Our Library collection includes photographs of the various efforts of the Montgomery County Community Chest and Council.  “Community Chest” was a name adopted by civic-minded charitable organizations around the country in the early-mid 20th century (many of which were eventually combined under the United Way umbrella); our county’s group was founded in 1943.  Agencies such as local Scout and youth groups, the Public Health Lay Council, and the county Social Service League (founded in 1908, later renamed Family Services Agency) joined the Community Chest and helped organize, fund and run programs like the Christmas Bureau, which provided food, clothing and gifts for families in need.  Here’s a photo of a Toys for Tots delivery to the Volunteer Christmas Bureau Store, circa 1950:

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Toys for Tots was started in 1947, and adopted as an official program of the US Marine Corps Reserve in 1948. This photo from our collections is accompanied by an undated press release, identifying Technical Sergeant Robert E. McPhee “shoulder[ing] one of the cartons of 300 toys delivered this week” to the county Christmas Bureau, along with volunteer clerks Mrs. Sol Goldman, Mrs. Charles Gordon, and Mrs. Seymour Leopold.

In the late 1950s, the Community Chest and Council joined the newly formed Montgomery Health and Welfare Council, “a regional unit of the Health and Welfare Council of the National Capital Area” (according to their 1959 annual report).  The Christmas Bureau was still an important part of the organization’s work, with 391 county families receiving gifts from the Bureau in 1959.  I’ve not figured out where the storefront in the photo above was located, but by the late 1950s the Christmas Bureau store was held at the Montgomery County fairgrounds in Gaithersburg.  Here’s a photo of two Silver Spring Rotarians preparing a delivery of what looks like ham (?) to the Christmas Bureau store, as helpfully noted by the sign propped next to the loaded station wagon: “We are on our way with Christmas Gifts to the Christmas Store located at Gaithersburg Fair Grounds, Sponsored by the Montgomery County Christmas Bureau.”

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Our collection also includes a few photos of “Santa’s Hideaway,” a temporary mini-store set up in Silver Spring, probably to let children choose their gifts from amongst donated toys and games.  Though the Hideaway has so far proven rather elusive, research-wise, the photos themselves tell us that it was funded in part by Red Feather campaign donations (the Red Feather was a symbol used by the United Givers Fund, later part of the United Way), and supported over several years by local radio station WGAY.  The two images below, from different years, show first a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, attended by various officials (including Howard Bain, president of the county United Givers Fund in 1955); and second a group of children, each holding a different toy – though it’s not clear whether they’ve just received them as presents, or they’re preparing to donate them – being interviewed by a very serious-looking WGAY reporter.

051060L(Howard Bain, president of the county United Givers Fund in 1955, is second from right; an Ellsworth Drive (Silver Spring) street sign is on the telephone pole.  In addition to the large “WGAY – dial 1050 – The Suburban Maryland Station” banner, a smaller sign advertises radio broadcasts held from the Hideaway: “North Pole Calling” by Chuck Dulane, and “Melody Circus” by Val Thomas.  If you’d care to while away some time with memories and photos of WGAY, here’s a fun website for you.)

051060J(Notice the Red Feather / Community Chest sign, as well as another WGAY sign, and what might be an ad for the Maryland News paper.)

Do you recognize any of the people or locations in the photos posted here?  Do you remember the Montgomery County Christmas Bureau or Santa’s Hideaway campaigns? Let us know!  A little extra knowledge would be a great holiday-of-your-choice gift to myself and our Librarians.  And here’s a gift for those of you who live (or have lived) in the county, and who enjoy surveys: A survey!  We’re planning an exhibit on Montgomery County’s long tradition of civic activism, including but not limited to activities like the ones featured in today’s post.  This survey, put together for us by a graduate student at the University of Maryland History and Library Science program, will help us gather stories and artifacts for the exhibit.

Photos donated to the MCHS Library by the Health and Welfare Council.

 

 

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