And now you know: Gifts for Orange’s first baby in 1960

Published 9:30 am Monday, December 30, 2019

Mike Louviere, And Now you Know

There was a time when having the first baby of the New Year was a cause for celebration in Orange. The businesses in Orange would give the new baby and the baby’s parents gifts ranging from a playpen to “a crisp dollar bill.” It was a sort of contest and as such there were rules.

The time of birth at either Orange Memorial Hospital or Frances Ann Lutcher Hospital had to be verified by either the attending physician or the hospital. The parents had to send information of the birth to the Orange Leader within 12 hours of the birth. Once the Leader had information about the earliest birth, no other reports would be accepted.

In 1960, the total value of gifts was approximately $200. Nearly every business in Orange contributed.

ABC Food Stores, from the #2 Store, gave a case of baby food. Dallas-Beadle Furniture Store gave a “Baby Strolee”; General Furniture Company gave a $5 bill; Case and McGee Furniture donated “A sturdy all wood play pen”; First National Bank opened a new savings account for the baby with a $5 deposit; Goldfine’s gift was a pair of Baby Jumping Jack Shoes; Claybar Funeral Home announced that they would transport the new mother and baby home for free in “our new custom built ambulance”; Foreman’s gave a $5 gift certificate; B.F. Goodrich gave a set of Melmac Dinnerware, service for eight; Conn’s Furniture was giving “a crisp new dollar bill”; Gem Jewelry furnished a teething ring rattle; Green’s gave a baby knit shawl by Knittown; Gulf States Utility Company gave an electric alarm clock; Kyle’s Dress Shop, a five dollar gift certificate for the mother; Nelson Drug Store gave a Kaz Vaporizer; S&L Pharmacy donated a Trav-All Thero-Thermo Food Bag; Gunn’s Studio offered an 8X10 black and white portrait worth $6.95; Levine’s offering was $5 worth of merchandise from their baby department; Orange Appliance Center offered a $50 gift certificate good for the purchase of any Maytag Appliance; the Sani-Didy Diaper Service of Shepherd’s Laundry was furnishing a 30 day free diaper service; Harding and Lawler was opening a saving account in the new baby’s name at Orange and Savings and Loan with a $5 deposit; Little Mexico Restaurant was giving a deluxe Mexican dinner to each parent; Orange National Bank was setting up a savings account in the amount of $5; Staudt’s Jewelry gave a two piece baby spoon and fork set; Orange Savings and Loan set up a savings account with a $5 deposit; Velma’s Dress Shoppe gave the mother a $5 gift certificate; The Strand Theater gave the parents a $5 book of movie tickets; Morrow’s Appliance gave a $25 gift certificate; Paul’s Pharmacy donated a bottle sterilizer; The Western Auto Associate Store donated a bottle warmer.

The gifts to the baby and parents were varied, useful, and very much appreciated by the parents. The list of gifts and the logos of the businesses covered two full pages in the Orange Leader.

Cullen Browning was the editor of the Leader, in his editorial, Browning wrote about changes coming to the businesses of Orange.

According to Browning, Sears would be opening their store in the new MacArthur Shopping Center within the first two weeks of the new year. He said that in short form other businesses would be locating to the “big retail development.

He also wrote that the Molley family owned a smaller tract of land across the drive from the shopping center and were hoping to open a smaller shopping center.

“Whether there is one center or two the development is going to make a sweeping change in the retail picture in Orange”, wrote Browning.

Browning wrote that in other communities where there had been strong competition from perimeter establishments there had not necessarily been a slump in downtown retail business. He said it had taken organized action from merchants to avoid a slump, and that so far, the merchants in Orange’s central business district had not organized.

The big shopping center eventually had a drastic effect on downtown Orange business. In addition to having a number of businesses in one location, there were no parking meters like those in downtown Orange. Parking was free at the shopping center.

The closing of the Navy base and closing of the shipyards cost Orange hundreds of jobs and thousands of dollars.

Over the years, the businesses which once donated so generously to the New Year’s first baby began to close. Now they are only memories of how local business in Orange once was.

“And now you know.”