By JOHN KIENER
“In the grim business of war, and under the spur of conservation pleas wrongly understood, there is danger this year that something of the Christmas spirit will be lost. Never before has it been more important that it should not be.”
These were the opening words of an article titled “The Spirit of Christmas” in the Herald & Tribune on Dec. 26, 1918 on a page where a banner headline read “Christmas Greetings.” The spirit article continued, “The Christmas spirit as well as civilization and liberty must be saved. The world is in the midst of a war that is wrenching men’s hearts; a nation that has made peace its emblem is throwing itself and every resource into the conflict; on all sides sons have parted from mothers and fathers; news of casualties is being received. Under such circumstances it might be natural for the weak to yield to depression. This must not be. There is a brave and cheery side to the picture, which must be kept constantly in our hearts and minds.”
Quoted only in part, the Christmas Spirit concerns were reflected in a front page story under the headline: “FORMER JONESBORO BOY KILLED IN ACTION.”
The opening paragraph stated, “The following notice recently appeared in a Rockport, Iowa paper: “John A. McNeece, living on the Tollie Wolf place, north of Rock Port, received a telegram last Saturday evening, bearing the information that his oldest son, Corp. Walter E. McNeece, had been killed in action, Oct. 6th. Corp. McNeece volunteered for service at the country’s first call, when he was but 19 years of age. He has been overseas since June 26th and since then has undoubtedly seen some hard service…”
Both “The Spirit of Christmas” and the report of a soldier’s death illustrate the time it took for news from overseas to reach the home front. The Armistice had been signed on Nov. 11, 1918 but the newspaper continued to be filled with stories about World War I.
In the Herald & Tribune’s left side columns was the portrait of a soldier looking at an angel under a shining star and bells over Bethlehem.
The “Beautiful Bethlehem Bells” was the following poem: “Over the roar of the cities; Over the hills and dells, With a message of peace to the nations, Ring the beautiful Bethlehem bells; Bringing joy to the souls that are sighing, In the hovels where poverty dwells – There is life – there is life for the dying, In the beautiful Bethlehem bells.”
Another poem expressed “A Christmas Wish” – “Wherever there is sickness, May Santa Claus bring health; Wherever there is poverty, May Santa Claus bring wealth; Wherever one is weeping, May tears to smiles give way; Wherever sadness hovers, May joy come Christmas day. To every heart that’s aching, may peace and comfort come; And may an outlook rosy, Supplant an outlook glum; May friends now separate, Soon united be; And everyone find gladness, Upon his Christmas tree.”
The front page also featured a story about “The Old Shoemaker” that is too long to be printed here. However, the sketch of a young person before a fireplace sitting in a rocking chair is worth retelling as explained by the caption, “A DATE WITH SANTA CLAUS. – Dear Santa Claus, I’m waiting here. For you to come with your reindeer; And bring the toys you’ve got for me. Right down into this chimney; Can’t keep my head up very straight, So hope you won’t be awfully late; Might go to sleep in this big chair, So Santa, if you really care; To meet me, as I hope you do, You’ll make your reindeer come right thru; ‘Cause if this date, you’re going to keep, Do hurry ‘fore I go to sleep.”
Inside the pages of the Christmas edition of the Herald & Tribune in addition to the paper’s editorial content were a number of merchants’ holiday greetings. Among the advertisements were the following: “Happy Christmas Wishes – The Banking & Trust Co.; TO EVERY ONE: Right Merry Christmas and A Most Happy New Year! – Jonesboro Supply House Building Material; A nice Christmas Gift to your Children would be a Deposit in the Bank to their Credit. It would help them Start Saving – GET THE HABIT – First National Bank, Jonesboro.”
Another ad announced some after holiday discounts “WHITLOCK’S – New Coats—Coats that were $45 to be sold at $25, All kinds of Christmas Toys, A new lot of Overshoes at very low Prices. ” Shipley Hardware Co. told readers, “Christmas Remembrances that will linger long after Christmas has passed can be found in our large stock of Hardware and Furniture.”
A number of merchants (Shipley Hardware Co., R. M. May & Son, City Drug Co., F.E. Britton, Farmers Union Co., Hoss & McCall) joined together in sponsoring an add stating “JOIN – Make this a Red Cross Christmas the happiest, merriest Christmas the world ever knew… But in the rejoicings of peace and freedom there is one note of seriousness that America must not forget – there is misery and distress and sickness all over the world. Relief must be given. The work of the Red Cross MUST go on. And to carry on, the Red Cross MUST have the support of your membership. JOIN THE RED CROSS – all you need is a heart and a dollar.
The Red Cross message should be repeated this 2018 holiday season because the need for financial aid and volunteer assistance continues worldwide. Do remember your charitable giving as the staff of the Herald & Tribune wishes all of its readers Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.