Throwback Thursday by Matson Insurance: Charles Bowdish’s Old-Fashioned Christmas

Matson Insurance is partnering with Jefferson County History Center to offer readers a look into Jefferson County’s past. Today, “Charles Bowdish’s Old-Fashioned Christmas” is being showcased.

(Photo: For many years Charles Bowdish created an annual model railroad show at Christmastime in his home along Red Bank Creek. After he moved it to Buhl Planetarium in Pittsburgh, he began writing occasional letters to the editor.)


Machinist, electrician, woodworker, photographer, miniaturist, creative genius! Each has described Charles Albert Bowdish, the man behind the Miniature Railroad & Village™ at the Carnegie Science Center. Very few descriptions, however, describe him as a writer.

Bowdish was born before the turn of the 20th century, witnessed the wars of the twentieth century as a citizen, and lived through both good and bad economic times. As he grew older he sat at his typewriter and reflected on his lifetime and what was happening around him. Those reflections took the form of letters to the editor that were printed in the local papers. From his letters, we can get a sense of the man and his beliefs.

Bowdish had created an annual Christmas exhibit in his home at 8 White Street in Brookville for more than three decades before moving it to Pittsburgh in 1954. The sixties gave birth to war in Vietnam, uprisings among American youth and women, and a statewide teacher strike. Charles, who admitted he enjoyed the attention he got from his exhibits, felt isolated. He penned a letter to the editor complaining that he’d been “turned out to pasture without one word of thanks for a job well done,” and signed it the “old-fashioned feller who still eats supper.”

He usually signed his letters with one form or other of “Charles Bowdish, the old-fashioned fellow that still eats supper,” a reflection of his rural roots where “dinner” was the noon meal and “supper” was eaten in the evening.

He continued writing, sometimes one, more often two or three letters each year to the local papers. These letters reveal him as a fiscal conservative, politically independent, and patriot. He was uninterested in accumulating wealth yet would be beholding to no one, and surprisingly, he was a supporter of women’s rights. But most of all, he was a passionate and fundamental believer and a lover of an old-fashioned Christmas.

Each fall he would sit at his typewriter on the second floor of the house at 8 White Street and type a Christmas message for his exhibit programs. Once he wrote, “May there come to you and yours not only this Christmas day, but every day, an abundance of the most precious things of life, good health and enduring friendships,” and that is our wish, too, to our readers during this Christmas season.

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Matson Insurance in Brookville.

Submitted by the Jefferson County History Center.

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