Cumberland Times-News

Jan Alderton - Opinion

December 17, 2009

Here’s what Christmas was like

In attempting to find a 50-year-old obituary in our archives the other day, I ran across articles in The Cumberland News that provide some of the flavor of Christmas in Cumberland in 1959.

Last Tuesday, Times-News staffer Mike Sawyers reported that the local post office has seen a sharp decline in holiday mail this year. But in 1959, The News quoted Cumberland Postmaster Thomas F. Conlon as saying postal cancellations were at a then-record-high, with 1,245,000 pieces of mail handled in Cumberland between Dec. 5 and Dec. 23, 1959.

Frostburg’s post office also was booming, according to Postmaster Michael J. Byrnes. He said Mountain City postal workers saw Christmas mail increase 15 or 20 percent over 1958 and extra carriers had to be hired to handle the load.

The News also reported that Frostburg city workers would receive a half-day off for Christmas Eve. It also noted that traffic in the city was extremely heavy, with officers posted at Water, Broadway and Main streets to keep vehicles moving.

In Cumberland, Police Commissioner Philmore Fleming was waiving parking fees the week of Christmas. He said a $5 parking fine could cost some child a toy for Christmas so he was forfeiting tickets.

The local jails were emptying. All city jail prisoners except those held on state charges were to be released at 7 a.m. Christmas Day. Allegany County Sheriff Paul C. Haberlein said his jail had 16 inmates, rather than the normal population of 30. The 16 who were unfortunate enough to be in the lockup Christmas Day were to receive a turkey dinner with all of the trimmings.

The City Park Board in Cumberland issued the following caution: “Boys, please don’t try out your new sleds on Emmanuel Episcopal Church grounds if it snows for Christmas.” The board said the electrical lines running to the Christmas tree and church decorations posed a danger to sledders.

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Jan Alderton - Opinion
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