Holiday Seasons of Yesteryear
From the 1870s into the first decade of the 20th century, the “Port Chester Journal” was the principal paper of the Town of Rye, reporting news and commentary about the Village of Rye, the hamlet of Milton as well as Port Chester. Buried in the online archives of that newspaper are the following glimpses from the holiday seasons of yesteryear:
January first — the sleighing is splendid; the harbor is frozen tight as a drum; today is ladies day, and the ladies are “on the wing;” the new year was welcomed by the usual cannonade of small arms and bell ringing. An old gentleman residing at Rye, who is now 87 years of age, says that Christmas Eve was the coldest on record since his remembrance. The thermometer stood at 4° below zero.
The Losee House at Rye Beach advertised “ample accommodations for sleighing parties” and the Oyster Saloon on Main Street in Port Chester touted its “Stews, Roasts, Raw and Pickled Oysters.”
The ice on Joseph Park’s pond is nine inches thick. They are quite busy cutting and filling the houses.
The “guess” hog at Roxy Moore’s Saloon, Grove Street, was won Christmas afternoon by a man from Rye named Ball. It weighed 310 pounds. While the lucky guesser was in the saloon “wetting his whistle,” the pig was stolen. No trace has been found.
The Milton school house was dressed in Christmas greens in the shapes of crosses and anchors with the motto of “Peace on Earth,” entwined with the American flag…It was a pleasing sight to behold the different nationalities represented. Germany had its representatives, and the Emerald Isle, not to be outdone, sent a few in their mothers’ arms … bearing evidence to the powerful influence of the American system of education, that such a mingling of races could make the American citizen.
At the holiday dinner of the Apawamis Club, the bill of fare included: oysters, caviar sandwiches, fried smelts with tartar sauce, filet de boeuf with mushroom sauce, Parisian potatoes, French peas, lettuce salad, Roman punch, roast quail, assorted cakes and cheeses.
William J. Foster’s emporium advertised dolls and toys, including “bicycles, velocipedes, drag wagons, jumping jacks, ten pins, jack rabbits, dancing clowns…all that go to the gratification of the young.”
The Loyal Crusaders held their first Christmas Festival at the Lyceum [in Rye] last Tuesday evening, and the hall was filled to overflowing. The entertainment included a fan exercise in which seven pretty young misses spelled out “welcome” with their fans and marching by ten little temperance boys. The program ended with the unfolding of a Christmas tree.
Don’t forget the grandest clambake of the season. Beck’s annual winter clambake will be a feast fit for the gods; it takes place on January 30. There will be an abundance of game and other good things in the bake so don’t fail to be on hand and in time.
Parker’s [Port Chester] Special Holiday Sale: “Wagons, Sleighs, Harnesses, Blankets, Sleigh Bells, Whips, etc.”
The Rye Gun Club had eight sweepstakes on New Year’s Day in which there were from 6 to 8 marksmen in each. The Connecticut shots were generally the competitors. About 250 birds in all were shot.
“Order now your Christmas trees and holiday wreathes from Charles Fremd’s nurseries,” located at North Street and Railroad Avenue [which was later renamed for his relative, Theodore Fremd].
It is rumored that a prize fight with all its accompanying excitement took place recently at Rye Beach, followed by clams and liquid refreshments. “A liberal supply of Rinaldo’s [Port Chester] wines will add to the joys of Christmas time…Come and try our fine selection of California wines — Port, Sherry, Angelica, Catawba, Muscatel and Tokay.”
Christmas is over and we are approaching the end of the year with rapid strides. Before we have the New Year, ours to make of it what we can, we feel enthusiastic that we will do much that we failed to do in the past; at least we feel we will do the best we can.
Editor’s Note for 2023: Let us also strive in 2024 to do the best we can.