Christmas time has rolled around once more, settling on the village of Hawley. Holiday spirit manifests itself through its small town charm, with neighbors pitching in and ensuring a celebration both spiritual and traditional. Winterfest, its 15th edition, has come and gone setting the stage as townspeople hurry to shop, make their plans and prepare for the special night of the year when all is calm, all is bright. This is Christmas 2013; how was it a century ago? For some our forefathers were here, establishing traditions that may have endured to the present day. How much has changed? What is similar?
We look back to the pages of The Citizen, a Honesdale newspaper in December 1913. Copies of the Hawley Times for that period have not been found.
The December 25th edition had a special page with Hawley merchants describing their wares and why shoppers should come their way. An article led it off with a banner headline, "HAWLEY AT CHRISTMASTIME." It said thus:
"Wondering always wondering are children. It is a mooted question until after Santa has come and gone whether the stocking will be filled with the articles they want, or with some things they fear they deserve- whips and such like, for instance. The present day Christmas always finds Hawley decked out in all her finest for the occasion. If snow covers the ground and we hear the sound of: '__sledges with their bells, Silver bells, What a world of merriment, Their melody foretells.'
"Why, the music blends beautifully and most harmoniously, and we close our eyes to the present and dream that we are again living over the days that are gone. The pine clad hill at the south, with snowy base, adds charm to the scene, as it is suggestive of the magic of the Black Forest, near the source of the Danube, where toys for the world's children are made in the cutest manufactories, their very existence suggesting the wonders of the world of fairies.
"In the days of the vanished gravity railroad and canal Hawley was fully as much filled with the spirit of Christmas as it is today. In those days Santa Claus did not have so many branch stores scattered all over the county as it is today. Hawley was his main headquarters for miles of surrounding territory, where on Christmas eve people gathered around the blazing wood fires, and as the blue smoke curled up around the chimneys, the little tots were told again the story of the Shepherd, the Star, and the singing Angels."
Hawley in December 1913 was a bustling manufacturing town with trains coming and going in three directions, bearing passengers and freight. Silk and textile mills, cut glass and other glass products and wood products were produced. There was much talk of a power plant proposed, powered by the Wallenpaupack and the great lake that would inundate the river valley. A long anticipated electric street trolley was to be coming down the old canal towpath from Honesdale. Hawley Council was discussing a new franchise requested by the much encumbered trolley company.
Page 2 of 3 - There was happy news up on the hill where hundreds of workers, mostly women at the great Bellemonte Silk Mill were told of an unexpected pay increase. "Dexter Lambert & Co. gets ahead of Santa Claus" the headline declared in the Dec. 5th edition. "About as tickled a bunch of people as could be found anywhere were the employees of the Dexter Lambert & Co. silk mill who were notified on Monday of a 10 percent increase in their wages." This came as a most welcome surprise after the mill recently had cuts its working hours due to a new law forbidding women from working more than 54 hours a week.
In addition, the reporter stated, "…this increase is welcome news all around, especially at the Holiday Season of the year."
E.L. Schlager's department store was advertising handkerchiefs, pillowcases and "some of the dantiest articles for Christmas presents imaginable," as well as low prices. Well stocked on two floors, they featured for the holidays, "Reed chairs for tired mothers, furs and coats for young ladies, shoe blacking outfits for men…" In the grocery department there were "candies, nuts, layer raisins in rich, purple clusters, oranges, dates, figs, mince meats, plum pudding and the very finest in canned meats, fruits and vegetables…"
Hawley Bank suggested that once the Christmas plum pudding had been eaten and Santa and his team had gone away for a year's rest, people would begin to count the cost of every day necessities and be glad to have a bank book.
"Insurance policies make very sensible presents," claims an advertising article for Thompson & Phillips insurance company in Hawley. Founded by the late Daniel Bingham, the article went on, "Santa Claus might, and does make many gifts that are not half so useful as would be an insurance policy on your buildings or on your life."
Former Wayne County Sheriff Richard W. Murphy operated Keystone Cut Glass at Keystone and Penn. "Any table that is spread with Keystone cut glassware will sparkle and glitter like diamonds on the snow-covered trees by moonlight when Santa Claus is making the round," their article declared.
Nell's Meat Market (Charles Nell) boasted, "At Christmas holidays the Nell Market always had extra fine meats and this year are as fine as any year ever saw."
J.J. Curran had a general store on River Street. "You are waited upon so cheerfully, and Mr. Curran himself smiles upon you so graciously that every day seems to be the day before Christmas at the store," the article reads.
First National Bank of Hawley, Teeters' Furniture, Paupack Coal Company, Reafler Hotel, Snyder, Freethy & Parker Rexall Drug Store and Mangan Store (another general store on River Street) also promoted their wares in the same Christmas edition in 1913. At the drug store they were having a "One Cent Sale" shortly after Christmas.
Page 3 of 3 - The Citizen did not mention Christmas services planned at Hawley churches or of any public appearance of Santa Claus. Although lacking availability of 1913 editions of The Hawley Times to peruse once again, we can rest assured that Christmas traditions were alive and well in our little town of Hawley.