Dixon's December 100 Years Ago -- From the Tribune's Archives

Snippets of life in Dixon a Century Ago

I used to do historical columns for Dixon Patch, and I miss going down to the library to pore through old copies of the Dixon Tribune on microfilm. So I decided to return for the Holiday Season to see what people in Dixon were doing 100 years ago. The following was gleaned from issues printed in December, 1912 (about the time my parents were born).

But first, to set the stage, these national and international events had happened earlier that year: Arizona and New Mexico became states, the first person parachuted from a moving airplane, the unsinkable Titanic sank, Alaska survived the largest volcanic eruption of the century, an airplane was used to drop bombs for the first time, and the first Tarzan story was published.

In the Dixon area, things were more subdued. Judge John Currey, 98 years young, died. He had been a justice of the California Supreme Court. Presumably, the local Currey family is related to him. Earlier in his career, as a lawyer in Benicia, he was successful in removing squatters from the big ranches.

Ads for Ayer’s Hair Vigor graced the Tribune’s pages.

Jokes were sometimes used as a filler. Example: “I suppose the brightest moment of your life was when Jack proposed.” Answer: “Brightest? No, there wasn’t a particle of light in the room.”

The ladies of the Methodist church held their annual bazaar. “The hall had been nicely decorated for the occasion and the booths containing fancy work, candy and other things looked very inviting, and were liberally patronized by the many visitors,” noted an article. $225 was raised (believe it or not, that’s $5,163 in today’s dollars).

A three-day storm dropped less than half an inch of rain. Before this rainfall, “Grain had begun to look yellow for the need of rain.” The newspaper noted that by the same time the year before, only eight-tenths of an inch had fallen during the rainy season [so far in 2012, we’ve received over nine inches of rain since July]. However, the Trib optimistically pronounced that “… there is no portion of the state where lemons will do better than here.”

A letter writer thought there was a move afoot to close the roads leading to Hass and Maine Prairie sloughs. The ports on those sloughs had been losing business due to the railroad.

School closed on December 20th for Christmas vacation. One of the schools didn’t have a Christmas tree but Santa Claus visited.

Some of the church sermon titles for the month were “The Atonement,” “Peace the Policy of Our Nation” (probably addressing signs that a large war would begin in Europe), and “The Christmas Spirit.”

Clark’s store offered cut glass, art rugs, ladies’ handkerchiefs, men’s neckware, dishes! dishes! (exclamation marks are from the ad), and shoes.

Postmaster Newby was looking forward to the beginning of domestic parcel post service in January. “Post offices will have to have chicken coops,” he said, knowing that farmers would mail chickens in boxes (newborn chicks are still sent through the mail today). He also pictured fresh roses next to boxes of odorous onions, and rancid butter.

Homemade sauerkraut was for sale at Eames’ store along with salted salmon and trout, pickled pigs’ feet and fresh eastern oysters.

An article dissed the quality of Overland-brand automobiles, while elsewhere in the newspaper a Frese Company ad for them appeared, quoting a $1,100 price ($25,000 in today’s money).  

“We wash everything but the baby” stated Arthur Vansant, owner of the Dixon Steam Laundry.

The Palace movie theater showed “None but the best and latest pictures.” On the big screen in December were “The Parasite” and “When Father Had His Way.”

Dr. Morse’s cold tablets were available at the Rexall store for 25 cents.

Kirby’s store recommended reserving a Christmas box of cigars for “him.” “We have the brands he’d like,” said the ad. Also available were Victor talking machines and Edison Phonographs.

That December, in the heyday of train travel, five east- and five west-bound trains stopped in Dixon. The trip to San Francisco took three hours; Sacramento was 50 minutes away.

The Women’s Improvement Club was preparing to open the Dixon’s first public library.

“Pure-thread silk hose, ladies or mens” was available for 50 cents, 75 cents or $1.00 per pair at the Beckley and Grove store.

Dixon’s basketball team traveled to Lincoln to play, but because the court was outdoors, games were held between rain showers.

A winter football game was planned for Christmas Day between the Dixon  and Dairy City clubs. A record crowd was expected.

In a less upbeat vein, a Tribune article predicted that when the Panama Canal opened, immigrants from southern Europe would flood the west coast. Meanwhile, President Taft was inspecting work being done there.

Another article was headlined “Not a Day of Joy For All – Those Who Are Happy on Christmas Should Remember [those who are] Suffering and Distressed.” The associated article stated, “The other day, a baby opened its eyes for the first time on this old Earth; it was one of our coldest days; but in the home was no stove, no bit of warmth, no food – almost no clothes!”

At Pitts School (our street designation in Dixon has the spelling wrong – it was “Pitts”), a get-together was held on the evening of the 20th. “The program was well rendered and lasted about one hour,” the Tribune’s correspondent noted. “The presents were then distributed, after which refreshments were served. The children and young people enjoyed various games, while the parents spent the time in social converse until almost midnight, when all went home. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

A correspondent for the Presbyterian church noted: “This cozy little church had been most beautifully decorated with Christmas greens and decorations, and presented a most inviting appearance. There was a candle exercise by Miss Vick’s class and a solo song by Miss Ethel Silvey.”

Merry Christmas to all! Let’s ring in 2013!





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Gary Erwin December 25, 2012 at 05:58 PM
To this very day chicks are sent through the postal system from hatcheries to farms. Honey Bee Packages containing thousands of bees are also shipped through the postal system. Judge Currey was responsible for the successful transfer of land from Mexican Land Grants to U.S. citizens once California became a State within the Union. Prior to his work gaining clear title to ranch and farm lands many local families had issues with squatters. Much can be read about his life in the Dixon Tribune Centennial Edition of Oct. 10, 1968. His story is one of hard work and success in early California.


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