Christmas stories are prevalent in Palmyra’s history and two of those stories come to mind. You may have heard them before, but I never get sick of telling about them. Let’s tell about our banker, Pliny T. Sexton of the Palmyra National Bank. Although a shrewd businessman, he also had a gentle, giving side. In his large bank office he would sit at his desk and give each child that would come in a dime. That dime might seem small to us today, but for these children it was a treasure. They could buy ten pieces of penny candy, a yo yo or a top and maybe a small present for their mom who takes care of them all year long.
Suppose you were a letter writer, ten cents could buy you ten stamps. Imagine that. Pliny T. also felt that having no shoes was no excuse not to go to school. He would make sure that children needing shoes to go to school would have them. All you had to do was to ask. One Christmas Day Pliny T’s generosity was tested by a man named Tinklepaugh. As in the day, it was common for the children to dress in their poorest clothes and go door to door of the fancier homes and “beg” for whatever was offered. Sometimes it was a coin and maybe it was some coal for the fire, how about a couple of logs of wood, some figgy pudding or a loaf of bread.
On this one particular Christmas Day a boy came to Pliny T and asked for a dollar. Pliny T. said, “Young fellow, I shall give you double what Lawyer Tinklepaugh gives you. Go to Lawyer Tinklepaugh and when he gives you money come back and show me, you will receive double. “The young fellow ran down the two blocks to see the lawyer. Being a shrewd young fellow, he told Tinklepaugh what Pliny T. had said about doubling the money. With an interesting look on his face Lawyer Tinklepaugh asked the boy to wait and came back with a crisp $5 bill. Lawyer Tinklepaugh gave this to the beaming fellow and with a giant thank you as he ran down the street to Pliny T’s bank. He knocked on the door with urgency and said sir, sir, Lawyer Tinklepaugh gave me this as he showed him the crisp bill. As Pliny T. looked down, he grumbled a bit under his breath, and reluctantly; but with a twinkling in his eye, matched the bill with another crisp $10. A man of his word, Pliny T. would always make good his promises. This young man had the most wonderful Christmas that year. His family couldn’t believe this wind fall. Now they could have Christmas dinner, a warm fire, a present or two and some sweets..
Another one of my favorite people was Chief Henry Hilborn, Palmyra Police Chief in 1922-23. He served almost twenty-four-seven dedicated to his job. He was also a veteran of WWI and member of the Palmyra American Legion. He found time from his busy crime fighting schedule to dress up on Christmas Eve as Santa Claus at the Legion, ho ho hoing with a big red bag listening to the children’s wishes and giving them all a present. This stern, young 30 year old, crime fighting Chief never missed a chance to help and work with the children. No one would have thought that in September of 1923 this dedicated law enforcer would be poisoned by the bootlegging community, the underground of prohibition. It was a sad time for the loss of this amazing man.
You might say, there are no more Christmas stories of generosity and service today; but you would be so wrong. The Pal-Mac Lions Club serves tirelessly ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, outside of Walmart, enduring the freezing temperatures each night for two weeks. The Rotary stands in Breens ringing the bell. The Lions deliver the Angel Tree gifts with gifts from the community that has taken a tree angel with wishes from each child or someone in need purchasing and wrapping these presents. Generosity is alive and well in Palmyra and giving is part of what we do. Merry Christmas to you all. Museum is closed for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, re-opening Jan. 7. Call the museum at 597-6981 for the gift shop.