Lois Stoffle, left, of Maybell, and Peggy Gonzales, who lives south of Craig, share a smile Friday morning in the Colorado Northwestern Community College Bell Tower Building while holding memoirs they wrote for a class offered by the college. They are among several area residents who wrote memoirs recounting Christmas memories.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Lois Stoffle, left, of Maybell, and Peggy Gonzales, who lives south of Craig, share a smile Friday morning in the Colorado Northwestern Community College Bell Tower Building while holding memoirs they wrote for a class offered by the college. They are among several area residents who wrote memoirs recounting Christmas memories.

Moffat County residents share recollections of holidays past

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Students in a Colorado Northwestern Community College memoir writing class pose for a photo Friday in the college’s Bell Tower Building. Pictured above, back row, from left, are Patsy Magness, of Craig; Bobbie Harper, of Craig; Lois Stoffle, of Maybell; and Peggy Gonzales, who lives south of Craig. Second row, from left, are Phyllis Bingham, of Craig; and Nancy O’Conor, of Maybell. Front, row, seated, is Mei Jenrich, of Craig.

Embracing a loved one newly returned from the battlefields of World War II.

Finding an unexpected gift that heralded the beginning of a couple’s life together.

These are some of the memories students in a Colorado Northwestern Community College memoir writing class reflected on recently.

These and other Christmas recollections are included in some of the students’ memoirs, which are printed below, along with the author’s name and place of residence.

They were provided courtesy of Mary Morris, CNCC’s Craig campus’ director of community education and public information.

Many memoirs the students produced express the importance that family played in their lives, Morris said, and capture the “simplicity of Christmas.”

A Christmas surprise

By MARCIA ROYSTER

Maybell

When I was growing up in Florida, our driveway was a quarter of a mile from my school bus stop.

Often times, the school bus would drive past our stop because the driver would not see me. Then I would turn around and get my Daddy, who would be in the middle of shaving, to take me four miles to Melrose High School before the bell rang.

Daddy would have to return home and finish getting ready to go to Gainesville, 20 miles west of Melrose, to work. He never fussed at me for missing the bus.

One Saturday in December 1956, Daddy told Mama and I we were going to Gainesville for Christmas shopping.

Away we went.

My Daddy stopped on the way, just before downtown Gainesville to tend to some business at the Jeep dealership. He was a National Cash Register salesman and repaired old registers. Soon he came out and asked us to come with him.

As we entered the showroom, next to the window I saw a yellow and black Jeep with a canvas top. There was a big red bow tied on the yellow hood.

A man came over to meet us and handed Daddy the keys. Daddy stepped over to Mama, kissed her and handed her the keys, saying “Merry Christmas,” while pointing to the little yellow Jeep with the red bow. We stood there dumbfounded, in shock, unable to move.

Mama and I drove back to Melrose, and still to this day, I remember the big red bow flapping in the wind that remained stuck on the yellow hood for weeks.

What a nice surprise — no more catching the bus. I learned to drive going up and down our driveway, pushing down the clutch to shift gears: first, second, to third.

Later, I married my high school boyfriend, Ralph, and we had four wonderful children. They all learned to drive in my little Jeep. I remember our boys, Joe, Albert and William driving my little yellow Jeep at night, chasing skunks.

We moved to Colorado after our children grew up.

William, our youngest, loved my Jeep so I gave it to him.

On one of our visits back to Florida, he said, “Mama, you have got to come see what I did to your Jeep. After 30 years of wear and tear I had it redone. It’s brand spanking new.”

On Sunday, after church, we went over to check on my brand new, redone 1956 yellow Jeep.

To my horror, my yellow Jeep had turned fire-engine red!

I tried to hide my emotions, reminding myself I had given my Jeep to William.

I told him how nice it looked and drove around the block. How nice it drove, just like old times, even though my yellow Jeep was now painted red.

A military Christmas

By KEN “HOWDY” DAVIS

Craig

This year, it is hard to concentrate on a Happy Christmas and Lord knows I’ve had many.

My sidekick and grandson, Dylan, just let us know that he will be home in several weeks, which means he’ll be spending Christmas in Afghanistan.

I know what it was like to be in the service during the holidays. The enemy always figured we would let our guard down during the holidays; that our minds would be at home so we always doubled guard duty and stayed alert.

I spent Christmas in Barcelona, Spain, back in 1957, stationed aboard the battleship, U.S.S. New Jersey BB62, a flagship of the 6th Fleet.

My duty station was on the fantail, four hours on and four hours off.

In this friendly port I still carried an M1 Rifle and a 45 1911 on my side and was hooked up to a command post. It was Christmas Eve, and my thoughts were back in Pennsylvania. We had decorated the ship with a giant Santa strapped to the stack along with colored lights from bow to stern. Christmas music played from noon to midnight.

The next year we were back in the States. Our ship was anchored in Bayonne, New Jersey. We had been at sea for Christmas and arrived in Bayonne two days later.

Again, I had duty on the fantail. Again, four hours on, and four hours off because most of the crew were on leave. This time there was no music or bright lights, but the Statue of Liberty was in full view and I could see fireworks in the distance.

I leaned against a gun turret, watching the New York buildings, imagining all the parties and goings on.

I pictured 42nd Street at the stroke of midnight. Despite the fact that I could see Manhattan, I couldn’t hear a thing except the lonesome buoy bell in the harbor that rang every time a small wave rocked it.

Large yachts and ships were going and coming up the Hudson River. Close to midnight I realized that if something was going to happen, it was now. I began my vigilant walk around my assigned post, watching for anything suspicious. It is now one bell and all is well.

My mind goes to my grandson and him spending Christmas in that terrible place.

I dropped him a hint on Facebook a few days ago about how we used to double up our watch on Christmas, even in a friendly port or state-side.

We put up the tree and all the lights around the house and up the driveway, just the way it used to be when Dylan spent Christmas with us. I put the manger of baby Jesus out, remembering my little sidekick kneeling by the statues to talk to them. What a memory and what a holiday it will be for us when he gets home. We probably won’t sleep a wink between now and then.

God bless and watch over those who serve.

A very coal Christmas

By KEN “HOWDY” DAVIS

Craig

T’was the night before Christmas back in 1946, and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Convinced that Mom and Dad were snuggled in bed, seven-year-old brother Teddy and I, eight-years-old, slipped from our bed, donning our bathrobes.

We tiptoed down the stairs, to set a trap for Santa. First we checked the kitchen table to see if our cookies and milk were intact — it was hard to not take a bite and a sip.

Then we situated ourselves in a hideout behind Dad’s large easy chair, with a clear view of the tree, all decorated and lit up with bubble lights. I think watching those lights made us drowsy. We decided we would take turns sleeping, one of us should sleep for a while and then the other would take a turn.

The next thing we knew we were awakened by a commotion.

It was Mom and Dad getting ready for church. We crawled out of our hiding place to discover a large heavy box under the tree, wrapped up real nice with a great big bow and our names on it.

We could hardly pull it out from beneath the tree. We couldn’t wait! We tore into the box, ripping and tearing the paper. We raised the flaps to find the box was filled with coal! Next we ran to our stockings, figuring our presents would be there to find the stockings were filled with coal.

We were two sad little boys as we headed off to church. But upon returning home we found all of our presents under the tree. The memory of our Christmas filled with coal still lingers today.

How to build a snowman

By KEN “HOWDY” DAVIS

Craig

To build a snowman you need to catch the snow when it’s about six inches deep.

Make a snowball and begin to roll it so that you wind up at the spot where you intend to finish it.

If the snow is right, on a day with a little humidity, a snowball will nearly double in size with every roll. Roll it until you can no longer move it. Hopefully, it will end up where you wish it to be. Now you start on the second ball until it’s the size you desire.

With a little help you now place it on top of the first ball. The next step is to roll another snowball to make the head, which is much smaller.

Place it on top of the other two snowballs. Now it’s time to detail your snowman. For an interesting touch, you can take a spray bottle of water and food coloring and spray each of the lower body snowballs with red or green coloring.

Add pieces of coal for eyes, nose and mouth and top it off with a hat, cane, and scarf. For more fun, make a dog companion, a kid snowman or maybe Mrs. Snowperson. To be really clever, place a microphone behind it. You can now hide inside your house and talk to people as they pass by. If you can sing, it is even better. Have fun in the snow!

Special Christmas gift

By LOIS STOFFLE

Maybell

My best Christmas ever was in 1960. I was out of high school, working in a jewelry store.

My steady boyfriend was Ron Stoffle, a tall, good-looking red-head, with a friendly smile and a serious personality.

Our family was getting ready for Christmas Eve when the doorbell rang. It was Ron. He had been invited to join us for dinner.

After dessert, we went into the living room where our Christmas tree was lit up, surrounded by wrapped Christmas gifts.

Our family tradition was to open one gift on Christmas Eve. Ron handed me his gift. I opened it and was surprised to see a white fur jacket.

It was so beautiful and soft. I couldn’t wait to try it on, and when I did, it fit like a glove.

I was so happy!

Ron kept saying something about the buttons, so I started buttoning my jacket. When I tried to button the top button, something caught my finger. There, around the top button, Ron had tied my engagement ring.

End of World War II

By PEGGY GONZALES

Craig

Many Christmases have come and gone in 82 years, but the one that stands out is 1946.

The war was over; we couldn’t stop being thankful.

We could breathe. It had been my patriotic duty to write “V” mail letters to all the cousins, uncles, and friends during my teen years.

They were scattered all around the world. It was our first Christmas after the war and Uncle Alvin was due to come home on Christmas day. We all went to Grandmother’s house carrying food, lots of food, to wait for him.

Alvin was not a particularly handsome man, but when he came through the door carrying the duffle bag on his shoulder, tall lean, decked out in his uniform, he was a beautiful sight.

After giving Grandmother a long hug, then hugging his sisters, he shook hands with all the men. There was so much joy in the room I thought I was going to explode.

Alvin set a duffle bag in the middle of the floor and began to unload it. First, there was a sword he had taken from a German officer in France, then a bottle of perfume for Grandmother.

He had purchased most of the gifts from the P.X. when he was discharged. I received a charm bracelet with charms of places he had been in France and England and two tubes of Avon lipstick, a perfect gift for a 16-year-old girl.

That afternoon, he told us about some of his war experiences. He had been wounded in France and sent to a hospital in England to recover.

After his recovery, he met a young English girl at a U.S.O. dance and told her how he had grown up on a farm and how he was so hungry for a fresh egg, and he would give anything for a fresh egg.

The English people were literally starving, but were so grateful to Americans for saving them. Uncle Alvin said that even though the girl was hungry herself, she found a fresh egg and brought it to him.

The joy and love that filled Grandmother’s Oklahoma farmhouse back then still warms my heart today.

Feline Christmas dance

By NANCY O’CONOR

Maybell

On a Thursday night, the first week in December, I came home from work.

The tree my husband put up looked great. During dinner, the cats ran around, having a good old time. Then all of a sudden like slow motion, the tree started to fall over and hit the floor. Cats ran in two different directions.

One cat was puffed up, ready for a fight.

The other one disappeared to be found a while later. One broken ornament and the tree resumed its upright position. The feline Christmas dance is over, and the cats now eye the tree with suspicion.

Christmas in the 1930s

By MAXINE HOWE

Sunbeam

Living in Routt County, we always had a beautiful Christmas tree.

When our Dad cut the tree and set it up, our fun began!

For the last year our Mom had saved all the red, green, and yellow paper she could find for us four younger kids to make decorations for the tree.

We had hunted and saved snail shells all summer and with a darning needle and twine we would string them to make a rope for the lower branches of the tree, because they were heavy. We would string popcorn, what we didn’t eat, and make chains of colored paper, and angels of white paper.

When we finished our decorations, Mom had metal candleholders she would clip on the tree branches.

Next, she brought out a box of beautiful twisted candles of red, green and yellow that she would put in the holders. She ordered these from Montgomery Wards. There wasn’t electricity in the rural county then.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas night my Dad would bring in two big buckets of water, in case of fire, and Mom would light the candles.

Every year we thought it was the prettiest tree we ever had! Mom and Dad would keep watch, and let the candles burn down about one third of the way, then put them out, and light them again on Christmas night.

We never had to use the water.

We always had homemade fudge and a small bucket of assorted hard candy and chocolate drops. Our gifts were always something to wear. Mom was a beautiful seamstress, and the girls usually had a beautiful new dress, and my brother, a shirt.

Usually there was a new dress or nightgown tucked in our package for our dolls. We all made pictures and cards for Mom and Dad.

It was a very happy time, and I cherish the memories.

My favorite Christmas

By MAXINE HOWE

Sunbeam

Our son, Chip, enlisted in the United States Army when he was 19.

The day before his 21st birthday on November 3, 1968, he left Fort Lewis, Wash., for Vietnam.

It was a hard year for his two brothers, his Dad and I, although not nearly as hard as it was for Chip.

The next year, on Dec. 19, we got a phone call at 11 p.m.

It was Chip! He had just landed at the base in Fort Lewis, gotten his discharge papers, and was catching a plane within the hour for home.

He asked if we could meet him in Denver. We knew he would beat us to Denver, but we left Walden within a half an hour and was on our way.

My husband, Chas, my brother, Earl, and I left to pick Chip up. When I saw him walking down the hall to meet us I flew down that hall — I don’t think my feet touched the floor.

That was the start of a perfect Christmas. We decorated our home, made cookies and candy together, just the five of us. It was such a special time. That Christmas was filled with so many blessings, and we had so much to be thankful for. It was my best Christmas ever.

The Christmas star

By MAXINE HOWE

Sunbeam

We always cut our own Christmas tree and decorated it with a star on top.

Right after World War II, when Charley and I celebrated our first Christmas, we couldn’t buy any ornaments, lights or decorations because everything had been used up for the war. We cut a little spruce tree, about three feet high, and sat in on the kitchen counter.

Charley cut a star out of cardboard. He had saved the foil from inside his Camels or Lucky Strike cigarette packages and used the foil to cover the cardboard star.

He put it on top of the tree. When our sons were young we went to the store to buy a store-bought star. We looked at all of them and finally Chip said, “Mom, we don’t want to get an ornament, we want to keep our own star.”

I don’t have that special star anymore, but I still use a homemade star, made of cardboard, covered with foil, and cherish the memories of our first Christmas long ago.

Missing presents

By CHARLENE SCOTT

Sunbeam

After moving to Maybell, back 50 years ago or so, my husband, Vern, thought we needed to get a new car.

Traveling back and forth to Craig for groceries and other trips put a lot of miles on a vehicle and we needed a reliable car. Vern bought a nice car. I can’t remember what kind it was now, but I have a great story about it.

One day my friend, Rosemary Hertzog, and I decided to go to Craig Christmas shopping. We shopped and then stopped in for a bite to eat at the Midwest Café.

We were having a good time, or so we thought, until we got home.

Rosemary’s packages were missing. We could not find them anywhere. We tore the car apart, even taking the seat out, looking for those packages. Finally, we gave up looking.

Well, Maybell is a pretty small community and news travels fast, even news about disappearing Christmas presents.

The next morning, Joe Roberts called me to let me know that KRAI radio disk jockey,Dick Bonderud had announced that some folks had called in to report that someone had left some packages in their car and they were trying to return them to their rightful owners.

I called Rosemary and sure enough, when she identified the packages, they were hers. Their car looked just like mine, and my car was locked and their car was not. It was, and is still nice to know there are honest folks in Moffat County.

Community dinner

By STEFKA WHITE

Craig

The pale winter sunlight was quickly fading into night, but the beautiful winter scenery of Steamboat Springs was still evident as the blanket of snow reflected the lights of the town making the beautiful evening seem brighter than it was.

I sat at the festively decorated big round table and looked around me. Yes, this was much better than staying at home and missing my family.

I was glad we had taken the one-hour drive to Steamboat Springs. It was our modern day dash through the snow to go to dinner on Christmas day.

The radio was playing Christmas Carols, and alternated between lifting our spirits and the sadness of remembering Christmases past when the entire family and the invited guests were there at my mom and dad’s house.

The past was now a memory but thankfully we didn’t have to stay home with the entire family gone this Christmas.

The new Steamboat Community Center was decorated for Christmas with the typical red, green and gold decorations.

A Christmas tree stood in the corner. I looked out the windows as I waited for Mike.

The curtain-less windows each framed a piece of the mountains and snowy scenery reminiscent of a Christmas card. Inside the place was packed with people getting dinner and getting their deserts.

The servers were standing behind the buffet line, some of them wearing Santa Claus and Elf hats. The tables were rapidly filling up with a mixture of people.

There were young people and old people, and families with younger children. Young people in their early twenties dressed as if they had just gotten off work stood in line with well-dressed people who were obviously visitors.

Everyone was dressed in their best, no matter their station in life, and there was a feeling of togetherness although most of us were strangers to each other.

A young Asian woman and her husband recognized Mike and offered to share her table with us.

She had worked with Mike at the Steamboat Walmart. We chatted while we waited for Mike.

It took him some time as a lot of people knew him and stopped to speak with him. He returned to the table with an elderly gentleman with impeccable manners whom Mike invited to our table.

He had just survived a heart attack and surgery and was barely up and about. I spotted a lawyer and his wife who, like my husband and I, had an empty nest at home with his daughter gone to school.

He stopped by to speak to the old gentleman and to us. We were acquiring people who provided pleasant conversation and added to the festivities of Christmas Day dinner.

All around me, people were smiling. Some people held hands as they prayed, saying grace for the dinner they were about to enjoy, while others bowed their heads and prayed alone giving thanks to the Lord.

The food was excellent, the servers and Realtors and their families who hosted the event were cordial. While their parents served the dinner, or seated people, young children watched politely, ready to clear the tables for the next guests or to ask if anyone needed lemonade, water or coffee.

The usual turkey, ham, stuffing and potatoes and gravy were served, with surprise side dishes. The Steamboat Realtors and their families had provided home-made specialties they would have made for Christmas dinner for their own families.

There was green bean casserole, carrots and string beans, several varieties of mashed potatoes and jellied salad.

The desert table was laden with a variety of deserts from pumpkin pie, apple and mincemeat, and one of my husband’s favorites, Pecan pie. A variety of cake and cookies were also available.

I would have come even if I didn’t get to eat at all, thanks to certain food allergies, and just watched my husband and others eat while I sipped tea or had some pumpkin or apple pie.

It has become a tradition with us for the empty holidays with only the two of us.

A country and western group was tuning up ready to play the songs of the season. They were volunteers, musicians who were working at the hotels in Steamboat, with their only pay perhaps eating dinner with the rest of the people.

Even musicians who were away from home seemed to prefer to be with other people. I thought back a few years to an exceptional black jazz duo from New York City.

Their music was terrific, and their performance high class and memorable. During the break, they had stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. They commented on the clean clear air. Finally, one gentleman said to the other, “Let’s go back inside. This fresh air is killing me.”

Over the years many different groups have played to entertain the people at the community Christmas dinner.

In 2010, a little African American boy about 2 or 3 years old, stood right in front of the band, and danced to the music delighting all who watched him.

He had a wide honest grin on his face, as only a small child can have, and his entire body showed he was enjoying the music. For us it was another Christmas without the family. We really missed my sons and my daughter and the six grandkids. We had already called Mike’s folks in Montana and wished them a Merry Christmas.

I had no parents left to call. Both of my parents were dead. But I emailed my brother and my sisters, in Reno, Nev., and wished them a happy holiday. They were gathering for Christmas dinner. At least they were all together and no doubt reminiscing about my mother’s wonderful Christmas dinner and the ambiance of family.

I wished I lived a little closer than a thousand miles away from all of my relatives. My daughter was in New Mexico some 500 miles away.

With family so far away, it didn’t feel like Christmas to me. I remembered Christmases past, filled with my parents, brothers and sisters, our children, my sister’s children and then our grandchildren and felt melancholy.

We were lonely and missing Christmas with the family. We didn’t know that many people, but the only cure was being with people and we knew where we could go. Without a word, we had reached for our coats and headed for Steamboat Springs.

I spotted the familiar face of Glenna, the Steamboat Realtor who had started the community Christmas dinner along with the Realtors because her son had to visit his father at Christmas and she was left alone.

She had called the Hayden Valley Press some 18 years ago in order to advertise the first Annual Steamboat Realtor’s Christmas Community Dinner and ended up speaking to me. She wanted to be sure to invite the Hayden people as well.

I put the story in the Hayden Valley Press and she had invited me and my family to come to the dinner.

She encouraged me to bring the kids. I was new to Hayden and didn’t know many people. I was acquainted with most of the people as the editor, reporter and photographer of the Hayden Valley Press, but I didn’t know anyone that well.

I treated it as another story opportunity. We packed up our three children and drove the 25 miles to Steamboat Springs. The Realtor was gracious and seated us. After we ate, she found the time to come and talk to us.

I had observed and eaten the dinner and was duly pleased at the ambiance and the graciousness of the people holding the dinner. The first effort was done entirely by the Steamboat Realtors who brought their own family side-dishes.

The dinner was not only for the poor.

Over the years, many different types of people have attended: elderly people who had difficulty cooking an elaborate Christmas dinner, as well as the kids working in the ski industry who were away from home and had no way to cook a Christmas dinner.

A couple who had just moved to Steamboat Springs came because they had not yet even unpacked and had no way to cook dinner. Another family was grateful to come because their water pipes had frozen and broke making it impossible to cook. Each year the dinner got bigger and bigger and it has become a wonderful tradition full of holiday spirit and warmth.

At first, the Realtors had provided the meat as a group and the Realtors themselves brought the side dishes they would have made for their own families to the community dinner.

Hence the dinner had a home cooked meal taste and feel to it. Within a short time, various businesses donated meat and other supplies to the Steamboat Springs Community Dinner. And some years they even provided small gifts of toys for the children.

The dinner spread by word of mouth and advertising. It has become a haven for people who are working during Christmas, people who live alone, and visitors who have come to Steamboat to ski or visit and have attended the dinner to be with people.

And then there is me, a former reporter for the Hayden Valley Press, who was invited to the dinner to report on it and got a standing invitation to come any time, no matter where I lived. Our family has attended the dinner when things were tight, or the kids had moved away.

The community dinner helped to assuage the pain for a little while. While we always counted our blessings, we didn’t want to be alone at Christmas.

The Community Christmas dinner is the next best thing to having our family around. I contemplated the scenes around me and realized just how much this dinner had meant to me over the years.

I felt the loneliness and sadness of missing family dissolving and began to feel good as I looked around me. Most of the people were strangers, but it didn’t’ matter. We were dressed up and enjoying Christmas.

Dinner with this huge unknown family and things seemed more right with the world and helped to dispel the loneliness. We forgot our troubles for a little while.

We were a small immigrant family, which expanded at Christmas time to include many others who had nowhere to go. And today, the Steamboat Realtors had returned the favor by providing this community Christmas dinner for the many needy people who needed to soothe their souls and enjoy themselves at Christmas dinner with a large human family. I was grateful that this dinner was available to us for the past 18 years whenever we needed it. In the hustle and bustle, music and ambiance of the Community Christmas Dinner we found reasons to rejoice and feel good.

Yes, we could have bought a small turkey and the trimmings, gussied up the house and dressed nicely, but without a noisy crowd to celebrate with, it would have been a hollow holiday for us.

Night before Christmas

By PHYLLIS Bingham

Craig

Many, many years ago back in 1952, when Bill, our first child, was about 3, we had an unexpected visitor come to our house. In those days, my husband, Vince, was working at the Colorado State Highway Department and I worked at J.C. Penney’s.

In his spare time, Vince was building a living room and extra bedroom onto our little house. The only partition between the dining room and the new living room was two short bookcases, one on each side.

To keep the heat in the original part of the house we put a large covering over the opening to the new room.

It was Christmas Eve. When it was time to get off work, one of my co-workers asked the boss if he could borrow the store’s Santa suit.

That evening my parents came to our house for dinner. We were all sitting around the dining table when all of a sudden there was a loud sound in the new living room.

Son Bill jumped up and ran to the new room, jerking at the covering between the rooms.

Can you believe it? Santa was climbing in the window! He had one leg in the room and the other outside. His bag of toys was on the floor in the new room. Bill let out a yell and headed for Santa. He was so excited.

No one questioned Bill about Santa for a long time, because Bill had seen him in our living room.

Christmas past

By PATSY MAGNESS

Craig

My sister, Carol, and I grew up in the mid-1930s Depression and 1940s World War II era in Collingdale, Pa.

We went to visit Santa over in Upper Darby, about 30 miles from home. He was in a small room at the top of the stairs in a shopping area and we sat on the real Santa’s lap to tell him our long list of wants for Christmas and how good we’d been all year so we wouldn’t get coal in our stockings instead of goodies.

The drive home was filled with day dreams of the soon to be Christmas day.

Back in those days there were no signs of Christmas until Christmas Day. Everything was secretly done the night before Christmas.

We were told Santa wouldn’t come until we were in bed, sound asleep. We lay very quiet in our upstairs bedroom, listening to Christmas music floating from below.

I found out later the folks were playing old 78 records on the Victrola.

Bells tingled and then we heard noises on the roof. We knew Santa had arrived and we had better get to sleep. Years later, we learned the noise was Dad, getting the Christmas tree off the roof where he had hidden it the week before. I prefer to believe it was Santa we heard.

On Christmas morning, Mom would wake us up with a cheery “Merry Christmas,” help us wash the sleep out of our eyes, and get dressed.

We headed downstairs. A large covering blocked the archway into the living room, keeping us from seeing what Santa brought.

We were ushered into the dining room to our holiday breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, sweet rolls, milk for Carol and I, and coffee for the adults.

After eating our breakfast we ran to the archway and waited for Mom to pull the cloth down.

Dad, Aunt Edie and Pop were already in the living room. We were in awe; the Christmas tree was covered with large colored lights, glass balls, and homemade novelty trinkets hung on the branches.

Strands of shimmering silver tinsel and colorful paper chains we had made with Mom draped the tree.

Presents were wrapped and under the tree.

Pine boughs, pine cones and red ribbons and big wreaths hung from the lock latches on the windows. Cotton snow covered the fireplace mantel where cheery holiday figurines stood in the midst of little Christmas trees.

Our bright red stockings filled with candies, an orange and apple, and small toy, hung on the front of the mantle.

In the front of our huge living room a train platform was set up, complete with train, tracks, bridges, ponds, trees, people, animals, and vehicles; a whole village of houses stores and community buildings.

Dad and Pop ran the trains that Mom and Aunt Edie had helped put together after Carol and I had gone to bed.

We opened our presents, sipped mugs of warm cider, and ate homemade cookies while the aroma of roasting turkey drifted through the house from the kitchen.

Each Christmas has its own special excitement. I’ve been at 79 now and loved them all.

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