Christmas About 1904

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, December 1995,
December 1995
Original Images:

A Poem by Foster Fletcher

It snowed in the night and the next morning everything was white and smooth and it was cold. The wind blew and the bedroom was cold and you could see your breath but we didn't mind for we were young and giddy because it was Christmas. We ran downstairs where the big coal stove glowed and there were our black stocking with toys and bright little bags of candy. After a while Mother said breakfast was ready and we had hot oatmeal with milk and some toast and a little coffee because it was a holiday. We dressed warm and got out our sleds and took our presents and followed a narrow path in the new snow down Forest Avenue, when we got to the bridge we stopped and pushed snow thru the railing and threw snow balls onto the frozen river to see the funny tracks they made in the snow and when a freight train roared past on the other bridge we yelled Merry Christmas at the engineer and he smiled and waved, we began to count the cars and read the numbers on them and thru rails and licked up and down, the snow blew and we got dizzy watching everything and lost count of the cars. We shouted at each other after the caboose went by and our voices sounded funny in our ears.

The crossing gates went up and the one armed man in the gatehouse came out and said “Merry Christmas boys and we said “same to you Mr. Evans”. We crossed the road to go thru the gully where we were explorers and pulled cat tails for lances and made cannon balls out of snow and it was hard work climbing the steep bank into the Cemetery. The soldier with the flag was all snow and we wished him a Merry Christmas and we laughed and got snow down our necks.

All the Lambie kids were at Grandmother's and we slid down the hill beyond the evergreens and ate candy and drumsticks and dressing. We had a tree in the parlor and Uncle Frank gave each kid a quarter which we were expecting because he always did that on Christmas. We went out and played in the barn by the hay mow and by night we were so tired we were glad to ride home with Uncle Robert in the bobsleigh and cover wp with a blanket and pretend the bobs were going backwards and it was all a very Merry Christmas seventy-five years ago.

Of Course Santa Claus Lives

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, December 1995,
December 1995
Original Images:

Of Course Santa Claus Lives; they saw him delivering toys

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!” Them's fightin' words, come Christmas time, in the editorial rooms between the middle of December to Christmas Day. Recite those words in the old Ypsilanti-Press and the city editor would throw a shoe at you, maybe with a foot inside.

About sixty years ago a New York editor, Brisbane, I think was the name, had answered a small girl's letter with a full galley of type: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa claus….he lives in our hearts.” and it was our duty to search pigeonholes till we found that “Yes, Virginia” letter and run it again and again.

However, in later years, it was the luck of the Ypsilanti-Press that one of the printers, his wife and small son really saw Santa Claus on a Christmas Eve.

It came about thus: Milt—that's me-on Christmas Eve, was driving to Royal Oak to our annual “Christmas tree” with my parents. We drove a Model-T Ford. To start this car you'd stand in front of its radiator, pull out the primer wire, give the crank a quick twist, mutter a few words in echo of the sputters of the engine, then repeat this till the throbbing of the radiator told you the engine was running.

On the Model-T dash was a single dial with the tiny hand pointing to “C: for charge or “D” for discharge, there was no battery. The magneto flywheel furnished current, both for sparkplugs and lights.

At a speed of about 20 m.p.h., the “brights” shone down the highway with a warm friendly glow. At higher speeds the lights brightened, and when the engine raced in low gear, the lamps would throw out light strong as a magic lantern. This technical information is part of how we could meet Santa Head-on.

This car had no heater, but with plenty of blankets, we could make the trip to Royal Oak in an hour and a half, then spend the next two hours thawing over a floor register where we related our adventures.

Our son was four years old and knew all about Santa. In fact we had two Christmases, one under our home tree and the second under the big family tree in Royal Oak. On this Christmas Eve we drove east on Michigan Ave. to Canton Center Rd, not meeting a dozen cars. On Canton Center there were no cars at all to Plymouth. That city's lights were dim, but the trees in windows were brilliant with lights.

Soon we were off onto the unpaved roads with 30 lonely miles ahead.

Two miles north we came to a pond, a pint-size lake. we turned right, then left and then right. It couldn't have been a mile before we came to a cross road and a new sign “STOP!” dutifully we pressed both the gear-pedal and brake pedal. This caused our engine to race and the lights to brighten.

From the door of a darkened house, with our lights full upon him, there came a genuine Santa with sack over his back.

Stealthily he closed a kitchen door and ran across a stubblefield. He stared at us and waved, and his wave told us that he wanted us to turn out our lights, a large tree in the window, and with astonishment at really seeing Santa, we idled our motor till our lights gave out only a dull red glow.

Meanwhile, Santa made his way across the field till he reached the porch of the lighted house.

We had to get going, we were cold. When we pressed the “low” pedal our brights brightened and Santa, grateful for the moment of low illumination, waved us a Merry, Merry Christmas.

As we passed the lighted house, a window was thrown open. We heard Santa shout “Ho-Ho-Ho!” as he climbed in, across the low sill. We could see heads of several tots.

No need to explain to our 4 year old son. He'd seen Santa. An hour later, we stood over a floor register, relating to a dozen youngsters what had happened.

“Did we see reindeers? Did both houses have chimneys?” they asked, I explained that Santa was an opportunist or he'd never get around on Christmas Eve.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. We can describe his costume head to foot.


This story was written by J. Milton Barnes in 1970 for the Ypsilanti Press. As a columnist he wrote more than 750 columns for the paper and said to be “The Man with the Marvelous Memory”. Mr. Barnes passed away in 1985 at the age of 91.

Letter from Gift Shop

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, February 1985,
February 1985
Original Images:

Author: Marge Gauntlett, Chairperson

From the Museum Gift Shop:

We wish to thank the members for their support of the Museum during 1984, especially at Festival time and the Christmas season.

The Gift Shop will have Easter-related merchandise beginning in February. Visit us soon. Support your City Museum through the purchase of a lovely commemorative Cup Plate in Amethyst or Cobalt blue. Also The Story of Ypsilanti, (second printing), is available only in the Museum Gift Shop for $10.00.

Administration Activities: Christmas Open House

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, February 1985,
February 1985
Original Images:

Author: Doris Milliman

The weather and the spirit of the season helped to make the Open House at the Museum successful on December 9, 1984.

As guests walked up the steps they could see the beautifully draped greens on the front of the house. As they entered, they were greeted by some members of the Historical Society's Board; David Gauntlett, Don Racine, William Ealy, Mrs. George Patterson, Arthur Howard and Dr. William Edmunds.

The fragrance of evergreen permeated the air as guests viewed the garlands of greens interspersed with trumpets on the walnut stairway and over doorways. Everywhere one looked there was the beauty of the Christmas season.

Mr. & Mrs. Laverne Howard planned and carried out the decoration and had chosen Christmas hymns and carols as the theme. As guests walked through the rooms they noted signs made by Arthur Howard identifying each song. The parlor depicted “The Three Kings”, the White room “Silent Night”, with our beautiful picture of the Madonna and Child hanging above the mantel and in the dining room was “The Partridge in the Pear Tree” with a tree made of fresh pears in the center of the table, to mention just three rooms. Many poinsettias were found throughout the rooms and all mantels were decorated with greens, candles and figurine relating to each song. Mrs. Elnora Miller and Mr. Ron Miller had assisted the Howards in decorating the rooms. Many comment were heard regarding how artistically and beautifully the rooms were done.

The Christmas tree in the parlor was decorated in keeping with the style of the Victorian house, with the decorations being made from natural materials and bits of lace and ribbon. They were all well arranged on the tree by members of the former Garden Club. Mrs. Mildred Gilmore, Miss Frances Warren, Miss Doris Milliman, Mrs. Don Wardell and Miss Betty Tunnicliffe. The latter two were the designers and makers of the decorations along with Mrs. David Gauntlett. The Museum Directors, Mrs. William McCarthy had obtained the tree and had supervised the set-up. She was always available to help rearrange furniture and to find thumb tacks, tape, tools, etc.

In the White room where the new sales case is located, Mrs. Gauntlett was in charge of a lovely display of gifts that she had ordered for the season and which proved to be popular with the guests.

Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Howard had decorated the windows with bits of green tied with red bows and had refurbished the solarium with poinsettias. Deci also made the large ball of greens and Art hung them on the south front porch.

As guests found their way to the Ypsilanti room they enjoyed a large variety of refreshments and punch. The sandwiches and cookies had been made by, or solicited from members, by Mrs. Bertha Speer. She was assisted in serving by Miss Tunnicli What would our holiday get together be without the colorful and sweet little candies that are made by Mrs. Ruth Reynolds and the little gingerbread men that are made by Mrs. Arthur Howard.

There was more upstairs for guests to see, the Children's room with our special doll collection was arranged around a decorated Christmas tree by Mrs. Gauntlett. Then the Library where a newly acquired gift of a Lionel electric train was running. It was engineered by Mr. Laverne Howard, Mr. Alan Stewart and Mr. David Gauntlett. and attracted a lot of attention

Mike Miller had arranged for recorded Christmas music to be heard throughout the house which all added to the very festive occasion.

The “Collector's” doll for which raffle tickets were sold was won by Mr. A.P. Marshall.

The members of the Administration Committee who planned this Open House thank all who contributed to the success of it.

Doris Milliman

Museum Activities

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, February 1984,
February 1984
Original Images:

Our Valentine Exhibit has been admired, and has brought many comments about remembrances of long-ago childhoods. As a part of Valentines Day activities, Towner House had a program on February 11, in which children made Valentines to give them ideas. Thirty children visited our Museum to study our exhibit.

On February 16, a special four was given to thirteen people from The Ypsilanti Senior Citizen Center who showed great interest in our Museum. We were pleased to have them visit us.

Christmas Shopping at the Museum

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, December 1983,
December 1983
Original Images:

• A book about your local history
• A basket (several sizes) for sewing materials
• A miniature brass jug with winter bouquet

• “Penny-wooden” (repro.) Calico dress
• Tiny 2 Bisoue doll
• 5 1/2 “Dream-Baby” (repro) in hand-made Christening dress
• “Soft” cloth dolls

Tree Ornaments

• Wooden Birds
• Wooden Soldiers
• Wooden Nutcrackers (small)
• Wooden Pocking Horses

Stocking Stuffers

• 3 Bears
• “YPSILANTI” Bracelets
• Miniature Story Books
• China Thimbles
• Miniature Tea Sets

Holiday Decorations for Home

• Antique Infant Shoe Lasts-with Candles or Flowers
• Wooden Bobbins into Candlesticks • Small Wooden Ducks
• Linen Tanels (many attractive designs) • Iron Banks (repro.)
• “Sun bonnet Babies” Sun Flashers designed by Local Person
• Tin “Roly-Poly” Containers (repro.) for Cookies or Candy AND MANY OTHER FINE GIFT IDEAS

Christmas Open House & Annual Meeting Announcement

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, December 1983,
December 1983
Original Images:

The Annual Christmas Open House and Christmas party will be held at the Museum on Sunday, December 11, 1983. From 2:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. The house will be beautifully decorated by Mrs. Laverne Howard and her committee and the usual Christmas tree will be trimmed by the Garden Club. Do Come to greet friends, enjoy refreshments and get into the spirit of the season.

Please mark the date January 15th, 1984 on your Calendars, for the Annual meeting of the Historical Society. It will be called at 3:00 P.M. and we will look forward to a good attendance to hear annual reports, have election of board members and a program. All of that plus refreshments.

Children's Valentine-Making Party

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, January 1983,
January 1983
Original Images:

will be held on Sunday, February 13th from 2 PM til 4 PM.

Ypsilanti Historical Museum
220 North Huron Street

(Children must be accompanied by an Adult.)

Notes from the Museum & Archives

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, February 1982,
February 1982
Original Images:

“Christmas 1981” at the Ypsilanti Historical Museum is past but not soon to be forgotten. It was made memorable thanks to the creative touch of Kathyrn (Mrs. LaVerne) Howard who possesses a flair for making a Victorian Christmas come alive at the Museum. We photographed every room in an attempt to preserve the magic she had brought to this lovely old house. Of course Kathryn had helping hands. LaVerne Howard, who shares his wife's love of history, Doris Milliman, Elinora Miller and Mike Miller all gave hours placing greens and candles, balls and poinsettas, bows and garlands.

The Display Cases were arranged with gifts suitable for that special Victorian Gentleman, his Lady and the youngsters in the family. The gold handled cane, the embroidered silk stockings and James R. Breakey, Jr's boyhood sled were perfect choices for the Victorian Santa Claus and Linda Hahlbrock helped us all to visualize how it might have been when there was one special treasure under the tree. Mike Miller shared some of his family treasures for the display.

The tree was elegant in the Parlor thanks to Doris Milliman, Mrs. Ron Urbanek, Mrs. Don Wardell, Mr. and Mrs. Don Disbrow and Mildred Gilmore. The Ypsilanti Garden Club always adds so much to the festivity of the Museum.

Art and Deci Howard placed wreaths and bows at the doors and windows of the house so that the winter scene, inside and out, was more picturesque.

DECEMBER 13th was the day for the City of Ypsilanti and all the friends of the Museum from miles around to find the Spirit of Christmas Past at 220 North Huron. The Emmanuel Lutheran Children's Choir sang under the direction of Mr. Karl Klaffke in their colorful blue robes with white stoles. Kathryn Howard and her committee of elves provided home-baked cookies and fruitcakes and candies to serve with the holiday punch. It was a wonderful party not soon to be forgotten! And to everyone who helped make it special-—the servers, the greeters, the children and the friends of the Museum—thank you.

The January 17th Annual Meeting of the Ypsilanti Historical Society was a victim of the coldest day of the century and the turnout was hardy stock indeed.

We welcome Mr. LaVerne Howard as the new President of the Society and express our admiration for the dedication and excellence of Mrs. William McCarthy's two-year tenure. Mrs. Carl Miller was re-elected to a position on the Board of Director and she is joined by new members Carl Worley, Betty Campbell (Mrs. James) and David Gauntlett. Mrs. Frank (Rene) Burgess will serve as Vice-President. We are continually blessed by a hard-working Board of Directors. The year ahead promises to be one of continued pride and service to the community.

On February 7th the children of Ypsilanti were invited to their own Valentine-Making Party at the Museum. The Lace and the colored paper were fashioned with bits of ribbon and hearts of gold into very special cards. Linda Hahlbrock, Rene Burgess, Ann McCarthy, Rene Moran, Rene Moran (junior), Mindy Moran and Jarry Meadows gave lots of encouragement to the forty-five youngsters turned artists. (The cupids who left Valentines on Foster's desk and on Sharon's desk have not been identified yet but there are suspicions!)

A special exhibit of VALENTINES is on display now and through the 7th of March. Linda Hahlbrock is again responsible for this exquisitely designed look at the collection of Ellen Gould. A former teacher, Ellen donated a collection spanning her forty-five year career. Many came to her from students. All express special sentiments of endearment. It is a very special exhibit that you will be glad you took time to share. Museum hours are 2 to 4 PM, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This collection is part of the Museum permanent collection thanks to Ellen.

Who can be a member of the Ypsilanti Historical Society?
The Historical Society is not an exclusive society or club. You qualify no matter where you live. (We have a new member in British Columbia, Canada.)

We are partially funded by the City but depend a great deal on our friends to pay whatever they can afford in Annual Dues. One popular membership is the $10.00 sustaining membership. Do invite a friend to join us!

No Yule Like an Old Yule

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, December 1980,
December 1980
Original Images:

Perhaps this is the year for those of us who keep insisting that the “old-fashioned Christmases were more fun” to have one and get it out of our systems. It isn't hard if we try.

Shove back thermostat to about 40 degrees or switch off furnace entirely. This will give the windows a picturesque frosting and cool the house to a temperature in keeping with “the good old days.”

The Christmas tree should be cut down with a dull axe in City Park or somewhere and dragged home through the snow over our shoulder. If we can manage a live goose under our free arm at the same time, this will add to the merriment.

Christmas cards we send should carry two cents postage: that's all it used to cost, so might as well be consistent.

Have on hand a bright new penny for the newsboy when he comes to wish us a Merry Christmas. It will brighten his chubby face and assure us of improved service next year.

Preparations for the Yule feast must get under way around 4 A.M. with bread baking in a coal-fired kitchen range especially installed for the day (see Hertz Rent-All); it should have a clogged flue.

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