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Ward & Bess Packard's Christmas in 1922

By Charles Ohlin, National Packard Museum Director of Education and Historical Research

National Packard Museum is honored and privileged to have access to the diaries of several Packard family members including James Ward Packard and Elizabeth Gillmer Packard, referred to in this piece as Ward and Bess. 

Ward & Bess Packard spent the summer and fall of 1922 at their palatial Chautauqua Lake estate in Jamestown, NY before returning to their more modest home on North Park Ave. in Warren, Ohio on December 6, 1922. (The Packard residence is now home to the Buckeye Club.)

The Packards return to their North Park Ave. residence began, as might be expected, with ordinary tasks. After unpacking and hanging curtains, Bess went to the market. The couple then made the rounds visiting family and friends they had not seen since spring.

Despite the cold winter weather, the couple resumed their customary long walks around town and lengthy drives through the countryside including a drive around Cortland and then rural Howland Township with Ward's older brother Will and his wife, Kitty.

Ward and Bess also met with their architects to review more refined plans for the new mansion they planned to build on a lot they purchased on Oak Knoll Drive earlier in the year.

Most likely, the highlight of Ward's December was his trip to Cleveland to take delivery of a new, custom-ordered Packard sports car and the 50-mile drive home in the speedy roadster.

Unlike Ward's well-publicized, trouble-plagued trip from Cleveland to Warren in his Winton horseless carriage nearly 25 years earlier, his drive back to Warren in his new Packard sports car was uneventful. (Bess remarked that she liked the new car very much.)

Ward and Bess spent much of the first half of December 1922 preparing for Christmas.

The Packards made several trips to Cleveland shopping for the perfect Christmas gifts. Shopping trips to Cleveland that December usually included lunch at the exclusive Union Club on Euclid Avenue, of which the Packards were members.

On another trip, Bess and her father, T.I. Gillmer, a retired Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge and former County Prosecutor, took in a matinee performance at the newly opened Palace Theater in Cleveland's Playhouse Square. Bess described the Palace as "very beautiful, too beautiful for vaudeville." 

Back home in Warren, Bess decorated their residence with Christmas wreaths and window boxes she purchased at Adgate and Kunkel Florists. She also wrote and mailed out 96 Christmas cards that year.

On Christmas morning, Ward and Bess took wreaths to the Packard and Gillmer family plots in Oakwood Cemetery. Later that afternoon, they entertained Bess's niece Katie Summers and her family. That evening, they called on neighbors Sam and Molly Russell at their home on Scott Street.

On the day after Christmas, Ward and Bess took a long walk. Bess then went for a ride by herself in her car, saying she was "about crazy with street noises."

On December 30, Ward and Bess hosted a luncheon for Ward's cousin from Cleveland, Attorney Kingdon Siddal and his nameless friend, whom Bess simply described as "some Frenchman".

Ward and Bess Packard's year ended quietly with New Year's Eve dinner at brother Will and Kitty's tudor-style mansion on Mahoning Ave. (now Community Skilled Assisted Living facility). Will and Ward's youngest sister, Olive, her husband Guy Gardner, her son Henry Packard White, and Guy's mother Harriet, all of Cleveland, were the other guests.

Bess described the party as "a very pleasant time," even though they spent most of the afternoon listening to church service on the radio.

Bess, known for her dry sense of humor, wrote in her diary that (listening to church services) was an "awful thing to inflict on a party, but perhaps not as hard as trying to keep up conversations."