The holidays can be a time for nostalgia and we have been thinking about an old-time Christmas in Hagerman, imagining what it might have been like, in the town of Hagerman, Texas, the little town that was cleared away for the building of Lake Texoma.
School Christmas Pageant
From “Hagerman Schools”, by Gwen Morrison Swadlenak, reprinted in the Herald Democrat column “Other Voices”, July 13, 2008:
… “in about 1920, the school was moved to a two story brick building…”, “built with three rooms downstairs and an auditorium on the second floor, later doubling as a classroom”. The Hagerman school was used as a cultural center for the community.
“the auditorium of the brick building was the scene of the last closing [other farewells had been held] program with the Christmas tree in 1942.”
|Hagerman School - stood near the grove of trees just north of the present-day Visitor Center|
Was the program a traditional school Christmas pageant, combining the secular and sacred aspects of the occasion? By the 1930s, secular tunes like “Jingle Bells,” “Up on the Housetop,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” were already becoming holiday favorites. In addition to “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” which was written in 1934, the 1930s produced this holiday classics “Winter Wonderland” (1934).
In the South, firecrackers were long used to celebrate Christmas. However, this tradition led to a loss in the town of Hagerman, according to Donna Hunt’s column in the Herald Democrat for July 11, 2012:
“Just before Christmas in 1926, three stores on the east side of the street burned. Exploding fireworks set off by the flames announced the holiday a little prematurely. Children stood by and watched the exploding fireworks that they had thought would be brought to them by Santa Claus.”
According to the article, those stores never re-opened and with the bank’s closing in 1927, the town’s decline began.
For kids who earned a little, perhaps picking cotton (A Brief History of Hagerman, "A Pioneer Texas Town” by Annette Morrison Catts), the stores might have offered these treats: Candy from the 1920s includes candy delights such as (before they realized ‘real’ cigarettes are bad for us!), , Chiclets, , Tootsie Rolls, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and more.
|Smith Cash Grocery Store, Hagerman, Texas|
By 1920, Hagerman was a thriving community with a railroad depot, cotton gin, brick bank, a restaurant, post office (established in a home and later moved to a store), a school, a church, an ice-house and two grocery stores.
Did the grocery store offer holiday merchandise such as cards, or were they homemade? According to Wikipedia, during the Victorian era, holiday postcards had been in favor, but by the 1920’s cards with envelopes were again used. First class postage in 1920 was two cents, which would be 23.5 cents adjusted to today’s prices.
From A Brief History of Hagerman, compiled by Dr. Jerry Lincecum:
There was … a large hardware store well-stocked with Daisy Mae butter churns, since many people kept a milk-cow in their own backyards. Corn meal was another staple, so Hagerman had an old-fashioned noisy mill where corn was crushed and ground. An ice-house presented the means for safe storage of meat and dairy products.
|Eggs for Eggnog?|
Mail Order Gifts
(Also from Dr. Lincecum) For the founding Smith brothers, the name of the town was a foregone conclusion, since the MKT Railroad switch there was already named the Hagerman Switch (after an official of the railroad). It was a favorite stop for the train because of good water from the springs nearby. Mail would have come in by train to be distributed through the local post office.
“By the early part of the twentieth century, the mail-order retailing business had become a major sector of the American economy, through which millions of rural consumers purchased a variety of goods. By 1919, Americans were buying over $500 million worth of goods a year from mail-order companies (roughly half of this business went to Wards and Sears alone). The millions of bulky mail-order catalogs sent from Chicago to points around the country had become important cultural documents, with significance that went beyond the purely economic. Particularly in rural areas, which were still home to half of the American population as late as 1920, the catalogs served not only as a marketing tool, but also as school readers, almanacs, symbols of abundance and progress, and objects of fantasy and desire.
Originally meeting in a school or in homes, members of Hagerman Presbyterian Church moved into their first building in 1905 (see photo below). The church building was shared with both the Methodist and the Baptist congregations and for years was considered the community, or “union” church. In 1922, the Hagerman Baptist Church congregation moved to their own building, which was later moved to the present day site and has since been replaced by a newer structure. The original church building was moved to Denison by the Hyde Park Presbyterian congregation. ("A Brief History of Hagerman, A Pioneer Texas Town” by Annette Morrison Catts)
Season's Greetings, from the Friends of Hagerman NWR