It was 1939. I know that year is ancient history to most of you listeners. Let me recall some events of that year:
First air conditioned automobile was shown. It was a Packard. You don’t know that name- well, ask one who owns one.
Nylon yarn was first made by Du Pont.
Kate Smith first recorded God Bless America
Montgomery Ward started the story of the 9th reindeer-Rudolph
Ted Williams had his first big league hit
Batman(comic book) was introduced.
1939 was also a magical year for me because it would be my 10th birthday. Why, you ask, was it magical? It was magical because it was the year the first, full length animated movie came out. It was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. Then there was “Wizard of Oz”, the first movie I saw in color. It started out in black and white but when Dorothy left the house struck by the tornado, she entered a colorful magic kingdom where she began her journey on the “Yellow Brick Road” to “Oz”. Oh yes, the grown ups had their movie too – it was called “Gone With the Wind”.
1939 also had its dark side. In Europe, World War II started and here in America we were still in a depression. The depression meant that people were without jobs and couldn’t earn any money for their families. My father was very lucky. He worked for Westinghouse Electric Company and they cut back on the amount of time he could work but at least he was able to earn a small income.
Wait a minute! This is a story about a remembered Christmas. Family traditions. My family – mother and father and five sons.
Well – since my dad wasn’t able to earn much money, the exchanging of presents took place in a very special way. The labels on the presents were addressed to individuals but signed “from all of us”. That way those of us without any money to spend still felt we were involved in the giving.
Much to my surprise, a few days before Christmas I was given four quarters – a whole dollar! I was told to be careful how I spent it but I could use it to do my own Christmas shopping. I thought that with that – whole dollar – I could probably buy the whole store! So, off I went to Murphy’s 5 & 10 cent store.
First for my mother’s gift – as I walked around the counters I was just tall enough to see over the different compartments where items were displayed. Ladies handkerchiefs - pure Irish linen, only 25 cents. I picked one up that had a beautiful flower embroidered on it and one corner with a lace cut out – GREAT!
Next my father’s gift – that was more difficult. Men’s things were too expensive. I came to the section where framed pictures were sold. There was one picture my mother had pointed out to me when we were “shopping” together. She said it reminded her of me. It was selling for 25 cents. GREAT! (My father liked it and hung it on the wall in his workshop. It now hangs over the workshop in my garage.)
I still had two quarters left – what could I get for my four brothers? The candy section came into view. Candy to share – why not? Besides they might share it with me. GREAT!
Then came Christmas! Traditional food a plenty: poppy seed rolls, fresh baked bread, desserts – oh how I remember the desserts!
Now, for the big moment when presents were opened. The biggest, longest present was handed out last – it was for me! I tore into the paper and cardboard – oh yes, the label said “from all of us” – It was a sled! A sled of a new design. It was much lower to the ground than the popular “Flexible Flyer” model and at first I wasn’t too sure about this new design. But not for long. My father filled a burlap sack with old rags and we used it to pad the top of the sled . This made it easier for me to do what we called a “belly smacker” or “belly whopper”. You don’t know about belly whoppers. Well, that’s when you took a running start on a downhill slope and then jumped onto the sled belly first and went down the hill. The low design of my sled made it much harder for other sledders to grab hold of me and spin me around. It also made it easier for me to get hold of their higher built sleds.
So I say to all of you readers – whatever holidays you celebrate, if they are full of family traditions, they are full of love and you are blessed.