Although the Christmas season of 1915 was typical in some respects, many citizens of Louisburg looked forward to a special Christmas celebration—one made happier by the efforts of the town’s Civic League.
Ads that appeared in The Franklin Times in early December heralded the approaching holiday. Fred A. Riff, a jeweler and optometrist, invited shoppers to investigate his stock of jewelry, sterling silver, fine silver plate, and cut glass items. The Candler-Crowell Company touted Christmas handkerchiefs at prices ranging from five to fifty cents as well as a wide selection of clothing designed for cold weather. A leading furniture store, Howell-Bunn-Hudson, declared that it would offer its entire selection of furniture and household furnishings to the people of Franklin and adjoining counties at “most any old price to get rid of it before the holidays.” Kline & Lazarus, located on East Nash Street, said that “every boy can wear a new suit for Christmas.” According to Williams Bros., “Christmas without fireworks is no Christmas at all.” The company boasted of its stock of Roman candles, sky rockets, canon crackers, and fire crackers.
Riverside Warehouse, site of the Christmas celebration in 1915, is shown here
during tobacco season. Courtesy of Linda Cottrell.
It is likely that news reported on December 10 stimulated more interest than the prospect of fireworks displays. According to The Franklin Times, members of the Civic League had met on December 2 at the home of Mrs. J. M. Allen to begin planning a community Christmas tree display and celebration, to be held in downtown Louisburg on the evening of December 25. Prominent men and women of the town organized themselves into eight committees to carry out the event. Their goal was to invite every man, woman, and child in the corporate limits to come downtown to view a giant tree adorned with electric lights, enjoy fruits and confections, and listen to music performed by a large choir. Each child under the age of twelve was to receive a gift.
Plans continued to develop during the days leading up to the holiday. The members of the Civic League extended invitations to those children who attended local Sunday schools but lived outside the town limits. As the big day approached and the prospect of poor weather loomed, organizers decided to hold the event in the Riverside Warehouse, located on Market Street, instead of outside. The Franklin Times reported on Christmas Eve that the big tree, decorated with electric lights and candles, was “adorned” with 278 presents for the children. Some 500 bags already had been filled with fruit and candy. The event was to be opened with a “beautiful musical program, consisting of hymns and carols by a full choir, songs and readings by the small children, and other interesting features ….” After gifts were distributed, “old fashioned Christmas games” would be played.
Even though the weather was bad on the night of the event, the festivities were well received. The faces of children brightened as “Old Santa with his assistants” called their names and distributed their gifts. The ladies of the Civic League received accolades for the success of their labors.
Published in The Franklin Times on December 10, 2015.
Maury York is director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College. He can be reached at email@example.com.