What was Christmas like here long ago, in the years of 1935-1955?

For a starter, the Christmas trees looked different. Almost all the trees were “live,” home county-cut cedar trees. The stand was a wooden “x” attached to the base of the tree by a long nail.

The lights were small bulbs strung in a series so that when one bulb burned out, they all went out. It was often hard to find that bad bulb. A blinker unit could be attached to the multicolored string of lights. Decorations around the house included cardboard bells hung from the window shade pulls and paper and cardboard trees on the mantle.

Along with toys, I particularly remember a bicycle from Montgomery Ward’s in Lexington and lots of books – the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

Presents usually were passed out at my house on Christmas Eve and some on Christmas morning.

Food was similar to Thanksgiving – turkey, ham and oysters. It was much later that my Scottish wife introduced the family to the joys of Christmas pudding, as well as the novelty of “crackers” which popped when pulled apart.

I do not remember hanging stockings, nor a Christmas parade. There was more than one Santa Claus to be found working on Main Street.

Football bowls did not begin until New Year’s Day, and there were only five games – the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton and Sun Bowls.

For weeks before Christmas most everyone gave the greeting “Merry Christmas” as opposed to “Happy Holidays”.

If you tucked in the flap of your envelope and did not seal it, a card could be sent for one and a half cents. You had to buy at least two stamps at a time and there were no zip codes yet. For local mail, you could just write “city” as the last line of the address. Extra workers were hired by the Post Office to handle the extra mail.

In the 1940s, I worked as seasonal Christmas help for Garland Jett at his store.

December was a busy time in town, for in addition to buying presents farmers would come in to town and buy canvas cloth for their tobacco beds and deal with the tobacco auction process.

Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck catalogs got lots of use.

Sometimes, we got a white Christmas, and sometimes we did not. On snowy days, sleds were ridden down the Wellington Court hills in my neighborhood and our South Third Street neighbors, the Marion Adamses,’ would drive by in their one horse open sleigh – jingle bells!

In our family, Christmas fundamentally was about the birth of Christ. I remember being one of the “We Three Kings” at the church Christmas pageant, singing about “myrrh I bring.”

Handel’s “Messiah” was performed in Eastern’s Hiram Brock Auditorium with James Van Peursem directing the massed choir. A traditional “Hanging of the Greens” took place in Eastern’s Walnut Hall.

Groups from various churches went around town caroling at homes.

Christmas memories of long ago in Madison County – wonderful times.

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