Memories of Yesterday's

This page created December 4, 2012

About 4 years ago, I asked some of the older researchers to

submit memories from Christmases that they remember from childhood.

These come from a simpler time. If you wish to submit one, please email it to me.

From:Glorianne Fahs

The memory that most lingers in my mind about my childhood Christmases occurred every Christmas Eve over sixty-some years ago. I was raised in northeastern Pennsylvania where we attended North Jackson Methodist Church, several miles from home. On Christmas Eve we drove to our church for the children's program. Everyone donned our best outfits and there was much excitement. The lights dimmed and the youngsters gave their recitations and sing the special Christmas songs, for which we had been practicing for weeks. Then Santa would come and give each of us a small box of candy. Often it would snow while we were in church, to give us that special white Christmas. Although it would be late to bed, I was always up early to see what Santa had left under my small tree, and I was never disappointed. Santa never forgot, or left coals in my stocking. And perhaps because of this event, and other children's events at our small church, my faith has never failed me, an intrinsic part of my personality.

From:Elizabeth Chain

My grandmother's family was from Indiana, she always called herself a Hoosier though she lived in Iowa all her life. Grandma made Oyster Stew on Christmas eve - a milk base and lots of oyster crackers. On Christmas day, besides the huge dinner, she always made an Angel food birthday cake - for the Christ child. The woven cornucopia basket was the centerpiece at dinner - filled with fruit and nuts to accompany the birthday cake.

From:Nancy Scott

My Wisconsin mother of Yankee descent made oyster stew for Christmas Eve, as I recall. We kids did not like the oysters, so we just ate the soup and left the oysters for our parents! My father and his family of Holland Dutch descent ate herring for good luck on New Year's Eve. The Owen County story we have includes a lump of coal for a foster child, so Christmas is not always rosy.

From:Jim Hauser

The thought of Christmas in Indiana brings back a flood of memories. For us Christmas started in the Spring. When we were out mushroom hunting as a family, we would always find the perfect cedar tree for a Christmas tree. However by December, none of us could remember where it was so we always ended up with one that was almost perfect. Pa would grab an ax and would go off to the woods. Sometimes I got to go with him. We would walk up the lane to the woods and it was like a Currier & Ives print. We would bring the tree back and Pa would get this metal can and a rusty log chain. He would stand the tree up in the can, lie on the ground, and feed the chain into the can. This would hold up the tree. We did have some store bought ornaments but many were home made. My sister and I would start chewing gum about Thanksgiving and we would save the wrappers. Back then, the gum had a two layer wrapper that was a layer of waxed paper and a layer of thin foil. We would peel the foil and use it to cover thin cardboard stars and half moons. My sister remembers that the largest star went at the top. I was not much of a gum lover except at that time of the year. I would chew it for a few minutes than start another stick just to get more foil. My sister did most of the cutting as she was older and was allowed to have the sharp scissors. It was something that we did together and was a lot of fun. We would decorate the tree together. I think we had 2 strands of light and they had 7 or 8 bulbs each. This was long before the strands of 150 mini-lights. One year, we were able to add a third stand of lights and we ended up over 20 bulbs on the tree! By the time we had our lights, the glass ornaments, the stars, and the moons on the tree we had the best Christmas tree ever.

From:Kathy & Terry Lynch

My grandmother's special Christmas traditions included making popcorn balls. She boiled sugar and water to make a binder, sometimes colored part of it with food coloring, and then we stirred up a huge pot of popcorn and syrup and quickly*** made balls with buttered hands and put them on buttered wax paper. Sometimes the syrup was like crackerjack syrup, and other times it was clear. Of course, we also strung popcorn chains with embroidery needles and buttonhole thread for the Christmas tree. After Christmas, the chains went outdoors onto evergreens for the birds' celebration. We can't forget the flour and water paste we used to stick colored paper strips together to build chains for the tree and to hang from the chandeliers. Wouldn't we have loved a glue stick! This was Christmas in the early 1940's -- when sugar had to be saved from the ration for special times like this. I don't remember, but I imagine we must have used sorghum molasses, too -- that could account for the dark brown popcorn balls.

From:Claire Field

Christmas late 1940s.

(My mother's Lyon grandfather originated in Montgomery, Owen, Indiana.) My parents were born and raised in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Their childhoods included freshly cut Christmas trees, covered with snow. But no snow in Glendale, California when they moved there in 1946. And then, a couple of years later flocked Christmas trees were introduced and became VERY popular in Southern California. My father couldn't resist and bought a big, live Christmas tree with white flocking and brought it home. It was absolutely beautiful! My mother was shocked to learn he had paid $40 for it. In Idaho they had cut down their own at no cost. Wanting to get her money's worth, Mother left it up until April 1st. Still thinking it too beautiful to throw out, she wrapped it up in a big sheet, carried it up a flight of stairs to the apartment on top of our garage, and hung it upside down in the shower stall. We used it again the following Christmas. Yes, it was VERY dry, but still beautiful, and we have had a great story to tell through the years!

Picture of Flocked Tree

From:Nancee Seifert

I remember, with glee, how my Daddy would put the chains on our 1949 Chevy and he'd tie ropes to the bumper and to our sleds -- then find a good dirt road covered with snow. He'd pull us on our sleds and we had more fun. He and Mother would make sure we were all bundled up and safe.. One year I wasn't feeling quite up to snuff, and we went sledding -- to find out the next day that I had the mumps.. Well, off to Grandma's I went, so I wouldn't infect my two sisters. My Grandma was my Angel; always there for me/us. We girls have such wonderful memories of her -- showing us how and letting us bake cookies and decorating her tree. Many Christmas dinners were spent at Grandma's, with everyone bringing their special salads and desserts; aunts, uncles, cousins - the whole 'lot' of us..... Grandma could make the flakiest pie crust you'd ever want to eat. She taught me how. My granddaughter has learned how, too. We all loved her date nut roll and divinity, and knew which cooler bedroom she would hide it in... There was a steady line of us interlopers sneaking in and getting pieces to eat before dinner.. It's funny, but I don't remember her ever complaining about it disappearing.............I think she knew, and probably had more than one laugh over it.. We would go uptown to the local Christmas tree lot and pick out a tree; Daddy would tie it on top of our 1949 Chevy. He would always have a 5-gallon bucket filled half full of very wet sand, with wires that were attached to the bucket and then to the trunk of the tree.. which was our tree stand.. He ALWAYS put the tree up and then made us wait a day, so the branches would open out, before we could decorate it... That day seemed like forever to us girls!! We were Iowa kids who loved playing in the snow, building snowmen, eating icicles, and trying to get someone to put their tongue on the pole covered with ice, sledding and building snow forts. Of course, we knew not to eat 'yellow' snow... smile..

McMurtrey Family

Frank & Helen McMurtrey; Jayne (standing next to Daddy); Nancee (standing next to Mother); Patricia (sitting on Daddy's lap)

ps: They put our hair up in 'rags' to make those curls..

From:Jo Cluck

Weeks before Christmas, many evenings were spent cracking open the very hard-shelled hickory nuts and black walnuts which were bountiful in Southern Illinois. The hickory nuts were difficult to pick out and the walnuts would stain your hands, but we all knew that the end result of this would be some delicious divinity, spiced pork cake, and other yummies. My folks were born in 1891 and their Christmases were clothes, fresh fruit, and a peppermint candy cane, and when they were small, my Dad always treasured a pocket knife that he received (which I still treasure and will pass along to my son). Mom loved the velvet ribbons and silk material for a dress. Christmas Eve was celebrated by going to church, then coming home and having some hot chocolate or spiced cider, one of us playing the piano and all of us singing carols and decorating the tree. We had some beautiful glass beads that were strung and glistened brilliantly, and of course, the traditional big glass star that was positioned at the top and an angel nearby. Since we didn't have a fireplace, but a big old coal heating stove, our stockings were strategically placed near the entrance of the front door so Santa wouldn't miss seeing them! We had a large family and the meals were always the best whether it was at grandma & grandpa's in West Frankfort,or at my great aunt and uncle's place at Punkin Center (yep! there is one!!) or even when our immediate family started to dwindle because the older siblings would marry and move to other states, that big old round, oak dining room table with extra boards, at our house would still hold a lot of people to share wonderful food which it did not only at Christmas but other holidays as well. To insert a funny story, my late husband always liked to recall was that one Christmas he received a leather football. Anxious to play with it, he and his cousins went out to play, and his older female cousin decided she could also play and kicked the ball with her new shoes which were the sharpest pointed toes imaginable!! Needless to say, since footballs in those days had an inflatable rubber bladders, the pointed toes punctured the football and it was not immediately repairable. My husband is deceased now (1918-1996) but I really doubt that he ever forgave that cousin and it was a memorable Christmas and one that was told over and over! Hopefully, the traditions we have had and the ones we have made in our own very small family ..just my son and granddaughter.. will be fondly remembered in years to come. Merry Christmas to all and blessings for a New Year filled with love and happiness.

From:Glenda Deford

Dear Santa,

I know I am old now, but I still can’t help looking for you on Christmas Eve. My wrapping paper is printed with you and your reindeer flying across the moon through the midnight sky. That might surprise you, since it’s been quite awhile since my last letter. First of all, thanks for all the past Christmas gifts. I especially liked my first riding toy, the yellow Minneapolis Moline tractor. Thanks for getting me that instead of the tricycle my mother thought was more appropriate for girls. I also liked the Betsy McCall doll and the Etch-A-Sketch. The metal doll house, though fun to play with, eventually rusted and became dented, making sharp edges that could cut your finger. You couldn’t keep the door shut either, without sticking a piece of Play-Doh in the handle. Remember the electric toy stove you gave to Gloria and me? Well, she got a coil burn print when she laid her little hand on it while we were alone in the playroom having a real tea party. I thought you might want to know about the few safety issues we had, although I should have said something much sooner. My grandfather’s Christmas as a child consisted of getting an orange, some nuts and an apple. It was the rich families who gave and received presents at Christmas. My being raised by grandparents was an interesting experience, and we got more than the orange, nuts and apple. Thanks for all the help you gave them. I must say they were far better at setting limits when it came to Christmas than either “Farmor” Ann-Christin or “Mamaw” Glenda.

From:Judy Jefferson

Christmas at my grandparents house was something special for me, my sister and our two brothers. There was always a real tree, sometimes a cedar tree that my grandfather had cut down along the rail road track. The tree had wonderful decorations. Glass ornaments shaped like an angel, house, sled, Santa and a Christmas tree. I know there were others, but that's all I remember (it's been over 60 years). My grandmother made "brown sugar fudge", something I can still taste to this day and wish I had the recipe. She cooked on a wood stove. For dinner we would have a pork roast with "burnt flour" gravy, (something I've tried to make with no success) along with others things. Their heat was a wood stove in the living room. My grandfather grew popcorn. He would let the four of us help shuck the corn. We thought it was great fun, but always made our thumbs sore. He would then pop some for us in the stove. Our gifts were always wrapped in colored tissue paper with colorful Christmas stickers closing the package. To this day when I see tissue paper I think of my grandparents. I always looked forward to all the ads (in black & white) in the paper for toys and other Christmas things.


Debbie Jennings