Last-minute Christmas shopping in 1899
Tuesday, December 20, 2016 5:47 PM
“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.” – Alexander Smith (1830-1867)
Ladies and gentlemen, now that I’m sporting an overcoat I bought at Feibel Brothers and have laced up a pair of new "old" shoes I purchased over at the Smith & Moore store opposite the Highland County Courthouse on North High Street in uptown Hillsboro, I’m ready to do some last-minute Christmas shopping in 1899.
As I walk about and drink in the sights, I see a store called The Racket.
“Why not,” I say aloud to no one in particular.
As I breeze through the door, a bell jingles.
“Good day, fine sir,” a smiling clerk says. “Welcome to The Racket, the one price cash store. There are just a few days of happy holiday shopping left, and a million dollars fine imposed upon anybody who dares to sulk these splendid days. Once every year, we turn our entire store into a gigantic toy and doll bazaar. Here’s an immense aggregation, a rollicking frolicsome Santa Claus Fair where the children have free run of the premises.”
“I can see that,” I observe. “I’m here to pick up some nice toys for the kiddos on my shopping list.” (Mainly me, I think to myself.)
“Very well,” he responds with a smile. “Iron toys are the best kind to buy. They are strong and durable.”
“Ya don’t say,” I quip. “What do you have and how much?”
“You’ll be surprised how far a little money will go when you buy your Christmas goods here. We have iron money banks from five cents to 50 cents,” the clerk begins. “We have iron trains from 10 cents to one dollar. Iron horses and carts from 10 cents to a quarter. Iron fire engines from 35 cents to a dollar, iron hook and ladders from 35 cents to a dollar and multiple other interesting iron toys.”
“That’s great,” I declare. “I’ll take an iron train, fire engine and a horse and cart. What else do you recommend?”
“For the girls, we have almost everything in the doll line from a one cent china doll to the $3 dressed doll,” he says. “We can show you more great values in this department and a greater variety than any store in Hillsboro.”
As I pick out a couple of vintage dolls I’m sure I could easily sell for a small fortune in 2016, I grab a hobby horse for 65 cents, a trunk for 95 cents and some china bowls, plates, tea pot, cups and saucers priced between 8 cents and a dollar.
“Sir, you have made some excellent selections,” the clerk says as I check out. “That will be $8.70.”
“Eight seventy?” I exclaim. “That’s incredible.”
“We buy for cash and sell for cash, hence our low prices,” he says. “Merry Christmas to you, sir!”
“And to you and yours,” I reply as I head out the door.
Walking along High Street, I decide to check out the Christmas Store at Morrow Brothers.
“It’s going to be a great Christmas,” a happy store clerk says with a broad smile on his face. “Here at Morrow Brothers, we have got the goods and make the prices that will fill all the stockings – and do it reasonably, too. See for yourself how easily and economically you can get nice presents for your relatives and friends…”
“Don’t mind if I do,” I say. “By golly, I love Hillsboro.”
As I finish my shopping at Morrow Brothers, I hurry over to Sam R. Free, The Exclusive Clothier, to pick up a suit, dress shirt and hat, find some “appropriate” and “useful holiday goods” over at J.W. Mahaffey’s store on West Main Street, buy some table linens and a bed spread from Spargur & Company on East Main Street and then check out the diamonds, watches, clocks and jewelry over F. Emmerling’s business.
And since I feel a Christmas cold coming on, I pick up some interesting medicine during a quick stop at the Garrett & Ayres drug store.
After taking a big swig out of the four-ounce bottle of Garrett & Ayres’ own make of White Pine Syrup cough medicine, I begin to feel a bit groggy and notice the sun fading in the western sky.
Walking back toward the familiar courthouse, I hear bells peal in the distance. While horses and buggies head down Main and High streets, I am once again greeted by the cheerful clerk I had met over at Feibel Brothers, now headed home for the night.
“Well, hello again, my good man,” he says with a smile. “It looks like you’ve been successful in your Christmas shopping, and let me add that you have acquired some fashionable clothing. If you don’t mind my saying, you looked a bit peculiar earlier.”
“Yes, I probably did look a bit bizarre,” I reply. “But thanks to you and the uptown Hillsboro business folks, I’m dressed to the nines and ready for Christmas.”
“You are most welcome, and a very Merry Christmas to you,” he says as he tips his hat.
As the clerk goes on his merry way, I exclaim as he strolls out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press.