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The Christmas season of 1942

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, over the past two offerings, we’ve beheld Thanksgivings and “Black Fridays” of yore, and now that we’ve had our first snowfall of the season, let’s look ahead (or back?) to Christmas.

Our way-back machine has been parked in the 1960s for far more than a fortnight, so if it’s OK with you, I’d like to drive back even further – to the year of our Lord 1942.

As this Christmas season kicks off, it will be the first one without my Dad, who has been on my mind since he passed in September, so I picked 1942 since it was my Dad’s (and Mom’s) first Christmas.

In offerings past, we’ve shopped at Kaufman’s Bargain Store and the Famous Store, and lo and behold, they’re still doing business in 1942. Kaufman’s ad tells us to “Do your Christmas buying from Kaufman’s complete stock of practical gifts to wear,” while the Famous Store is offering steel bed wagons with rubber tires for children for 97 cents, scooters for $1.08, pedal bikes for $1.75 and complete lines of home and Christmas tree decorations, with cellophane wreaths for 5 cents. The Famous Store also urges us to “Buy defense bonds and stamps today.”

Yes, December of 1942 marked the one-year anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor that led to the United States’ formal entry into World War II. Many advertisements mentioned the need to buy bonds and stamps. One cartoon showed a young boy and girl, a message below saying “Buy war stamps, then buy a bond, it will look good to you 10 years from now!” with the young lad saying, “Ten years from today, Virginia, I’m going to buy you a double ice cream soda!”

Defense stamps were available at Hillsboro stores and the Hillsboro Post Office, and folks were urged to “make every pay day bond day.”

One Litt Bros. ad was a “note to a Santa on a war budget” and to “give her Phoenix Rayons” because “no Santa ever found a gift so inexpensive that thrilled a woman so much” and will make “her eyes sparkle.” How inexpensive? They range from $1 to $1.35. If you really want to wow her, Litt Bros.was selling fur coats from $89 to $225, the black dyed skunk coat was $144, the sable blended muskrat coat was $159, and the natural lynx coat was $225.

Ellison Bros. was another longtime Hillsboro business, and during the 1942 Christmas season, they were selling ties for $1 to $1.50, shirts for $2 to $2.25; billfolds for $1 to $5; sweaters from $2.25 to $5; and gloves from $2 to $3.75.

The front page warned of a Christmas tree shortage as carloads of Christmas trees from the mountains from the far west will not reach this part of Ohio and that people will, in all probability, find it necessary to obtain trees from sources closer to home and “even trees found in local woods will be harder to get this year because of the shortage of labor and gasoline rationing.” Another front-page story said that eight Hillsboro High School boys must register for possible military service at the school by Dec. 17 because they had reached their 18th birthday since July 1, 1942, or would reach that age before Jan. 1, 1943. Still another article told of an angry bartender who used “very strong language” after being told by the Highland County Rationing Board that he had more gasoline on his “A” book than he needed, and had driven more than 88 miles of “essential driving a month.”

As far as groceries, in the 1960s we shopped at Schaeffer’s, Albers and Kroger, and all three existed in 1942, too. Here are some prices of that day: a two-pound jar of peanut butter for 37 cents; a pound of Maxwell House coffee for 32 cents; large cans of milk for 8 to 8 ½ cents; a pound of hamburger for 27 cents a pound; sirloin steak for 39 cents a pound; three cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup for 25 cents; smoked ham for 35 cents a pound; and liver pudding for 25 cents a pound. Grocery stores also were concerned with the war effort, with one telling us to “bring us your fats and greases for explosives.”

It sounds like 1942 was a real blast. On that note, let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next time.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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