Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Time in the Forties

When I grew up, there were four of us children at home. Claire Louise (Clyese), Sylvia Aliece (Sivvy), Joseph Samuel (Joe), Jr. and James Andrew (Jim) (Me).

Several days before Christmas, we would all go out to find a good shaped, thick foliage cedar tree for the Christmas tree. Sometimes, cedars were a little scarce that had a good shape and someone would have to climb a tall cedar and cut the top out. Mother would take some limbs of cedar and tie them into open spots on the tree. Of course, the tree would always be just a little too tall to allow some trimming to make it fit into the base that supported the tree.

We had a 32 volt Delco generator that kept 16 2-volt storage batteries charged up for out lights and radio that we also used for the Christmas tree lights. The base had slots around it to put 12 lights in it, then we had two or three strings on the tree. Also, we usually put cedar bought around the front porch windows and door and a string of lights on around each one. We had some kinda star shaped reflectors that we'd insert around the base of the lights on the porch.

Daddy would do the wiring of the lights, then the rest of us would decorate the tree with all the ornaments, tensile and ice cycles that were stored in the attic. A few years, Daddy would, very evenly, place "roping," a rope composed of two strings with colored paper that looked like different colored ropes. We had some red, green and red roping. Daddy strung them about two feet apart across the living room in both directions, then very carefully place icicles about every two inches apart across each rope. Once, Joe and I found an old burned out light bulb and took red fingernail polish and painted a face on each side of it. He painted one and I the other. That old bulb was on each tree over a long time before it finally disappeared. That could have been "disappeared" by Mother as she never liked that old thing anyway! Of course, there were the very old, "special" ornaments that we used great pains to keep them from falling and breaking.

Before I came along, Daddy made 3 stocking hangers that he'd nail to the wall at the back edge of the living room mantle. Then, when I came along, Joe went out and used the hatchet to hack out and shape a hanger for my stocking. Most of the time we would use an old stocking of Mother's that had runs in them. Later, Joe and I used his Boy Scout stockings.

On Christmas Eve night, we'd all try to get to sleep early so the time would pass faster. But, it was extremely hard for us to get to sleep as we were so excited to see what Santa had left. The next morning, we had to get all our clothes, shoes and socks on and line up by the wood box in "The Room" (Mother and Daddy's bedroom) and the first in line got to go into the living room first. Joe and I finally learned that Claire and Sylvia cheated on us as they'd leave their dresses on and put their gowns on over them so all they'd have to do was to take their gown off and they'd be dressed!
We'd wake Daddy up around 5 a.m. and get him to go build a fire in the living room. We'd already have a fire going in the fireplace int The Room. He'd start the fire and come back, get back in the bed saying that he didn't see Santa Claus anywhere, so we may as well go back to bed. He'd carry this on long enough for the living room to warm up, then say to us, "Well, go in and see if you can find him." It was only about 4 or 5 steps from the wood box in The Room to the living room door, but it seemed like a mile!

There would always be some big present from Santa and a stocking full of stuff on each of our hangers. The stockings would each have an apple, an orange, English walnuts, Brazil nuts, penny candy, peppermint sticks and a small toy or two. (All these things were only available during Christmas time in the stores in Millry, so that made it really special to get them in our stockings.) I remember one year that Claire and Sylvia got one bicycle for them and Joe and I got a wagon.

After we'd played with our toys and gone through our stockings, Mother would have coffee heated for her and Daddy a cup and we'd begin to open our presents from under the tree. One of us would be "Santa" and give out the presents. Only one present was opened at a time. The present was opened, oohed and aahed over and put in a safe place before the next gift was handed out and opened. We took our time and made the gift opening last as long as possible. Then we'd go back through our Santa Claus gifts and the ones opened from under the tree.

Many of the Christmas traditions that we had growing up have been carried on through each of our families over the years. Even our children have kept some of those traditions.

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