Past Times

Past Times: A 1968 Christmas typifies the decade

Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street was decked out for Christmas in 1968.
Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street was decked out for Christmas in 1968. NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Looking back at how Christmas was observed in 1968 is like opening a time capsule for the entire decade, as the war continued in Vietnam and the U.S. made progress toward its goal of reaching the moon.

Only the rattle of gunfire in South Vietnam and mortar bursts from Israeli and Jordanian troops near the Dead Sea broke the Christmas calm.

With a “Merry Christmas” to the world, three American astronauts headed back toward home in Apollo 8 across the black expanse of space after 20 hours of orbiting the moon. They took time out for another space first, a Christmas dinner of turkey.

In almost as bleak surroundings, 50 men at the U.S. Navy’s base at the South Pole sat down to a turkey dinner.

Far away, in the steaming heat of South Vietnam’s battlefields, numerous violations of a Christmas truce left more than a score dead.

Expressions of hope for peace were voiced in messages to U.S. troops in Vietnam by Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, commander in South Vietnam, and two visiting churchmen, Roman Catholic Archbishop Terence J. Cooke of New York and evangelist Billy Graham. ...

President Johnson and his family spent a quiet day in Washington. It was their last Christmas in the White House. The N&O Dec. 26, 1968

Closer to home, Christmas Day for incoming Gov. Bob Scott and his family is a quaint reflection of those pre-electronic-gadget days.

The Robert W. Scott family, richly blessed by North Carolina’s voters last month, had an equally generous visitor slip into their home as they slept Tuesday night.

The seven Scotts, who will be moving around Jan. 3 to the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh, are gathered in their Haw River dairy farm home for a typical family Christmas.

The day was to begin with the excitement felt in millions of homes, the children scrambling to see what Santa Claus had left behind.

There was advance information from St. Nick himself that the five little Scotts had been “good” in the past, eventful year and he intended to reward them for it.

Here’s what he said he had in his bag for the young Scotts:

For Little Jan, age 5, a doll and a homemakers set – sink and stove – together with a set of dishes.

For Kerr, 10, binoculars, which the sports-minded boy will put to good use at athletic events; a Boy Scout pocketknife, a racing set and some books.

For Susan, 11, a camera with accessories, an addition to her collection of horse statues and books.

Santa said that his gifts for twins Meg and Mary, 12, reflected the fact that their interests weren’t always identical.

Meg would receive a metronome for her piano and some stationery. Under the tree for Mary would be boots, a tape recorder and a scrapbook.

The Governor-elect and his wife, Jessie Rae, went shopping for one another. For Mrs. Scott, there would be jewelry. She, in turn, thought ahead to those precious few leisure hours that will be available to her husband, who will enjoy them with his new bathrobe, bedroom shoes and a book of fiction – his favorite type of recreation reading.

Prior to breaking up for the brief Christmas holiday, gifts were exchanged by Scott and his staff at their transitional office here.

The staff presented the next governor with a handsome attache case for use in his trips away from the Capitol.

Among his gifts to the staff members were mounted copies of the telegram of congratulations which his Republican opponent, Jim Gardner, sent him after the Nov. 3 election. The N&O Dec. 25, 1968

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/pasttimes.

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