One of the Most Iconic Movie Props

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Who remembers the leg lamp? Who still has one?


The 1983 movie, A Christmas Story, is about an Indiana family in 1940. The story is told through the eyes of a nine year old boy.  The film opened with mediocre box office sales, and it only ran for a few weeks. The movie was unique among Christmas movies heavy on nostalgia like Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.  Since 1983, the movie has gained popularity and influenced later Christmas movies like Elf

A Christmas Story was

“a new kind of holiday movie, one that acknowledged- even relished- the ‘unbridled avarice,’ the commercialism, the disappointments, the hurt feelings and all around bad luck that in reality often define the merry season.”

“Indescribably Beautiful”

The character of the father, known as “The Old Man,” entered a trivia contest, and with his wife’s help wins. The prize? A  full sized, woman’s leg including high heels and fishnet stocking fashioned into a lamp  that is “indescribably beautiful.”  

The story continues as the wife, not liking the prize lamp, breaks it.

When “The Old Man” tries to fix it with glue, only to find that his wife had used it all – intentionally.

“Quintessential Christmas Tradition”

In 1997, Time Warner began to run the movie on a continuous loop from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. For many families this movie,  “a bracing blast of satire and realism, wrapped up in a hilarious pitch-perfect tale of a middle-class family . . .through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy” is a cherished holiday tradition.

Years later, Bob Clark, the director, noted with some surprise that “this low budget fluke of a movie had become a quintessential Christmas tradition.” 

Watch the Movie at the Museum!

Join us on Sunday, December 15 at 2:00 pm for a special showing of The Christmas Story at HCHM. Explore our new exhibit, Back to the 80s.

Please note: If the event is cancelled due to bad weather, we will post on our Facebook page.

Christmas Treats from HCHM’s Cookbook Collection

Last week, we shared a slide show of Christmas decorations over the years in Harvey County.

This week features another tradition to celebrate the holidays – food.

Several years ago, HCHM published a cookbook. The recipes below come from this book as well as a collection of recipe cards in a private collection.  A Step Back in Thyme” is available at the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks.

 Hot Wassail & Instant Russian Tea

Cookies & Candy

Mrs. Goertzen’s Fudge



The Kansan Kook Book, n.d.

In the early 1900s, the Evening Kansan Republican collected recipes and printed The Kansan Kook Book.  The recipes below are from volume 4.

Pride of the Kitchen, 1898



Some of the more interesting recipes have been written in the margins and cover of the book.




The Bride’s Cookbook, n.d.



If you try any of these recipes, let us know how they turned out!




Christmas Greetings From Sylvia Muse.

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

A number of years ago, the family of Sylvia Muse donated her postcard collection and research material.  Sylvia started her collection one year after she was born when her grandmother, Fianna B. Grabill,  sent her a first  birthday card with “bluebirds embossed on it and was beautiful” was sent to her by her grandmother, Fianna B. Grabill.

Sylvia was born in rural Harvey County, Kansas, to Henry M. & Harriet A. Dibble Grabill on Valentine’s Day in  1911.

Sylvia, age 4, at the family home near Hesston, Ks

Some of Sylvia’s father’s family remained in Pennsylvania creating the perfect opportunity for correspondence.  To keep in contact, cards and letters were mailed back and forth between the family in Pennsylvania and Kansas.  Each card Sylvia received, she  placed in a special box.  As she got older, she would take out the cards and make up stories or her mother would sit with her and tell about her family in Pennsylvania who had sent the card.

In her later years, as she began writing her family history, the cards recieved from far away family provided a touchstone.  She described, “it was like meeting old friends and I thought of all those people who had sent me the cards.”

Christmas Greetings – Sylvia Grabill Dewey Muse

Muse had a large collection of Christmas cards and she noted, “I found that the cards reflect the issue and interest of that particular year.”


Sylvia Grabill Dewy Muse

She drew on the cards she had collected throughout her life to create a program as part of the “I-Witness” program at Larksfield Place, Wichita, Ks.

Sylvia Muse’s Christmas Greetings

The images below are pages from programs she gave in the 1990s based on her collection.  Notebooks with her complete Christmas collection will be available to view at HCHM on Dec. 2 through Dec. 30.

Early 1900s




1929 Card





Cards produced in the 1960s reflected events such as space travel.





In the early 1970s, cards began showing children of different color and nationalities.



In 1977, Hallmark produced what would become their best selling Christmas card.  By 1996, 36 million cards with the three angels had been sold.


Remake of the 3 Angels Card was not as popular, 1993.


1985 The Olympics

2000 A New Millennium







Sylvia died October 27, 2012 at the age of 101.