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Fascinating True Stories from the Flip Side of History

Tag Archives: christmas

No Locks at Denny’s

In December of 1988, the restaurant chain Denny’s decided to close all of its 1,221 stores for the Christmas holiday.  

This was not an easy decision for the company to make.  The chain was well-known for being open 24-hours-a-day, 365-days a year, so closing on Christmas day was predicted to cost the chain $5 million in sales.

They were faced with an even bigger problem: Since the chain never shut its doors, many of their restaurants were either built without locks on the doors or no one could find the keys to the locks that did exist.  The company had to install door locks in more than 700 of its restaurants just so that they close for that one day.

My wife and I stopped at our local Denny’s a few weeks ago and the first thing I did was check the door.  There was a lock there.

Picture taken at the Denny's restaurant on Wolf Road in Colonie, NY on November 30, 2018 confirming that there is a lock installed on the front door.
Picture taken at the Denny’s restaurant on Wolf Road in Colonie, NY on November 30, 2018 confirming that there is a lock installed on the front door.
 

Empty Christmas Envelopes

The post office in Spokane, Washington had an interesting problem.  On December 18, 1955, someone dropped off fifty envelopes to be mailed. All were properly addressed and stamped, but lacked one important piece: All of the envelopes were completely empty.

Apparently the mailer had forgotten to insert the Christmas cards or whatever they had intended to include.  There was no return address on any of the envelopes to help identify the sender and while you are about 63-years too late, should you know what should have gone into those envelopes, please be sure to contact the Spokane post office.

Christmas card given by garbage men from 1954.
Christmas card given by garbage men from 1954. (State Library of Queensland)
 

Santa Breaks Girl’s Heart

When the news broke in early December of 1928 that 7-year-old Tillie Oakley of Paris, Kentucky was seriously ill, readers across the country responded with disbelief.

It seemed as if an older girl at school told Tillie that Santa wasn’t real. Can you imagine that? Doubting Santa’s existence?  Everyone knows that he is real.

Needless to say, Tille ran home crying to her mother, but nothing she could say could convince Tillie that the older girl was wrong.

Tilly stopped eating. With each passing day she became weaker and weaker. She was proof-positive that one really could suffer from a broken heart.  The local doctor was brought in to treat her, but nothing in his black bag could heal her. Nor could her parents, her minister, friends, or neighbors do anything to cure Tillie of what ailed her.

People from all over the country sent scores of telegrams and letters assuring the young girl that there really was a Santa Claus.  More than a dozen packages, some with a return address that simply read “From Santa Claus” were received.

But there was one big problem.  An investigation by the Associated Press determined that there was no Tille Oakley living in or near Paris, Kentucky.  The story was a complete fabrication. So, while there may be a Santa Claus, there certainly certainly was no Tillie Oakley.

Santa visiting children at Grace Brothers department store in Sydney, Australia in November 1946
Santa visiting children at Grace Brothers department store in Sydney, Australia in November 1946. (State Library at New South Wales)
 

Safety Buttons Proven Unsafe

It seems like an annual event every Christmas here in the United States. The Consumer Product Safety Commission issues warnings about unsafe toys.

In 1974, the commission once again embarked upon a campaign with the important message to “Think Toy Safety.” Bumper stickers were printed up, ads were prepared for newspapers, radio, and television, and pamphlets were distributed to bring attention to potentially dangerous toys.

They missed one big one, however. They had 80,000 buttons made that said “For kid’s sake, think toy safety.” They should have taken their own advice. Safety tests showed that the paint used to manufacture the buttons had excessive amounts of lead, sharp edges, and small parts that a child could easily swallow. They were forced to recall all of the dangerous pins. Luckily, none had been distributed to the public yet. They were all still sitting in regional commission offices and easily collected.

A spokesman said that commission would have to pick up the $1,700 cost (about $8,400 adjusted for inflation), since they never specified in their contract with the manufacturer that the buttons had to be safe.

Think Toy Safety Buttons Recalled
In 1974 the Consumer Product Safety Commission had to recall 80,000 of their own Think Toy Safety buttons. Image appeared on page 1 of the November 17, 1974 issue of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.
 

Only Santa Fits Down Chimneys

It was reported that shortly after Christmas of 1960, 8-year-old London resident Alan Smith decided to emulate Santa by going down the chimney of a nearby house that was being demolished. He got down about halfway before getting stuck.

After being rescued by the fire department, Alan stated, “I can’t understand it. Santa is much fatter than me and he never gets stuck.”

My guess is that his parents had a long talk with him afterward explaining how Santa really gets down those chimneys.

Children Waiting for Santa
Just how does Santa get down the chimney? That is a secret that only he knows... (Black & white photonegative. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)
 

Got Just What He Asked For

For Christmas in 1958, Racine, Wisconsin resident Warren David jokingly told his wife what he dreamed of getting for Christmas. She went out of her way to make sure that his wish would come true.

Mrs. David arranged to have a large package topped with a giant ribbon delivered to their home on Christmas Eve. When Mr. David opened the present, out popped the cute blonde doll that he had requested.

This living doll was really 17-year-old Judy Dexter, who worked as a secretary at a local department store. His wife, Judy, and the store’s owner conspired to pull off this practical joke. Mrs. David insisted that her husband exchange the gift for a different item.

1952 Christmas Celebration St Petersburg
1952 image of young women celebrating Christmas with Santa Claus in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Jean MacAlpine is second from left, Ann Hart is third from left, and Peggy Landers is forth from left. (Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. )
 

The Man Who Gave Away His Birthday

Useless Information Podcast

When author Robert Louis Stevenson learned that young Vermont native Annie Ide hated her Christmas birthday, he decided to deed his own birthday to her. Listen to this episode to learn how she celebrated her new birthday and what happened after she died.

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Saves Mouse from Torturers

In April of 1946 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, seven-year-old Norbert Lusardi, whom everyone called Butch, was walking home from school one day and saw three high school boys with a mouse. The boys were being quite rough with the mouse and when Butch questioned what they intended to do with the mouse, one of the boys replied that they intended to kill it.

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