By jim zbick
To help readers get into the spirit of Christmas, the Tamaqua Courier ran a number of feel-good stories in 1909.
The first, published 11 days before Christmas and titled "Forget Them Not," urged residents to remember those children who would not be receiving gifts. The omission was not because the children were naughty.
"There are some children who, by reason of the misfortune of their parents or the dissoluteness of one or both, are deprived of the joys of Christmas time," the writer stated. "There are some parents who become so calloused that they give no thought whatever to preparation for Christmas. The result is that their children suffer the keenest anguish when they wake up on Christmas morn and find that old Santa has missed them again."
The writer said that in many cases, the problem was not that the family was suffering in poverty, but that the man of the house was a heavy drinker.
"Usually the breadwinner of such a household earns good wages but he spends it in dissipation. The money that should buy Christmas cheer for his home goes to feed his craving for strong drink," the writer said.
The Courier had long been an active crusader for reducing the number of saloons in the county, especially those that it considered "low dive" types which one writer referred to as "festering nests of crime."
In November 1909, the Courier reported that of the 1,200 saloons in Schuylkill County, about 60 percent were "low dive" types.
"Six hundred licensed places would be more than sufficient to meet the demand for intoxicants in Schuylkill County and if these licenses were confined to men who obey the laws, there is every reason to believe that the number of criminal cases would be reduced," it stated.
In a pre-Christmas editorial the following month, a writer appealed to readers to show benevolence to the children of those households where the primary breadwinner was also a heavy drinker. He said anyone who had a name could send it to the newspaper office.
"Every year we have quite a number of inquiries from people who would like to make Christmas a happy day for every little tot in the land if it lay in their power so to do. Any names that are turned in will be given to them," the writer assured readers.
He ended with some thoughtful incite on the season:
"Always remember at Christmas time that the tenderest thing and the easiest thing to wound is the heart of a child," he wrote.
Another editorial, titled "Our Boys and Girls," reflected on those former residents who left the area only to be drawn back to their family and childhood roots during the holiday season.
"It is at this season that the sons and daughters of Tamaqua come back to the old town from all points of the compass," he stated. "Tamaqua is not a very large place but in every state in the union there are men and women and boys and girls who refer to it lovingly as the place where they spent the early years of their life."
He even quoted from Napoleon who once stated that whenever he "smelt the odor of new turned earth it carried him back to the place of his birth, the sweetest place in all the world."
"And so it is that as Christmas time approaches, the minds of former Tamaquans turn to the pretty little town nestled in the old mountains of Pennsylvania. And when they get here there is always a warm welcome for them," the writer said. "Most of those who return find that little has changed and that there are many still here eager to grasp their hand and renew old friendships."
The writer was gratified to know of so many former residents playing such an important part in their endeavors around the globe.
"Their record for doing things worthwhile is one of which the town can be proud," he stated. "They are laboring in many fields and when they win honors they never fail to speak of the town of their nativity and to attribute much credit for their success to the training they received here."
From the bustle and the din of the great city they come home to receive a word of praise for what they have done. Of all the words of commendation that are spoken to them, none are so sweet as those that come from the lips of their old-time neighbors – the people who knew them in their boyhood and in their girlhood."
His closing thoughts about how returning sons or daughters remained bound to the place of their youth sounded much like a marriage vow.
"Tamaqua is justly proud of her sons and her daughters who have gone abroad and she is always ready to bid them welcome home," he said. "In sickness and in health, in good fortune and misfortune she always wants them to feel her friendship for them is the kind that survives so long as life itself shall last."