Sussex County History Today: The Season

Newton /
| 09 Dec 2022 | 02:22

Immediately on the heels of Thanksgiving comes the Christmas season, more lately referred to as “the holiday season” to include other important dates, such as Hanukkah.

When I was a child in the 1950s, there was clearly one Santa Claus.

This one figure was to be seen on a delightful trip to Sears on Spring Street in Newton. He was found in the basement of the corner building. The normal routine of sitting on his lap and telling of the toys desired was a greatly anticipated event; one of those short experiences that one remembers for the rest of their lives.

Last month, having visited the county offices for some business, I turned onto Moran Street heading down the hill and spotted that unremarkable window along the sidewalk, and a youthful energy came upon me.

The spirit of the season emanated from Spring Street for a long time. Over the past 40 years or so, we would walk along the street, lighted brightly, and enjoy the stores packed with shoppers and the gifts galore awaiting purchase.

Much of what makes the season a highlight of the year was evident: crisp air with some flakes of snow, happy children, parents busy with their lists and a warm friendly greeting to all you pass by.

We would shop in Franklin on Main Street. Going to “Herzy’s” was a must along with Hunter’s, Fitz-Johns, the 5&10, Mike the Jewelers and other shops. These would be quaint today compared with the malls and the box stores, but that was the way of December for at least 75 years of life in Sussex County.

A big trip would take one to Paterson, down Snake Hill before Route 80 and onto the urban nature to go to Tom McAnns, Buster Brown, Quackenbush and other places.

Many from Sussex and Wantage would go to Middletown, N.Y., a similar trip in the old days of the milk cans and farming.

Sussex County has great resources for the Christmas season. There are many tree farms throughout the area, and you can go cut your own. Just like with strawberries in the summer and pumpkins in the fall.

Our rolling hills and rural spaces provide great slopes for snow fun; sledding and skating have prevailed here for more than a century.

Burning leaves on the edge of our property is a thing of the past and so are the many Christmas cards sent - that’s now done with electronic versions.

Oh, how we loved caroling down the street and working with the Salvation Army to help others.

There are a number of concerts during this season; holiday music charms many people in our local communities.

Enjoy this month as it unfolds. There are many ways to reach out and touch our neighbors and experience first-hand the historically significant, long-standing traditions of our rural county.

Best wishes to all for this holiday season!