By Betsy Thorpe
The Nashville Public Library’s exhibit, “Happy Holidays Remembered” conjures the Ghost Of Christmas Past, with displays relating Nashville’s lost holiday traditions. Vintage decorations and toys with ad’s and photograph’s from the Nashville Banner archives evoke memories of festive window displays, caroling, Santa’s arrival during the annual Christmas Parade and a larger than life Nativity Scene on the steps of Centennial Park’s Parthenon.
Special Collections photo researcher, Beth Odle said, “The exhibit is about the traditions of Nashville from the 1930’s-1960’s at holiday time. Many of the traditions have passed away such as shopping downtown which was an event unto it’s self. I would do anything to get to the toy department at Cain Sloan. My mother bought me a Barbie doll from the first shipment they received of the venerable icon. Some traditions featured in the exhibit still exist, The Christmas Parade, Fannie Battle Day Home Carolers, and of course Santa.” Ms. Odle also stated that Nashville’s holiday traditions were “similar to other cities and towns so everyone can relate to this exhibit. It is popular culture.” .
After viewing one exhibit photo, Kim Burklow a West Nashville native recalled how much she enjoyed working in the toy department at Cain Sloan department store especially during the holiday season when every toy imaginable was on display. She also remembered that everyone “got dressed up to go downtown to shop”.
A discussion of one uniquely Nashville holiday tradition pictured in the exhibit sparked an early memory for Bellevue real estate agent Chris Lambos. He remembered the “magnitude” of the Nativity Scene at Centennial Park. The life size creche was a gift to the city by local businessman Fred Harvey and attracted thousands of holiday visitors to the park every year.
“Happy Holidays Remembered” is a nostalgic reminder of the excitement and anticipation experienced by both children and adults in a by-gone era when Christmas dreams were magical and holiday traditions created lasting memories. The exhibit will display in The Nashville Public Library’s Courtyard Gallery through January 11, 2009. The library is located at 615 Church Street.
Photo’s Courtesy, Nashville Public Library Special Collections