Merry Christmas, Gen. Otis
Dec. 24, 1907
Last-minute shopping, crowded post offices, trees decorated in hotel lobbies and toys given by Santa to the neediest children of the city; it was a Christmas season very much like today. And at Levy’s, 310 Times employees gathered to celebrate the most prosperous year in the newspaper’s history.
Of course, as The Times noted, not everyone could attend because “the news must needs be collected and the wheels kept going.”
Between courses of the Christmas dinner, speakers made humorous comments, following the motto: “Spare not the gaff, but live to laugh.”
Harry Chandler received a set of doll triplets and Gen. Otis was presented with a tin sword. The employees also put together a comic eight-page paper, “The Timeslet,” full of jokes, satirical ads and cartoons. Among the most notable speakers was George W. Burton, “known around the office as ‘The Bishop,’ who gave “a jolly and entertaining talk, full of humorous thrusts at the managing editor and others.”
Gen. Otis received a silver loving cup from the employees, along with a speech by the staff poet, John S. McGroarty:
“Gen. Otis is this afternoon the guest of his official family. He is among his own people—the people who are nearest to him and in whom he is most interested. In his busy and strenuous life he has to do with many men who are great and powerful in the world’s affairs, but it is we who toil within the strong walls of the old gray castle who are his strength and upon whom he relies. His enemies are not here, but are outside of the breastworks, where they lie more or less incapacitated....
“It is Christmastime and we, the members of the great craft who are each doing our part to produce a great newspaper every day in the year, are here to celebrate. The head of the house sits with us, as one of us and not the least of the hard workers now as he has always been. To him, from his employees and from his fellow workers, from the men and women of The Times, I am commissioned to bear a message of goodwill and loyalty and upright treatment. As a token of these sentiments, I present to Gen. Otis this loving cup, knowing that he will accept it with the same feeling that inspired the givers.
“Knowing Gen. Otis as I do, I know that no gift that he has ever received will occupy in his stately home a more honored and more affectionate place than this cup will occupy.
“Within his rooftree are many trophies of both war and peace—emblems of hard fights won on the fields of battle as well as in the oftentimes fierce struggles of peace. But when his eyes rest on this cup, which bears to him its message of faithfulness, the loyalty, the esteem and the affection of his own people, there will be no other to stand beside it.
“Gen. Otis, on behalf of my associates, I present this gift to you with old Rip Van Winkle’s toast: ‘Here’s to you and all your family; may you all live long and be happy.’ ”
The Times said: “Gen. Otis was taken by surprise and was much affected. He expressed his thanks for the token of esteem and affection, and spoke feelingly of his appreciation of the loyalty of his corps, remarking that the size of the gathering, the harmony of it and the whole spirit of the affair were most admirable, and once more assuring all that the gratitude of and kindly notice of the publishers of The Times were accorded to every faithful worker, no matter how humble.”
The banquet closed with three cheers for Gen. Otis and new refrain set to the tune “Auld Lang Syne”:
“The good old, good old Times, old Times
The good old, good old Times
Join in the song on every lip
The good old, good old Times.”
e-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com