Apples and Oranges

Pipi's Pasture

When I was a kid, discovering an apple or orange — especially an orange — in my Christmas stocking was a big deal. In these “modern” days we’re used to buying apples and oranges and other fresh produce in the grocery store whenever we want, but not so much when I was growing up on the ranch.

We usually had plenty of apples when I was a kid. We picked them off the trees in our little orchard down by the garden and Grandpa Osborn’s bigger orchard at our grandparents’ ranch. Although some people put these apples in sand and stored them in their basements for eating during the winter, they weren’t the big red delicious apples found in the grocery stores.

Oranges were available in grocery stores during the summer months but scarce in winter months. Citrus fruits (and perhaps other types of fresh produce) were in short supply due to shipping problems and possibly other factors. Oranges, especially, were a sought-after item around the Christmas season.

Oranges were on the list of goodies included on a list of treat sack items that the Morapos School mothers gave my Uncle Albert Ottens who owned the Hamilton Store. The mothers collected donations and ordered treat items right after Thanksgiving so they could get the treat bags ready in time for the school Christmas program. Some years — perhaps most years — the oranges arrived, but sometimes they didn’t.

The school mothers put the treats in paper bags that, as I remember, were about the size of a lunch sack. Nuts — peanuts, walnuts, and perhaps other kinds — were put in the bag first. There were a lot of nuts, and I can remember wondering why there were so many more nuts than candy. As an adult I now understand that they probably cost less than candy.

Next came the candies. There were a few cream-filled chocolate candies, but most of it was hard candy. The “ribbon candies” were popular back then. They looked like ribbon that was stood on end and then folded — thus the name. They were a variety of colors with stripes, and the flavors ranged from peppermint to cinnamon and clove-flavor. Equally popular were “peppermint cream pillows.” These candies were small, slender candies, white with red stripes. And there were other kinds of hard candies, too, and maybe a few orange slices, my favorites.

A popcorn ball was placed in the top of each sack. Although my mother sometimes made the popcorn balls for the sacks, I think they were most often ordered. They came wrapped in colored cellophane. And then in the very top of each sack was the prized orange, and although my sisters and I can’t remember for sure, there may have sometimes been an apple, too.

Days after the Christmas program, on Christmas morning, my siblings and I found that our stockings had been filled, and in the top of each was an orange and a big red apple.

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