Local history: Memories of holidays 100 years ago

Contributed photo / This postcard shows the early Mizpah Temple.

(Editor's note: Second of two parts)

December is often a whirlwind of activities as families celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, dash from store to store in search of the perfect gift for special ones, gather together to remember the past and make plans for the new year. While much has changed in the 100 years since 1922, the important moments of the holidays seldom alter.

On Dec. 7, 1922, members of the Hebrew Sisterhood of Mizpah Temple gathered at the Hotel Patten for a 45th anniversary celebration. The hotel's Gold Room, with long tables adorned with vases of pink roses, featured a special luncheon as members, guided by Mrs. Julius Cohn, paid tribute to Mrs. Julia David and other deceased members. Mrs. H. Goodman entertained the ladies with an original poem reminding each of the sacred days to be celebrated, and an appropriation was made for educational work in the community.

Within two weeks, the board of Mizpah Temple, with the endorsement of Rabbi Holtzberg, approved plans for a $25,000 annex to the Temple to be used for religious school activities. The three-story brick structure would be constructed on Lindsay Street at the rear of the Temple with the first and second stories housing classrooms, a study hall and restrooms while the upper level would be designed as the auditorium. The board anticipated "no difficulty in raising the funds" and planned for construction to begin in the spring. The annex's design, as noted in the Chattanooga Daily Times, would be "as nearly fire-proof as possible" and would incorporate a design style that would "improve the general appearance of the Temple and enhance the beauty of the surroundings."

Holiday gatherings at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club were anticipated events in 1922, too. The Dec. 23 Chattanooga News reported that the S.V.S. Christmas Dance, which had occurred that afternoon, entertained the young college debutante set. Brenizer's orchestra furnished music for dancing while Miss Evelyn Allison and Miss Gertrude Williams presided at the banquet table. Chaperones for the event were Mrs. and Mrs. Neil Thomas, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Evans Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Ben Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Lupton, Mr. and Mrs. Burleigh Annis and Mr. and Mrs. Edward Finlay. Hostesses included Miss Catherine Allison, Miss Harriet Whiteside, Miss Martha May Allen, Miss Dorothy Johnston and Miss Hildagrade Scholze.

During the final days of class attendance, Hamilton County Schools joined in the celebrations. At the Hemlock School, the last day's events included a Christmas party where every child received a gift and community guests were entertained with an elaborate program including a retelling of "The Christmas Carol." The cast included Sarah King, Andrew McDonough, Ana Mae Sullivan, Dorothy Helmich, Thomas Maunery and Herman Hunnicut, and the audience responded with "thunderous" applause. Special readings were offered by Ola Lee Boyles, Frances Judd, Emily Frye, Dorothy Wardlaw, Elizabeth Thacker and others.

The Alton Park School music department, under the direction of Miss Landis, staged "Mrs. Santa Claus and the Christmas Dolls," and the dolls, i.e., the girls and boys of the choir, sang, danced and drilled as they assisted Mrs. Claus in packing Santa's bags. Donations were collected for "needy families ... to be sent as a Christmas greeting from the school."

East Side Junior High staged its own play, too, entitled "A Christmas Eve Dream." The play was set in a child's bedroom and followed a young girl's dreams about the different ornaments hanging on the family tree. Candles, bells and other items were "impersonated" by groups of children singing and dancing. The Glee Club, directed by Miss Gussie Blanton and Miss Emily Relf, offered Christmas carols with a requested donation of a "white gift" for the "unfortunate of the city." Among the performers were Mary Lola Bass, Louise Melton, Lee Green Gulley, Herbert Shippey, Aubrey Angell, Jack Oakes and Norton Crane.

While children were learning their roles for the school plays, others were rehearsing for special church programs, including a "unique program arranged for Centenary Church" that began promptly at 5 p.m. with a children's candle processional through the church. The program continued with selections by the Centenary choir and a "brief sermonette by Dr. Harry B. Duncan," concluding with the singing of "Silent Night" as the attendees quietly exited the sanctuary.

Whether it's 1922 or 2022, the memories of the holidays remain with us throughout our lives. As you gather to celebrate a "new beginning," ask family to share those memories and record them.

Linda Moss Mines, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County historian, encourages you to document your family's traditions and memories. For more local history, visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org.