PORTAGE PATHWAYS: Color TVs big-ticket items for bittersweet 1963 yule

By RogerJ. Di Paolo | Record-Courier Editor Published:

Christmas 1963 was a bittersweet one.

Tempered by the profound loss many felt in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy one month before the holiday, the joyousness of the season was somewhat muted.

"The nation resolutely faces a joyous holiday in the midst of unparalleled sadness," the Record-Courier observed in an editorial on Christmas Eve. "Through its sadness, America rededicates itself to the spirit of Christmas."

Despite the death of the president, during the December days leading to the holiday, the pages of the R-C were filled with holiday advertisements offering gift suggestions for all ages. Virtually all of the advertisers have vanished from Ravenna and Kent in the 50 years since then, but many of their gift ideas remain applicable for 21st Century shoppers. The prices have changed quite a bit, however.

The big ticket item for many households was a color television, a pricey gift in 1963 when most TV viewers could count on receiving only three channels in addition to "snowy" reception on UHF. Adjusting for inflation -- $1 in 1963 is equivalent to about $7.60 today -- only adds to the steepness of the prices.

Newman TV on Cleveland Road in Ravenna offered a Motorola console for $479.95 -- that would be the equivalent of $3,665 today. Better Living Appliances on Lake Street in Kent advertised a color TV for $450, with a "huge" lighted Santa Claus "absolutely free with purchase." Montigney Hardware in downtown Ravenna had an Admiral set on sale for $399.95, while Dayho Electronics on Longmere Drive in Kent offered an RCA model for $448.

Other electronic items were a bit less expensive, but still costly for the budget conscious.

Music Mart of Kent, located in the Kent Theater building, advertised a Magnavox clock radio for $29.95 -- that would be $228 today. A transistor radio, a hot ticket for teenagers in the early 1960s, cost $13.95 -- roughly $100 today.

There was no shortage of gift ideas for those whose Christmas lists included clothing for men, women or children. And the prices were a bit more reasonable.

Kertscher's in downtown Ravenna advertised women's robes from $12 to $20, with "harem slippers" for $5. Morry's, another downtown Ravenna mainstay, had negligee sets on sale for $5.95 and "house frocks" for $2.95.

Purcell's in downtown Kent touted "Everything for a man's Xmas," including suits from $25 to $50, hats from $10.95, dress shirts for $4.50 and that holiday perennial -- the Christmas tie -- starting at $1.50. Men's suits were $29.50 at Morry's, where shirts for boys retailed at $1.98 to $2.50.

Getz Bros. Hardware in downtown Kent had gift suggestions ranging from bobsleds, skis and toboggans to coffee makers and electric mixers, in addition to "toys of all kinds." Picciones' in Ravenna offered gift ideas in its remodeled store, while Bissler's -- marking its 50th anniversary in Kent -- advertised recliners for $69.95 and wing chairs for $79. Carpenter's Jewelry in downtown Kent advertised Bulova watches, $24.75 and up -- with terms as low as $1 per week.

The Jack & Jill Shoppe in Ravenna advertised "the largest toy selection in the area" and reminded shoppers the store was open every night. Gilbert erector sets were $2.19 at Clarkins at University Plaza in Kent. Donaghy Drug in Kent offered View-Master slide viewers for $1.75.

Skorman's Miracle Mart, a popular destination in Ravenna for many shoppers, had a large selection of toys at budget prices. Ballerina dolls, 31 inches tall with "beautiful rooted hair" were $3.99, and "combat gun and helmet sets" were 76 cents. A best seller was the Etch-a-Sketch, at $1.86.

Miracle Mart also offered Christmas decorations including light sets for 76 cents and ornaments, a box of a dozen for 38 cents. Christmas tree stands were 58 cents, and revolving color wheels for aluminum trees were $2.96 -- about $23 today.

For a more lasting reminder of Christmas 1963, Nichol's 5c to $1 store in downtown Ravenna advertised baby pictures for youngsters from six weeks to 6 years old, with a special on 11- by 14-inch portraits for 88 cents.

While it's a good bet that the clothing, appliances and toys purchased for that bygone holiday have long since been discarded, chances are some of those 88-cent photos are now cherished reminders of Christmas 1963.

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