Harry Truman was president. “The Goldbergs” was the hot new show on TV.

The price of a new house was about $7,500. Gasoline went for 17 cents. The typical minimum wage was 70 cents an hour.

And the price of a new Christmas toy was about $1.

It was 1949. Times were hard for a lot of families in Portland, and the holidays were coming fast.

So began what is now the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts.

Matthew I. Barron, then Portland’s assistant welfare director, did the math and conceived of a simple plan.

If he could get his hands on $1,000, then 1,000 needy kids in Portland could all have a toy for Christmas. Children would have something to smile about no matter how much their parents were struggling.

It made perfect sense to Evening Express Editor Robert B. Beith, who announced a drive to raise the $1,000 in his “We Hear” column, which he ran under the pseudonym “Bruce Roberts” – Beith’s first and middle names in reverse order.

By the time the campaign had ended, the first Santa Fund raised $3,903.

Barron and Beith are gone, as is the Evening Express. But their legacy continues to inspire donations from readers that bring joy to children.

Like, for example, a $50 donation that arrived recently with this note: “In memory of our great-grandfather Bob Beith – Bruce Roberts – Savannah and Holly.”

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents. The fund – now in its 68th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties.

Applications can be downloaded at pressheraldtoyfund.org or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made at pressheraldtoyfund.org or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund and mailing them to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.

TOY FUND DONATIONS

JOCIJIANNA 68 years of contributing $500

Because we love kids! Margie & Charlie Emmons $200

Remembering Norman and Ann Stone $100

In memory of Goatie and Roxie – Love, Mya $100

Andrew Stickney $500

Chris & Larry Bennett $100

Anonymous $100

Frank & Deborah Pecoraro $1000

Dorothy Bruce $50

Linda Hanscom $50

In memory of Paul J. White, my late husband, who contributed for many years. Katherine White $100

Sons of Amvets Post 2 $100

Richard King $100

Debbie Nelson $25

Greater Portland Alumnae Chapter Alpha Omicrom Pi $25

Robert & Linell Slaktowicz $20

In honor of Maryan McKinney, who loves kids and Christmas $20

Anonymous $100

In memory of Helena Cavanaugh Dowd $100

Westbrook Senior Citizens $50

In memory of Rick & Ann Hall and Doris Hardy $50

In memory of Wm. C. Mitton $250

In memory of Chris Heavey $250

In honor of our grandsons – Sam, Kevin, and Jacob $150

Sue and Jack $51

In loving memory of Mrs. Elizabeth Sawtelle, and Mr. & Mrs. Daniel Bellino. Merry Christmas! Dave & Cathy $50

In loving memory of Rev. & Mrs. Robert Haldane Sr. and our beloved Bentley. Merry Christmas! Dave & Cathy $50

Past Matrons Assoc. Corner Stone Chapter #193 $15

Merry Christmas! Roger & Lydia Percival $25

Merry Christmas! Jim & Kathy Ryan $100

In honor of the five McLeod brothers who served in World War II $50

In memory of Ellen M. Higgins $50

Joan & Arthur Cope $25

In memory of Stanley F. Sampson Jr. $50

Anonymous $100

Merry Christmas! $25

Joanne & Ronald Strout $50

R-Bruce and Marie-Jo Andrews $100

Wesley Lovejoy $100

Year to date $65,985

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