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Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Mercer County 'Christmas Past' brings smiles

By Janie Southard
(Winter afternoons are good for kicking back in front of the fire with a good book. Of course, if you're at the office that's not only a bad idea, it's probably reason to alert the fire department as well as the unemployment office. However, if you work at a newspaper, winter afternoons are perfect for leaning back in your chair and leafing through newspapers of long gone days.)
Christmas dinner in 1932 was a feast for 50 cents offered by John McKirnan at his Celina Coffee Shop.
Here's what McKirnan included: fruit cocktail, roast turkey, Swiss steak, oyster dressing, raisin dressing, giblet gravy, mushroom sauce, cranberry sauce, creamed peas and mushrooms, lettuce salad, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, pie ala mode, fruit, ice cream, cake, bread and butter, coffee, tea, milk and buttermilk.
And, if the locals couldn't get to that meal, McKirnan did it all again for New Year's Day.
More food treats were to be had that Christmas 75 years ago when Crampton Canning and Mersman Brothers treated their employees with "boxes of hams, cans of kraut, tomatoes, tomato puree, mushrooms and pickles."
Mersman Brothers' factory also was among the first in the county with another holiday surprise: outdoor lights. In the Dec. 15, 1932, issue there's a little blurb about Tom Mersman, Louis Hauck and Frank Schulte climbing on top of the factory roof and arranging colored lights in the shape of a Christmas tree.
The beauty of it all was "attracting much attention," the article says.
In December 1932, a lengthy article on local cash crops discussed the approximately 1,000 local acres producing green beans, peas, carrots, cucumbers and cabbage.
The gist of the whole thing was that the eight local canning factories received almost all their tomatoes from Mercer County farmers. In 1936 the average income from the tomato crop was $50 an acre. To get that acre of tomatoes, farmers had a plant cost of $5 per acre for fertilizer.
Some higher yields in 1936 included J.H. Leister of Chatt who delivered 16.9 tons of tomatoes to a local cannery and was paid $132.50.
More harvest information, this time the crop is ice from the Grand Reservoir. The Standard commended local employer Albine Hemmert for paying his workers the top pay of 30 cents an hour to cut the ice out of the lake.
Paging through some Daily Standards published in December 1957, the good governor of Ohio, William O'Neil, was in a tizzy because there is no state fish.
In more than 100 speeches O'Neil bemoaned the fact Ohio has a flower (carnation) and a bird (cardinal) but, holy moley, out of Ohio's 170 fish species, none was chosen for state honors.
The late governor passed away in 1978, and still the state was fishless. In fact, here we are 50 years later still without a fish to call our own. Oh, yes, there's a state reptile (black racer snake), a state fossil (trilobite), a state beverage (tomato juice) and, yes, for Pete's sake even a state insect (ladybug).
Looking this week on the Internet for a state fish, there's a site that lists the state tree (buckeye, you knew that), which produces a brown seed that the Indians ground up and used to (guess what) kill fish.
Well, enough said!
A Pogue's Men's Store in the Dec. 4, 1957, Daily Standard advises women: "Robe him in luxury this Christmas" and shows a drawing of a tall, handsome man in a long plaid robe holding a couple presents. Cost of the robe is $5.50 and, below the drawing is a small block of text:
"A luxurious and comfortable lounging robe is so nice to come home to! Gift your man with one. You'll be delighted with the washability."
It does not specify if the "washability" refers to the robe or the man.
At Sowar's in Coldwater, the big announcement was that the store was carrying the new miracle cotton that didn't need ironing, called drip-dry. Apparently "all elegantly-dressed men" were "hoping for white, drip dry shirts under the Christmas tree" in 1957. Hhmmm.
Much of the advertising for ladies' apparel was targeted toward men back in those chauvinistic days of yore. Williams Jewelers suggested in their ad that the "successful man's wife" wants diamonds for Christmas. Perhaps the unsuccessful man's wife wanted diamonds even more.
Kroger's Celina store advertised specials on radishes, two bags for 10 cents, sliced bacon for 59 cents a pound, Zest soap at two bars for 29 cents, plus Campbell's tomato soup, cans of beets or corn or potatoes and pancake mix all for 10 cents each.
An item on page six of the Dec. 17, 1957, issue of the Standard discussed the "new champion popular eatable, which rose from obscurity in the streets of Naples." It's pizza, which was "unhonored and unsung while the hot dog rose to fame on American streets" until the mid-1950s when pizza "took off like an unguided missile."
There was speculation that the pizza craze would "never last and would soon die away."
If only good old John McKirnan had known about pizza back at the Celina Coffee Shop, he could have saved himself a lot of time and dishwashing during that 1932 holiday season.
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