By Jim Harmon/Missoula Current

The Missoula Boys and Girls Glee Clubs readied for their performances, the fire chief made his annual plea to be careful with candles near the holiday tree, 200 sacks of mail arrived at the train depot, and the Missoula Male Chorus planned performances for the Poor Farm.

It was Christmastime in Missoula – 100 years ago.

The Missoula Mercantile Company, promoting itself as “The Christmas Store,” suggested a “genuine walrus leather travel bag” as the perfect gift for the man in your life.

The Missoula Sentinel Dec. 19, 1923
The Missoula Sentinel Dec. 19, 1923

After all, “walrus leather is made from the hide of a walrus animal which inhabits the Arctic regions. The leather is thick and pliable, will not scuff, and assures the climax in service.”

For the woman in your life there were also suggestions – suggestions from men, of course, who always had the best and most brilliant ideas for what women want.

“All year long, you’ve thought of her at home (wondering) what she was doing and you’ve confessed to a keen sympathy at times – a wish that “her lot” might be easier (emphasis added).”

So naturally, you show “your sympathy” (emphasis added) by buying her a Hoover vacuum for Christmas! “Save her arms and back the strain of sweeping.”

Another store also purported to know what would be just right “when it comes to the women folks.”

Barney’s Fashion Shop, “The Store of the Town for Men and Women,” was promoting “the finest and best” gifts for women, at bargain prices.

$35 coats and dresses were on sale for only $19.75, $50 items were slashed to $29.75, and $90 coats were offered at $49.75.

The Leader, a family clothing store in Missoula, reminded shoppers that “Practical Gifts Are More Appreciated.” They featured children's coats at 25% off, and girl’s dresses at half price.

Switching gears – remember that fluffle of rabbits ... or was it a colony ... a warren ... a kindle ... that lived under the Higgins Avenue bridge back in ‘23?

The Missoula Sentinel, Dec 21, 1923
The Missoula Sentinel, Dec 21, 1923

Well, Sam Caras (playing Santa to the rabbits) busied himself delivering a truckload of celery and lettuce trimmings to the colony.

The Sentinel reported, “Passers-by state that the bunnies were certainly doing justice to the big feed. Mr. Caras said that this load would be followed by another as soon as it was needed.”

Perhaps the highlight of Missoula’s 1923 Christmas season was the appearance of Lieutenant John Phillip Sousa and his famous band at the Wilma theater.

The Missoula Sentinel - Dec. 19, 1923
The Missoula Sentinel - Dec. 19, 1923

There was a coronet solo, a soprano solo and even a xylophone solo. But the crowd came to hear the famous marches – "Stars and Stripes Forever," "March of the Wooden Soldiers," and a new one titled, “Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.”

Sousa took time before the afternoon and evening concerts to speak to the local Rotary club luncheon, and displayed his sense of humor when referring the war to end all wars.

“Who won the war? ‘Twas Sousa that won the war! When I shaved off my Van Dyke beard, the kaiser, who for years had been trying to emulate it, gave up in despair, having nothing left to live for.”

“When I was in London,” he continued, “I noticed a scrub woman working hard for her living. Taking pity on her, I obtained a pass, offering it to her with this question: "My good woman, would you like to hear a concert Thursday night?”

“And, it was her reply, ‘Is Thursday your only night off?’ ” Sousa received “tremendous applause when he sat down.”

From Harmon’s Histories to all of you, (ignoring grammarians) may you have the best-est ever holiday season!