Window posters in the drugstore on the corner yesterday began advertising after-Christmas specials. Premature media hype? Not really. Let me take your hand on this Christmas day and lead you back a century.
Had any of us been around and old enough, we'd have read in the main story on the front page of The Washington Post of Dec. 24, 1885 -- a century ago yesterday -- that "those fortunate people whose financial position enables them to shop when they like" did so early in the day.
Later came "an outpouring of the less fortunate, who shop when they can. Most of the stores remained open till 9 or 10 o'clock" or later to accommodate these poor souls who had to wait till Christmas Eve.
And the shopping center of the day? It was the stores along Pennsylvania Avenue NW adjoining and partly including what is now the Federal Triangle, where, The Post reported, the thoroughfare was lighted festively by gas and decorations abounded.
The Pennsylvania Avenue "mall" in that period reached for four blocks west of Seventh Street. By contemporary accounts, the area was jammed by shoppers. A procession of "pipers and dancers" drew great attention. Shoplifters were rare, but present.
Which gets us back to seasonal advertising. The old Washington Evening Star displayed a front-page notice on Christmas Eve 1885 in which the Palais Royal store said it would remain open till noon on Christmas day to serve gift givers with a "below cost" sale of "X-mas" presents." In other words, an after-Christmas sale before Christmas, getting us back to the initial theme of today's column.
Back to 1885. A century ago, according to the Evening Star of Dec. 25: "As anticipated, Christmas day was one of quiet home entertainments. At the White House the legend 'closed' appeared in the door, and neither friend nor foe was admitted across the threshold. For one day the executive mansion was a private residence, and the president a private citizen."
Grover Cleveland, then a bachelor, was accompanied by his sister for dinner at the home of Treasury Secretary Daniel Manning. And in FDR's Day . . .
That takes us to what happened 50 years ago today, in 1935.
According to The Washington Post's account, an escort of six motorcycle policemen led President Franklin D. Roosevelt, his wife, mother and three sons from the White House north to the Foundry Methodist Church on 16th Street NW. At an interdominational Protestant service there, the Rev. Russell J. Clinchy of the Mount Pleasant Congregational Church delivered the sermon.
After that, readers learned, the Roosevelts went back to the White House, opened gifts and had dinner.