A Wartime Christmas in Red Bank

December 23, 2011

By Sharon Hazard

Christmas lights on Monmouth Street, 1957

THE YEAR WAS 1946 and Red Bank, along with the rest of the country, was feeling the woes of World War II. Food, resources and energy were scarce but patriotic spirits were overflowing, especially during the Christmas season.
Acting Governor Haydn Proctor proclaimed that electricity would be used only when necessary. This meant that there would be no Christmas lights in town.
Rubber and tin were consigned to the war effort and manufacturers started to improvise. When paper shortages became the norm, packages were wrapped in cellophane. Bells were made of fused, molded cellophane or painted papier-mache and fringed tissue paper and cellophane garlands stood in for metal tinsel. Hard plastic was popular. Paint was in short supply, but plastic could be dyed. Store windows up and down Broad Street mirrored the trends dictated by rationing. The Towne Shop on Linden Place decorated their windows with antique oil lamps and called their theme, “an old fashioned Christmas.”
Full-size trees were in short supply, not because they were needed for war, but there were no men to cut them down. They were all at war. Taking their place were table top trees. Sometimes artificial, they were made of feathers, net or chenille. This was the year the bottle-brush trees became popular because they resembled pine. They were made from the same material used for household brushes.
White Christmas sung by Bing Crosby was the most requested song on Armed Forces Radio. Mounts Record Store at 84 Broad Street carried all of Columbia Records top sellers. They included Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”, “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, “Rhapsody in Blue” by Oscar Levant, “L’amour” by Lily Pons and “Spring is Here” by Nelson Eddy.
The store windows in Red Bank weren’t lit, but they were filled with what every heart desired for Christmas 1946.
Sun Ray Drugs displayed Evening in Paris gift sets for $3.65, Jean Frank’s had reindeer sweaters for $3.99 At Kridel’s, men’s Stetson hats were a big seller. Bob Kislin’s Sporting Goods on Front Street had sleds, skis and skates in their windows, Vogel’s mouton lamb coats were only $148., Rib roast was 45 cents a pound at Victory Market on Front Street and ladies’ compacts were $9 at the Whitehouse at 50 Broad Street. Seaboard Service advertised a new appliance called a “coolerator.”
President Roosevelt preached optimism and his black Scotty dog Fala became a beloved symbol of the holidays.
No electric lights shone in shop windows but that didn’t dim the holiday and patriotic spirit displayed in Red Bank in 1946!



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