Cumberland Times-News

December 17, 2009

Here’s what Christmas was like

Jan Alderton, Managing Editor

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.

The phone company was warning customers that holiday long distance calls may be delayed between 7 p.m. Christmas Eve and 10 p.m. Christmas Day. Sixty switchboard operators were assigned to duty during that time period.

At the Central YMCA on Baltimore Avenue, two teen dances were being held right before Christmas. Special celebrations also were planned by the Fort Hill Hi-Y and Tri-H-Y, the Cumberland Lions Club and the Cumberland Kiwanis Club.

The Barbers Union announced that barber shops would be closed Dec. 23-25....

The town of Hancock is hoping to have a new visitors center in its downtown this coming year, according to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Town Manager David Smith is donating space in his building at 42-48 W. Main St., the former Secret’s building, for a town museum/visitors center that would be run by the town and the Hancock Historical Society....

Albert Raley dropped me this note:

“On Saturday, Nov. 14, at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., a trivia question came up on the Jumbotron: Who was the first offensive lineman at UVA to start in four bowl games? There were four choices. Of course the answer was Jeremy Raley. It was neat to see.

“He is now next in line for superintendent of schools in Shenandoah County, Va., and pursuing his doctorate.”...

The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession, according to USA Today’s analysis of federal salary data.

The newspaper said federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more increased from 14 percent to 19 percent of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that is before overtime pay or bonuses are counted....

CSX Transportation has completed changes to the signal system on its tracks between Connellsville and Mc-Keesport, Pa., allowing trains to operate in either direction on both tracks in that area, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

A railroad spokesman said this is a common practice in other areas, enabling freight and passenger trains to move more efficiently....

Seen on the Internet — Oxymora quotations:

• I am a deeply superficial person. — Andy Warhol

• If Roosevelt were alive, he’d turn over in his grave. — Samuel Goldwyn

• Live within your income, even if you have to borrow to do so. — Josh Billings

• I distinctly remember forgetting that. — Clara Barton

• We must believe in free will. We have no choice. — Isaac B. Singer

Jan Alderton is managing editor of the Cumberland Times-News. His email address is