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Remembering The Yuletide of 1930

When Christmas was celebrated 93 years ago in 1930, the country was in the middle of a dire economic downturn that would become known as the Great Depression.

The year 1930 saw men, women, and children waiting in breadlines and going to soup kitchens in order to receive basic sustenance for their bodies. Those who became homeless due to the severe economic difficulties erected makeshift shelters clustered together into little settlements called “Hooverville,” a not-so-subtle dig at President Herbert Hoover.

Culturally that year, Hostess Twinkies and Snickers candy bars were introduced. Scotch tape was introduced by the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M).

In sports, the Philadelphia Athletics defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Bobby Jones won golf’s “Grand Slam,” and Max Schmeling was awarded the Heavyweight Boxing title after being fouled by Jack Sharkey.

The popular tunes that year included “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” “Them There Eyes,” “Three Little Words,” and “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You.”

The big films that year were: “Little Caesar,” starring Edward G. Robinson, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” starring Lew Ayres, “Abraham Lincoln,” starring Walter Huston; and “Anna Christie,” starring newcomer Greta Garbo.

Locally, in 1930, John S. Fisher was Governor of Pennsylvania, Lycoming County’s President Judge was Harvey Whitehead, Lycoming County Commissioners were Charles Rothfuss, Fred Applegate, and Joseph Nicely, Williamsport’s Mayor was Herbert T. Ames; Louis Russie was Chief of Police, and Michael Clark was Fire Chief. Williamsport had a population of about 45,000.

Kline’s on the Square was selling electric train sets for $3.96, a velocipede for $3.25, a Dolly Ann Kitchen Set for $1.49, and a large pedal car for $2.35.

Lycoming Dry Goods was selling blanket bath robes for $2.98, dress shirts for $1.49, women’s silk hosiery for 79 cents, and roller skates for $1.69.

L.L. Stearns was selling men’s raincoats from $2.95 to $8, men’s spats from $1.50 to $3, linen tablecloths from $2.95 to $10, and silk bedspreads from $2.98 to $16.

A headline in the Gazette and Bulletin on December 23 proclaimed, “PP&L May Enter Natural Gas Field.” They applied with the Public Utility Commission to produce, distribute, and sell natural gas.

Despite the economic hard times, the Gazette and Bulletin was reporting that the 1930 Christmas shopping season would be as good as the 1929 one for local merchants.

The Gazette and Bulletin of December 24, 1930, reported that Williamsport “has never been so illuminated for Christmas.” It said Williamsport’s Vallamont and Grampian sections were particularly brightened and well-lit by Christmas lights. It also said the number of decorated Christmas trees were a fully 50 percent more than in former years.

Playing at the Rialto Theater was “Big Money,” starring Robert Armstrong and James Gleason. “A Lady Surrenders” was at the Capitol Theater, starring Conrad Nagel.

Christmas festivities were marred locally on Christmas Day when two children were killed, and their parents were badly burned in a house fire in Montgomery; the dead were Betty Jane Tilburg, four years old, and Ann Louise Tilburg, aged six; their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tilburg were badly burned in the blaze at their Main Street home.

It was a happier time at Williamsport’s charitable institutions. The 108 people of the staff and residents of the Williamsport Home for the Friendless had a sumptuous Christmas dinner served to them and presents were given out as well. The 90 residents of the Williamsport City Home were given “a real old-fashioned Christmas.” The 95 persons who spent the holiday at the Williamsport Hospital also had a nice Christmas, and Santa also delivered a new baby girl.