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For those who believe newspapers care more about slaying than sleighing, I'll offer the Dec. 23, 1916, front page of The Lake County Times.

Thirteen years after the first successful airplane flight, United Press writer George Martin sent out a story that said Santa Claus wouldn't give up his sleigh in favor of newfangled means of transportation.

"Won't Give Up Sleigh and Deer; Turns Down Offer of Aeroplane Submarin nd Automobile, Old Stuff Best," said the headline writer who seemed to come up two letters short.

Martin told of his visit to Santa's big silver barn in great detail.

Santa urged Martin to turn on the lights, but Martin couldn't find the switch.

"'Why,' said Santa with a chuckle, as he rolled back one of the big, black marble doors and stepped out, 'they're where the Northern Lights ought to be; in this gold and silver box fastened to the North Pole over here.' So saying he switched them one, and say, weren't they beauties," Martin's story said.

The tour was something else.

"And the mountains of toys and dolls and sleds and all kinds of presents were scattered around the North Pole as far as you could see in all directions," Martin wrote. "The reporter knew that pretty soon the hundreds of little Santa Claus children, each one looking like a Tom Thumb edition of Santa himself, would come rolling and tumbling out of the barn and go scuttling around over the hills of gifts, putting the right labels on each one."

"This year there was something more," Martin wrote. "All around the big silver barn there were hundreds of little barns and every one of them built of hammered gold and green marble. And in each one of them was a little polished steel sleigh and fifty teams of baby reindeer."

Santa explained. "I've been trying to do too much all by myself. The world is growing so fast, there are so many more little boys and girls and grown ups than there used to be and I am getting so old that I had to get somebody to help me or else give up trying to get all around to everybody in one night."

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That same issue of The Lake County Times contained other fascinating Christmas news.

Gary's first Christmas tree was set up that year.

"The tree, 30-foot affair, stands at 15th avenue and Broadway. It will be electrically lighted and at its summit there will shine a star and a Noel Logen." I believe that was a lute, if Google's translation software worked right, and if I read that blotchy word correctly.

Christmas dinner could be purchased at restaurants, too. The Hammond Cafe even offered a special Christmas Day dinner for either 60 cents or 70 cents. The higher-priced meal included oyster cocktail, hallibut, candied sweet potatoes, choice of meats (including roast suckling pig with fried applies), asparagus tips and either English Christmas pudding, brandy sauce or hot mince pie.

Plumer's Restaurant at 10 W. State offered "the only good cup of coffee in the city," according to its ad. It also offered "a first class 7-passenger Touring Car for any occasion."

John E. "Santa Claus" Fitzgerald, general manager of the Hammond Distillery, was generous, The Lake County Times reported.

"His employees and pensioners who are remembered in a delightful way at Christmas assure Mr. Fitzgerald of an A-1 rating in the 'Big Book' above," the story said. 

"Negele The 'Druggist'," which we hope was a pharmacy, at Calumet Avenue and Fayette Street, offers "Special Sale Bibles" that had "Flat Flexible Binding at Unheard of Prices—An Everlasting Gift."

And the Goodfellows club at U.S. Steel's Gary Works held a party that day for foreign children.

So there was plenty of festive news for readers 100 years ago today.

Politics/History Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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