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Great Days in Dayton
Christmas a Century Ago


“Great Days in Dayton”


Reproduced on these pages is the full script of a “Great Days in Dayton” broadcast. All music and sound effect “cues” are indicated just as they appear on the working scripts used by the cast. The sponsor hopes that you will find interesting these dramatized episodes from the life story of your city.


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Script No. 9—“Christmas A Century Ago”




Theme.  Starts fortissimo, then fades behind….

ANNOUNCER:  “Great Days in Dayton!”



ANNOUNCER:  Under the sponsorship of The Dayton Power and Light Company, we present today a special Christmas program.  In addition to our regular company, consisting of the professional players of the Dayton Civic Theatre, our narrator, announcer, musicians and members of the technical staff, we present as special guest performers the twenty members of the Dutch Club, under the direction of Gordon Battelle.  These well-known Dayton singers will take a prominent part in today’s production of dramatized Dayton history.  And now…here is your master of ceremonies, Mr. Charles McLean.





NARRATOR:  Our play today deals with the Dayton of a century ago.  It was a thriving town of nearly eight thousand population, a mecca for stage coach and canal travel.  By our modern standards we would find the life in Dayton of that day very simple, even primitive.  Amusements and diversions were few.  Yet at one season of the year, even in those remote times, good cheer, kindliness, and generosity reigned just as they do today.  Christmas was Christmas, then, as now, even if manners and customs were different.  (PAUSE.)  Perhaps we may assume that the twenty –fourth of December, in the year 1840, dawned clear and cold.  During the night a light snow had fallen, making a blanket of white for the houses, the streets and the great forest trees that still edged the town.  On the river small boys had laboriously swept the snow from the ice, preparing for the holiday skating parties.  Sleigh bells jingled all over town.  There was a note of festivity in every greeting and gathering.  One of the principal centers of the town’s life was the National Hotel on East Third Street.  Let’s listen in for a moment as the proprietor, Timothy Squier, talks with Robert Campbell, a young Dayton lawyer.





SQUIER:  Don’t know, Bob.  It seems to me like the Cincinnati stage is pretty late.

BOB:  It’s the snow, Tim.  It must be heavy going for the horses if it’s drifted much along the country roads.  But you can trust Buck Matson.  He hasn’t failed to bring the stage through in more than twenty years of driving.

SQUIER:  There’ll be a lot of passengers, I expect.  Folks coming on visits and the like for the holidays.  You done all your Christmas shopping?

BOB:  I’m going to do the rest of it now.

SQUIER:  I’ll walk out with you.  I always like to be standing in front of the hotel to greet the guests when the stage comes in.

[Chairs scrape.  Footsteps.  Door closes.]

BOB:  B-r-r-r, it’s cold!

SQUIER:  Sure is.  Way below freezing.  If it stays like this, we’ll have fine dry snow for the sleigh racing tomorrow.  [Coach sounds coming on.  Sleigh bells and other street sounds off.]  Here comes the stage now.  Buck can sure handle those horses, can’t he?

BOB:  Yes, he can.  I’ll be going on along, Tim.  It’s after five, and I want to get to the stores before they’ve sold everything they have.  Good-bye.

SQUIER:  Good-bye, Bob.  And a Merry Christmas to you and Sue.  Tell Tommy and Ann that I’m expecting Santa Claus on this stage that’s coming in.  He always puts up at the National Hotel.

BOB:  I’ll tell them, Tim—and a Merry Christmas to you!  [Coach sounds much louder onto stop.]

SQUIER:  You’re late, Buck.  Thought you always ran on schedule.

BUCK:  This is my schedule for today.  Would be anybody’s.  Snow’s a lot deeper down around Middletown and Hamilton than it is here.  Besides, I got a full load of passengers and baggage.  You’d better send someone out to help, Tim.

SQUIER:  Let me help you down, ma’am.  That’s it.  And now the little girl.

VOICE:  [Woman.]  Be careful of that box, driver.  It has a cut-glass vase in it.

BUCK:  Yes, ma’am.  I’ll see it’s not broken.  [Mingled greetings as passengers get down from coach.]

VOICES:  Merry Christmas, Aunt Belle.  I’m so glad to see you.  And how’s Uncle Will?…Sure was a cold trip; feel like I’d never get thawed out…Yes, I brought all the things for the children…Dayton certainly looks pretty, with the snow, and holly wreathes in all the windows…A white Christmas…won’t the children have a good time!  [Music.]


VOICE:  And now let’s see, Mr. Campbell.  You say that Ann wants a doll?

BOB:  Yes, and a very special doll, too, according to the letter Ann sent to Santa.  It has to come from Dresden and have pink China cheeks and a lace dress, and eyes that open and close.  Oh, yes, and it has to say “mamma” when you squeeze it.  Do you think that Santa could manage an order like that?

VOICE:  [Laughing.]  Why, of course he can.  I’ll show you the very kind of doll that Ann is wanting.  See!  Isn’t it a beauty?

BOB:  Well, I’m hardly a judge of that, but it does seem to answer the description.  But look!  Does it say “Mamma”?

VOICE:  Of course.  Just listen.


BOB:  That’s the one all right.  [Music.]



VOICE:  [Man.]  So young Tommy wants a sled, does he?

BOB:  Yes, and his letter to Santa Claus asks specially for the reddest and shiniest sled in the world.

VOICE:  Of course, of course.  He means one like this.

BOB:  It looks shiny enough, but I’m afraid the color’s too quiet.  Scarlet, I’d call that, a nice bright scarlet.  But Tommy’s idea of red is something very violent.  Vermillion; nothing modest about it.  That one over there looks more like it.

VOICE:  And a good sled, too…better than this one, really.  Good and strong.  Your young Tommy won’t smash this sled easily, if Santa brings it to him. [Laughs.]

BOB:  You don’t know Tommy.  [Music.]


[Sleigh bells.  Street noises.]

BOB:  Yes, I want a good big Christmas tree.  That one’s about the right size.  And six of those holly wreaths.

VOICE: [Man.]  And some mistletoe, Mr. Campbell?  I have some very nice sprigs of mistletoe.

BOB:  Maybe you can tell me how I’m going to carry this tree and the wreaths, with all the other packages I have.  How would I carry anything else?

VOICE:  [Laughs.]  Don’t you worry about that.  My boy Jim will have the wagon here to make deliveries all evening.  You’ll get the tree and wreathes in plenty of time.

BOB:  All right, then, some mistletoe.

VOICE: Thank you, Mr. Campbell.  And a very merry Christmas to you.

BOB:  Merry Christmas.  [Music.]



SUE:  Tommy!  Ann!  It’s bedtime!

TOMMY:  And a sled and skates and fur gloves and a blue muffler.

SUE:  Children!  It’s bedtime!

ANN:  And my dolly will have a house all her very own, and a bed and dishes and lots and lots of clothes.

TOMMY:  Maybe Santa won’t bring them to you.  You’re bad sometimes.

ANN:  I am not.  You’re the one who’s bad.  Besides Grandma said Santa Claus would bring me everything for my dolly.

TOMMY:  And Grandpa said Santa would bring me skates and everything else, but daddy, if Santa’s big and fat like in the picture books, how’s he ever going to get down our chimney?

BOB:  Well, you see, it’s a mighty big chimney.

TOMMY:  Yes, but…

SUE:  Tommy, stop worrying about Santa Claus.  You and Ann have just time enough to hang up your stockings, and then you’re going to bed.  Now, we’ll hang yours up on this side of the fireplace, like this, and Ann’s can go on the other.  Here, Ann, I’ll hold you up while you fasten it to the mantel.  [Singers far off.]

TOMMY:  Mamma, can’t we stay up to see Santa Claus?

ANN:  Please, mamma, just this once?

SUE:  No, children, it’s past your bedtime now.

BOB:  Sue, let’s let them stay up long enough to listen to the carol singers.  They’re coming now.

SUE:  Well…

ANN:  Oh, yes, mamma, please!

[The singing comes on now, but it is still muffled, out of doors.  Perhaps parts of one verse and all of a chorus has been audible.  Then…]

BOB:  I’m going to open the window for just a minute.  [Window opens.  Singing becomes much stronger.  Chorus ends.]

VOICES:  Merry Christmas!

BOB:  Merry Christmas to all of you!

SUE:  Merry Christmas!  Sing one more verse, won’t you?  Just for the children?

VOICE:  Sure!

[The singing begins again and continues for a verse.  As the chorus is begun, the song begins to fade, as the singers move away. The window closes and the song becomes very faint.]

SUE:  It was beautiful, wasn’t it, Bob?

BOB:  Yes, very.

ANN:  Mamma, please, can we stay up to see Santa Claus?

SUE:  I should say not.  You’ll have to go to bed this very minute.

BOB:  Yes, run along now, both of you.

SUE:  Good night, darlings. [Chorus of “Goodnights,” the children’s becoming fainter.]

SUE:  The tree looks lovely, doesn’t it?  And the children had such fun trimming it.  I almost wish they could have had their presents tonight.

BOB:  Presents are for Christmas Day.  You can’t have them until Santa Claus comes. [Music.]



[A clock strikes ten.]

TOMMY:  [Whispering.]  Come on, Ann.  I’m sure mamma and papa must be asleep now.  We can go downstairs and wait for Santa.

ANN:  Oh, it’ll be do dark down there.

TOMMY:  No, it won’t.  We can sit in front of the fire.  Don’t be a ’fraid-cat.

ANN:  I’m not.

TOMMY:  Well, come on, then.  [Rustling sounds.  A board creaks.]

ANN:  Be quiet, Tommy!  Oh, it is dark down there!

TOMMY:  Come on!  (PAUSE)  Now, see, there’s plenty of light from the fireplace.

[Through the rest of this scene there is the ticking of a grandfather’s clock.]

ANN:  Let’s both sit in the big chair, so we can keep warm.

TOMMY:  He hasn’t been here yet.  Our stockings are still empty.

ANN:  What time do you suppose he’ll come?

TOMMY:  Oh, Santa never comes till late, awfully late.  Maybe midnight.

ANN:  Just think of our being up that late!  Maybe we can’t stay awake.

TOMMY:  I can.

[A long pause while the clock ticks steadily.  Sleigh bells are heard far off.]

ANN:  [Sleepily.]  Tommy, listen!  Do you suppose that’s Santa’s sleigh?

TOMMY:  [Mutters.]  Huh?

ANN:  Tommy, you said you were going to stay awake.

TOMMY:  Huh?  [Sleigh bells fade out.]

ANN:  I guess it isn’t Santa, after all.  I’m sleepy, too.  Move over, Tommy.  You’re taking up the whole chair.  [Music.]



[Clock ticking.]

VOICE:  [Far off.]  Two o’clock and all’s well!  [Music.]



[A rooster crows.]

SUE:  Bob, wake up!  It’s almost seven o’clock.

BOB:  Un-huh.

SUE:  Bob, we must get up.  If we don’t get downstairs right away the children will be awake.

BOB:  Un-huh.  What’s that?  Oh, yes, sure.  Get right up. [Music.]



SUE:  Look, Bob, they’re still asleep.

BOB:  I’m glad I put that blanket over them.  It’s cold down here, even with the fire going all night.

SUE:  Everything’s ready.  Let’s wake them.  Ann!  Tommy!  Wake up!

BOB:  Merry Christmas!

ANN:  Oh!

TOMMY:  Gosh!

ANN:  Mamma, we did want to see Santa so!  That’s why we came down.

SUE:  That’s all right, dear.

BOB:  Well, did you see him?

TOMMY:  We would have, only Ann went to sleep.

ANN:  You did first, Tommy Campbell, and you know it.  Then I couldn’t stay awake all by myself.

BOB:  Well, you can tell he’s been here.  See what he brought you.

ANN:  Oh, Tommy, look!  Our stockings are full.

TOMMY:  Gee!  And just look under the Christmas tree!  [Excited chatter ad lib.  Tearing of paper.]

ANN:  Oh, mamma!  Oh!  Just look at my dolly!  Isn’t she beautiful?

TOMMY:  Papa!  Papa!  See the sled Santa brought me.  Gee, I bet it’s the fastest sled in Dayton!

SUE:  Maybe Santa left some more presents for you at Grandfather’s house.  We’ll see when we go over there for dinner.

TOMMY:  I’m going out with my sled right away.

BOB:  Oh, no, you’re not, young man.  Not until you’ve had your breakfast.

SUE:  I should say not!  Now, both of you run upstairs and dress as fast as you can. [Music.]



BOB:  Sue, the sleigh’s ready.

SUE:  All right.  Come on, children, we’re going to Grandfather’s.  Tommy, you can wear your new muffler.  And you take your nice new muff, Ann.  Get your coats on now.

TOMMY:  Can I take my sled and hook on behind the sleigh, papa?

BOB:  Not this time.  Come on, all of you.  [Door opens and closes]


BOB:  You get in first, Sue, and I’ll life Ann in.  Come on, Tommy.  (PAUSE.)  Wrap the robe around you.  That’s it.  Here we go.  [Sleigh bells. Pause.]

SUE:  There are the Watsons, Bob.  Merry Christmas!  [Other sleigh bells on.]

VOICES:  [Off.]  Merry Christmas!  Merry Christmas!  [Music.]



BOB:  Hello, Dad!  Merry Christmas, Mother!

GEORGE:  Well, well, here you are at last.  Merry Christmas to all of you!  Come right in, come right in.

SARAH:  Sue, dear, you’re looking fine.  And how Tommy and Ann are growing!

TOMMY:  Grandpa, was Santa Claus here last night?

ANN:  Oh, yes, Grandpa, was he?  Mamma said he might leave some presents for us.

GEORGE:  Santa Claus?  I don’t think so.  But you might ask your grandmother.

SARAH:  George, don’t tease them!  Of course, Ann, Santa was here and left presents for both of you. You come right into the parlor with me.

TOMMY:  Oh, goody, goody!  Come on, Ann! [Children’s voices recede in excited chatter.]

GEORGE:  Bob, we mustn’t miss the sleigh races this afternoon.  There’ll be some good ones.  I was down there this morning, and the snow’s packed just right on West First Street, all the way from Bridge Street, down to the levee.

BOB:  I’m sorry you’re not driving, Dad.

GEORGE:  So am I.  But your mother won’t let me.  She says I’m getting too old.  It’s all nonsense, of course. She made me get Buck Matson to drive for me.

BOB:  They say he’s the best driver in Dayton.

GEORGE:  Betty than me?  Say!  Well, anyway, he’ll win, driving Betsy.  The little bay mare is the fastest horse in Montgomery County.  And the new light cutter I had built this fall will make mighty easy pulling.

BOB:  I don’t know.  I like that black horse of Sam Craighead’s.  He’s mighty fast.

GEORGE:  Shucks!  Sam Craighead’s horse can’t compare with Betsy.  Didn’t I beat Sam last year?

BOB:  No.  Sam beat you, by about four lengths.

GEORGE:  Well, then, it was the year before that.

BOB:  I thought it was three years ago.

GEORGE:  Don’t try to pin me down.  And let me tell you something else, young man.  If you think your judgment is so much better than your father’s, I’ll just give you a chance to put a little something on this afternoon’s race.

BOB:  It sounds like easy money, but you know Mother won’t let you gamble.

GEORGE:  I know.  She says it’s sinful, and I guess she’s right.  But I’m not talking about money.  Let’s say a box of cigars.

BOB:  Good ones?

GEORGE:  Of course, they’ll be good ones.  I’m expecting to smoke them.

BOB:  Maybe I’ll give you a couple.

TOMMY:  [Coming on.]  Oh, papa, papa, look at these skates!  I just knew Santa Claus would bring them.  Papa, will you take me skating right after dinner?

BOB:  You bet I will!

ANN:  [Coming on.]  Papa, Santa brought me the most wonderful doll house.  Just wait till you see it!

SUE:  He can’t, Ann, till after dinner.  Grandmother says it’s ready right now.

TOMMY:  Gosh, I bet I could eat a whole turkey myself.

SARAH:  Come on, everyone.  (PAUSE.)  Sue, you sit here, and you here, Bob.  The children can sit at the end of the table, next to Grandfather.  (PAUSE.)

GEORGE:  Dear Lord, we ask Thee to bless the bounteous fare Thou hast provided on this Christmas Day.  We thank Thee, Lord, for the blessing we have received during the year that is now closing, and ask that we may be filled with Thy grace and Thy spirit.  Amen.  (PAUSE.)

TOMMY:  I want a drumstick, Grandpa.

SUE:  Tommy, dear, that’s not polite.  Wait until Grandfather asks you what you want.

ANN:  Well, I hope he asks me if I want white meat.  [Laughter.  Table sounds] [Music.]



[Children’s laughter and shrill cries.]

VOICE 1:  Come on, Dorothy, let’s skate together…clear over to the other side.

VOICE 2:  All right, Tom.

VOICE 3:  I’m going over to the fire and thaw out.  I’m frozen.

VOICE 4:  Come on, Bill, let’s get about ten of us and crack the whip.  (PAUSE.)  Sam, you and Martha hold on to Bill.  Now the rest of you.  Hold on, everyone.  Here we go!  [Excited laughter.]

BOB:  Now, Tommy, I guess your skates are on tight.  Stand up.

ANN:  I bet Tommy can’t skate at all.

TOMMY:  I can, too, Ann, even if it’s the first time.

BOB:  Hold my hand, Tommy, and we’ll try it together first.  Now, you just push yourself forward on one foot, and then on the other.  That’s it, that’s it.  (PAUSE.)  Now, you try it alone.  (PAUSE.)  See, Ann, Tommy’s skating all by himself.

ANN:  Humph!  He’ll think he’s awful smart.

TOMMY:  [Coming on.]  Oh, Papa, I did it, I did it!  And I didn’t fall down at all.

BOB:  That’s fine, Tommy.

ANN:  Smarty!

TOMMY:  Smarty, yourself.  I bet you couldn’t do it.  (PAUSE.)  Papa, show us how you used to skate when you were a boy.

BOB:  Well, of course, I haven’t skated for a long time, but I’ll show you how to do a figure eight.  This is what’s called skating on the outer edge, Tommy.  You take very long glides and change balance from one foot to the other on each turn.  Now, watch.

TOMMY:  There he goes.

ANN:  Oh, Tommy, isn’t papa wonderful?  Look how he curves around.  (PAUSE.)  Now he’s coming back.  [Loud fall.]

BOB:  Ouch!

ANN:  Oh, see, Tommy.  Papa sat right down!

TOMMY:  Gosh, I bet that hurt!  [Music.}



[Crowd sounds.  Sleigh bells off.]

VOICE:  [Off.]  And now, ladies and gentlemen, we come to the last race of the afternoon.  This is a special match race for light cutter sleighs.  The contestants will be Mr. Samuel Craighead, who will drive his black gelding, Caesar, and Buck Matson, who will drive Mr. George Campbell’s bay mare, Betsy.  (PAUSE.)  Clear the street, down there!  (PAUSE.)  Are you ready, gentlemen?

VOICES:  [Off.]  Ready!  (PAUSE.)

VOICE:  Go!  [Shouts, cheers, sleigh bells coming on.]

GEORGE:  Here they come, Bob.  You just watch Buck Matson pull ahead.

BOB:  I see them, all right, but it looks to me like Sam Craighead’s leading.

GEORGE:  You’ll see!  You’ll see!

VOICES:  [Off.]  Come on, Sam!  Come on, Buck!  [Cheers increase and sleigh bells come close on.  Then louder cheers denote finish.]

VOICES:  [Off.]  Ladies and gentlemen: You have just witnessed the closest contest in the history of the Dayton Sleigh Racing Association.  The winner, by a nose, is…Betsy, owned by Mr. George Campbell.  The Association’s judges will now present the annual silver cup to Mr. Campbell.  Mr. Campbell!  Mr. George Campbell!  Come forward, please!  [Cheers.]  [Music.]



GEORGE:  Now, Sarah, you ought to be glad that Betsy won.

SARAH:  I am, George, and you know it.  But I don’t like the idea of you gambling.

BOB:  Oh, Mother, it was only a box of cigars.

SUE:  I don’t think that’s really gambling.

SARAH:  Yes, it is, Sue, and it’s wrong.  You wouldn’t want Tommy to gamble when he grown up, would you?

BOB:  Well, I hope he’ll have sense enough not to bet against his grandfather, anyway.

GEORGE:  [Placatingly.]  Now, Sarah.

SARAH:  [Softening.]  George Campbell, you always could get around me somehow.   And I am glad that Betsy won! [Music.]



SUE:  Come, children, you’ll have to stop playing with your presents now.  It’s time to go to church.

TOMMY:  Aw, gee, mamma, this isn’t Sunday, it’s Christmas.  Anyway, I want to go out with my sled again.

BOB:  There’ll be plenty of time for that tomorrow, Tommy.

SUE:  You’ll like this church service, Tommy.  It’ll be almost all music.

TOMMY:  You mean horns and drums?

BOB:  No, son, no horns, but you’ll hear some pretty Christmas songs.

TOMMY:  Well…all right.

SUE:  Come on, both of you, get on your coats.  We’ll have to leave right away. [Music.]




[The Lord’s Prayer, sung as a choral service by the minister, the congregation and the choir.]

Our Father, who are in heaven. Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.


MINISTER:  We devote this special Christmas night service to the songs of our choir…songs which express our rejoicing over the birth of Christ, our Lord, which tell of our devotion to the Christian ideal, which reaffirm our faith in peace on earth and good will toward men.


[The choir comes in. There are three hymns or carols, of which the first two are to be selected by consultation.  The third is to be “Adeste Fidelis,” sung in Latin.  It may be that in the first two hymn or carols, the playing of the organ will have to be modulated in order to suggest the primitive church organs of a century ago.  But in “Adeste Fidelis” the organ comes in at full modern strength.  This MUST be the climax of the program.  After the full rendition of the hymn the choir begins to hum a repetition of it, and in front of this we hear…]

ANNOUNCER:  And so ends Christmas Day in 1840.  In the century that has passed, times and customs have changed.  But the Christmas spirit remains the same.  We offer you now the full measure of that spirit in the greetings of our sponsors, The Dayton Power and Light Company.  May your Christmas be a merry one, and may you and yours enjoy during the coming year a full measure of happiness and prosperity.  [Music.]


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