As we prepare to celebrate Christmas the Tribune Editorial Board thought it would be interesting to look back at Christmases 100, 75, 50 and 25 years ago. So we took a look at the Christmas issues of the Tribune from those years. Each edition was printed on Dec. 24 since the Tribune usually takes Christmas Day off.
The four editions of the Tribune reflect the times. In 1918, World War I had just ended and a burden had been lifted. However, in 1943 the nation was in the midst of World War II and the mood was somber. Americans were celebrating the first manned orbit around the moon in 1968 by the Apollo 8 astronauts. The front page of the 1993 Tribune was dominated by Christmas-related stories.
So here’s a little journey into the past.
The cover of the Tribune had a cartoon of Santa Claus standing on top of the world with a bag filled with the gifts of Peace, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. It was a hopeful time as the “war to end all wars” had concluded. Also on the page was a story about Christmas observances in the community with a headline noting all churches would hold services. Another article estimated that 1,200 youngsters were expected at the “Elk’s biggest kiddie party” on Christmas Day. Also on the page, a story explained that the Salvation Army would be distributing Christmas baskets.
It was a dark time in the world when this issue appeared. The front page was a mixture of Christmas stories and war news, with the main story the announcement of the appointment of Dwight Eisenhower as supreme commander. Open Your Heart was holding its 14th drive and 176 families had their holiday brightened. One article told how local churches planned to observe Christmas. Along with stories on the progress of World War II there were local angles on the war. The cutline for the photo of Pfc. George Knowlen provided the sad news that he was missing in action in Italy. There also was a story about how a friend of Army aviator Thomas Oksendal, Bismarck, had donated $35 to the community in his memory. Oksendal had been killed in a crash in the U.S. The Tribune tried to put the time in perspective with an editorial on Page 1. It noted the war wasn’t a time of merriment. In part it said:
“But merriment doesn’t necessarily express the essence of the Christmas message. The Song of Angels makes no mention of festivity. It betokens a spiritual awakening, a gift to the world beyond the bounds of merriment.”
The editorial goes on to mix the celebration of Christmas with a prediction of victory in the war.
Along with news of the orbit of the moon, the Tribune’s front page carried a number of holiday-related stories. Looking back, we know that a light snow guaranteed a white Christmas; Open Your Heart raised more than $6,000 and planned to distribute 297 food baskets; and a small group of people planned to have a buffalo dinner for Christmas at Fort Lincoln State Park. The dinner was part of an effort to re-create the Lewis and Clark Expedition for National Geographic. In a story related to the Southeast Asia conflict, the crew of the USS Pueblo had been released by North Korea and were heading home.
This is the happiest paper of the four. Across the top of the page we promoted a special Spirit of Christmas section inside. One front-page story told how a Belfield teen, Dean Urban, was chosen for Make-a-Wish and asked for a shopping spree for himself and his family in Dickinson. Another story described plans by a Bismarck family for a huge family reunion over the holiday. The Christmas forecast was for snow and a high of 25 to 30.
We traveled 100 years very quickly. We know from the pages of the Tribune that North Dakotans paused even in the dire times of war to say thanks, to count their blessings. It had to have been extremely difficult in 1943 with war raging across the globe to feel peace at home, but they did. We live in a world today with a variety of conflicts, some military, some political and, no doubt, some personal. These are tests of faith and Christmas shows us how strong it can be.
Readers can view the four front pages at bit.ly/xmastrib.
The Bismarck Tribune once again wishes you a Merry Christmas.