Suwannee County has a long tradition of celebrating the Christmas holidays. Old newspaper articles and scattered records give us a glimpse of how our forefathers celebrated the holiday. Today, in honor of the upcoming holiday, we’ll look at some of those historical celebrations and incidents.
A January 1915 Suwannee Democrat article noted some of the local celebrations from just a few days prior:
“A Christmas tree for the children of Suwannee County was given Friday evening and was hailed as a huge success. On account of the inclement weather on Christmas day the distribution of presents by the people of Live Oak to all the children applying was postponed until New Year’s day and the weather was ideal.
“An estimated crowd of 2000, including children and grown folks were present. Four trees were erected on Ohio Avenue, just west of Howard Street and each was decorated a color different from the other. Messrs. Roper, Fred Blackburn and Rev. Chandler were the decorative artists and they all did their work well. Led by a chorus of the best musical talent in the city the children, four abreast, marched around the inside of the enclosure. Each one got a drum, a wagon, or some other toy and a generous supply of apples and oranges.
“Santa Claus strolled around the crowd, he was uncommunicative, but he beamed upon the kiddies and they were glad to see him. After the presents were distributed, C. E. Jones assisted by others, gave a beautiful display of fire works on the Courthouse lawn.”
One could almost argue that this was a predecessor to the Christmas on the Square celebrations that we have had for nearly 40 years. Unfortunately, things did not go so well for celebrating Christmas near Dowling Park in 1930, as another Suwannee Democrat article noted…
“Miss Mildred Platt, who lived near Dowling Park, was nearly burned to death when her clothing caught fire while she was playing Santa Claus for the children at Miss Ida Mae McLeod’s school at Lancaster. She had almost finished distributing gifts when she reached for a package high on the tree above a lighted candle. The cotton on the sleeve of her costume became ignited and the lady was almost enveloped in flames. While attempting to make her escape, she tripped over a wire and fell.
“The fall probably saved her life as it halted her flight and smothered some of the flames — terror stricken members of the crowd to reach her in time to tear burning clothing from her body. She was severely burned, but was reported progressing nicely at her home.”
May you have a better holiday season than Ms. Platt! More history next week…
Eric Musgrove can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-362-0564.