present for her husband should first consider his comfort. Consequently a pair of slippers is the caper. If he has credit at a shoe store, the loving wife will get the very best. In former days wives used to make the slippers themselves, entertaining the absurd notion that their husbands might prize them more highly on that account. But those were the days when pumpkin pies were made out of such common truck as pumpkin, and didn't have any nice nutmeg, or cinnamon, or corn-starch, or extract of vanilla, or ylang ylang, or hair oil, or any of those delicious ingredients which go to make up the modern scientific pumpkin pie. "A sister should invariably present a grown brother with six hemstitched linen handkerchiefs, and a pair of bright colored, 25 cent cotton suspenders.

"A brother should give his sister a pound of French candy, a $1.50 Jersey, and all of his old neckties and scarfs for a crazy quilt.

"The eldest son should receive from his parents jointly a prayer book with a ten dollar bill enclosed between the fly leaf and the cover. He will take good care of the prayer book and the prayer book will take good care of the ten dollars.

"Outside of the family and among friends one should spend as much money as possible, or he will be looked upon as mean.

"If the above suggestions are acted upon, yule tide over the holidays in good shape."

A full column in the same paper listed gift suggestions which could be purchased from the old and reliable house of J.H. Towle at Nos. 8 and 9 Main Street. If your grandparents were fortunate enough to receive some of these gifts a hundred years ago and you were smart enough to hang on to them, you probably have some valuable antiques and collectibles today.

Forty-five years later, in 1928, I read "Have a look - Make the wife happy - How many husbands have wailed this Christmas season - 'oh what will I get the wife.' The Westfield Electric Co. 'Boys' can solve your problem for they are now exhibiting a most unique display at their store on Main Street, of a model up-to-the-minute kitchen, featuring the famous 'G.E.' refrigerator, also the ever growing popular electric stove has its place and what a joy, pride and convenience it is to the wife who owns one. Oh yes, that electric ironer has its place and well it should for it helps to make a holiday out of blue Monday wash day. Last but far from least is the vacuum sweeper, a most important helper for dispensing with the grief part of the job that is the house-wife's burden in her daily battle with 'King' dirt. All aboard husbands drop in and see how you can eliminate the grind of life by helping to make her daily routine a pleasure."

What will you have, girls - a sealskin sacque or a vacuum sweeper?

It was reported in 1928 that, "This village has never looked prettier than at this Christmas season. Both sides of Main, North and South Portage were decorated with ever-green trees, which have been lighted with electric lights for the past week, giving an exceptionally beautiful picture in the evening, which has been greatly enjoyed by our citizens. The Christmas tree, lighted by electric lights, in the Park was one of the most beautiful sights ever seen here, and there was a large crowd out Sunday night to take part in the community singing around this beautiful tree."

Westfield down town looks pretty festive all decked out for Christmas 1983, don't you agree?



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