Beginning in Roaring Twenties, area ballrooms, dance halls and clubs featured tuxedo-clad bands (or orchestras, as they were often called) playing a heavily syncopated, post-ragtime, pre-swing jazz. These early jazz bands were in great demand come New Year’s Eve.
Seen here is the Dale Miller Orchestra in an undated publicity still.
This aerial view is undated but several clues helped us assign an approximate date with the colored arrowns. We can safely assume this photograph is pre-1925.
Seen here from the early 1950s is Livingston’s, the gone-but-not-forgotten local department store on the south side of the Courthouse Square. The giant waving Santas standing upon the store’s overhang were a beloved holiday tradition from the late 1940s into the mid-1970s.
The ninth annual “Community Christmas Carol Sing” was held on the McLean County Courthouse Square on December 23, 1935. Seen here are lead caroler Harold D. Saurer (holding the papers) and the Rev. Frank L. Breen.
During the Great Depression 80 downtown Bloomington merchants staged a “Christmas Caravan” promotion to boost holiday retail sales. The vehicle in the background, equipped with a calliope and pulling trailers loaded with prize giveaways, passed through more than 50 Central Illinois communities. The idea was to generate excitement for a promotion involving downtown shoppers receiving gift certificates with each purchase.
Christmastime at the Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s School in Normal included many traditional activities, such as trimming the tree. Seen here are ISSCS students decorating a Christmas tree placed in front of the state orphanage’s Norman-style residential cottages.
On Dec. 19, 1958, Bloomington Mayor Robert McGraw threw a ceremonial switch to light about half of the 65 new mercury vapor streetlamps along a stretch of Main Street from Walnut Street south to MacArthur Avenue. Seen here is the 500 block of North Main Street looking south. This block was once “furniture row” with Leath & Co. visible on the right
Ice skating was once popular at Miller Park on Bloomington’s west side. Fifty-seven years ago, mid-December 1958, three young women (left to right) Helen Johnson, Judy Johnson, and Raylene Mitchell finish prepping before heading for the ice on the park’s smaller lagoon.
Back in early December 1965, these six-year-old first graders from Lincoln School in Bloomington could sympathize with the wishes expressed in the grating holiday novelty song, “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.”
The December 3, 1929 Christmas parade in Bloomington featured Santa Claus, six marching bands, a drum corps, and eleven floats, among many other attractions. Mr. Claus is seen here out front, his sleigh pulled by six reindeer.
Back in December 1934, the Bloomington Association of Commerce (now the McLean County Chamber of Commerce) staged a “corny” promotion to boost downtown holiday retail sales. The approximately 58-by-13 inch glass container shown here was filled with two bushels of shelled corn. With every downtown retail purchase of 25 cents or more, Bloomington shoppers would receive a slip of paper to write down their guess, with the closest to the correct total receiving a $200 cash prize. Remarkably, four area residents correctly guessed that there were 212,792 grains in this container!
The U.S. Congress declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941, in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor the previous day. On December 8, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his “Day of Infamy” speech to a joint session of Congress at 12:30 p.m. (the address was reprinted on page 7 of that day’s Pantagraph, shown here).
On December 7, 1960, Community Players Theatre broke ground for the playhouse on 201 Robinhood Lane. Seen here (left to right) are architect Harry Riddle, Jr. and C.E. Mulliken, Community Players building chairman, both of whom are handling building plans. Next to Mulliken is Alvin Keller with the City of Bloomington and Community Players President H. Dean Litt with shovel.
From the 1940s to the mid-1970s, A. Livingston & Sons in downtown Bloomington hoisted two giants Santas onto its overhang for the holiday season. The two identical Santas (only one is shown here) were about 13 feet in height and likely made of some early plastic or fiberglass material. Livingston’s was a locally owned department store on the south side of the Courthouse Square.
In late November 1942, during World War II, farm advisers and agriculture officials from Central Illinois gathered in Bloomington to hear about the importance of growing hemp for the war effort. That’s right, industrial hemp was needed to make rope and other things, such as harnesses and shroud lines for airborne troops. Seen here exhibiting hemp “straw” at the November 23 meeting are J. Francis Buck (left) of the Illinois Agricultural Adjustment Agency (AAA) and Dr. W.L. Burlison of the University of Illinois.
From this 1926 publicity still we’d have to say Bloomington’s Fred Hitch captured the essence of the character Charles Dickens described as a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!” From the mid-1920s into the 1990s, the Scottish Rite Temple (now the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts) staged a version of the “A Christmas Carol.”
We’re not sure this photograph was taken on a “Black Friday” sometime in the 1930s, but it sure looks like it! Seen here is an undated photograph of the main floor of the locally owned department store, A. Livingston & Sons, during a Christmas season in the 1930s. Livingston’s, located on the south side of the Courthouse Square, closed in 1979.
Towanda Grade School kindergartners perform Thanksgiving themed poems and songs for their parents the week of Thanksgiving 1980.
Seen here are a wild turkey hen and her chick crossing Cabintown Road in Bloomington more than a quarter of a century ago. Happily, wild turkeys, once extirpated from Illinois, have made a comeback over the past several decades.