Local seniors share their favorite Christmas memories

Staff Writer

Pearl Mance, Buena Vista
Merry Christmas Colville! The following is a Christmas memory that I would like to share with you:

Once upon a time — to be exact — 91 years ago, I had the best Christmas any little 4-year-old could ask for.

In those days, there was no Santa to tell what you wanted for Christmas. The big, thick Sears Roebuck catalog was our “Wish Book.” And I wished for a tan wicker doll buggy. One night, I kneeled beside my bed to say my prayers and I asked God if He’d look in the catalog for a little doll buggy and make sure I got it for Christmas. To make sure all knew about the buggy, I carried the catalog around, showing the picture to anyone who would look.

My prayers and wishes were answered. I got up Christmas morning and there stood, beside the tree, the tan wicker doll buggy. In the buggy, were two baby kittens — sound asleep. One was gray striped and the other one red striped. I named them “Gray Fur” and “Red Fur.” When the kittens got out to play, I found in the buggy a colorful doll quilt and a pillow with a white case and white sheet, all made by my mom.

Next, my doll was put to bed. Her name was “Night Watch” because her eyes ere painted on and never closed. Grey Fur, Red Fur and Night Watch had quite a few bumpy rides on the gravel road that ran in front of our place. Now, for the rest of the story. My dad was janitor of Ashford School and, when I was in the first grade, he installed a little desk where my feet touched the floor, just for me.

The schoolhouse was across the Mountain Highway from our house. I knew very well that I was not permitted to cross the highway because Model T Fords passed by going fast (really, just once in awhile). One day, the morning walk with my three companions in the buggy was extended right down the highway to the schoolhouse. The long walk must have been tiring because I went to the boiler room where dad had put a cot for me to nap on when I visited.

I climbed into my “nap bed” and went sound to sleep. My mom and dad, as well as some of the high school students — one my sister — were outside looking for me. Someone found Grey Fur wandering around, so all knew I was in the building somewhere. I was told tales that my older brother, Ken, walked the two miles to get the kittens, and then two more miles home while carrying them in a gunny sack.

There is one more sentence needed to end the story. I got my bottom paddled for walking down the highway.

Edith Hawforth, Buena Vista
We used to bake a lot of cookies and candy — people loved the homemade stuff. We also had all the family and a lot of company come for Christmas. The kids were always so excited to see the stuff Santa brought!

We had lots of snow. My dad made a stone-boat, a big sled of wood the size of a twin bed with wooden runners under it. He pulled the stone-boat with horses and hauled supplies from the barn to the house. He also hauled us kids up and down the road to get to school. I loved rides in the stone-boat! As a point of rural heritage, it was common practice to make stone-boats – they were the pickup trucks of yesterday.

Duane L. Gagnon, Buena Vista
I remember my father, mother and brother decorating a Christmas tree that my dad and I cut down in the woods on our farm. This was outside Sturbridge Village in the state of Massachusetts. We had a 600-acre farm with lots of wood and the Christmas tree was placed near a large fireplace with was burning brightly.

Geraldine Fredrickson, Buena Vista
It was winter so, of course, we had lots of snow. We were going to Aunt Fonnie’s so we were happy about that. Dad had fixed an ledge to the sled so he could fill it with hay. Mom had heated some rocks and brought out a bunch of warm quilts. They loaded Grandma and Grandpa, us three kids and the pies mom had baked the day before — and off for the road we went!

Down around the horseshoe bend toward Rice. The horse’s had bells in their manes so we had music. When we got to the house and unloaded everyone, we met lots of cousins and there were hugs all around. We all went into the house and you could smell the turkey cooking — yum! After the wonderful dinner, came the gift giving. We had to sing, dance or say a poem before receiving our gifts, which were usually homemade.

Then it was dark and we loaded back in the sleigh, bound for home. Our bells were ringing and all of us were singing. When we got home, we built up the fire and talked about our wonderful day at Aunt Fonnie’s.

Frances Frazier, Buena Vista
When our kids were little — 4, 5, 6 and 7 — we decided to take them on a train ride from Spokane to Livingston, Montana. We got on the train and got a sleeper car. We slept on the train all the way and got out and the grandparents got to meet the children. The kids and I remember the trip after all these years.
When they were getting ready for bed on the train, the boys pulled the emergency lever. I put them to bed real fast so we didn’t get kicked off the train. We made it back just fine.

Toni Schlect, Buena Vista
I wanted a horse and I finally got one — a Shetland pony!

Shirley Howard, Pinewood
Oh, I remember Christmas time! We would hitch up the horses to the sleigh and put bells on the horses and the sleigh — and then ride around singing and drinking hot cocoa. I remember mama making English Christmas pudding and pouring brandy on it and setting it on fire. Oh what fun!

Linda Dupuis, Pinewood
Our whole family lived nearby. Grandmother Dupuis would come Christmas Eve and spend the night and we would make cookies and treats until it was time for midnight Mass. We would open presents Christmas Day and then go over to Grandpa “Fat” Buckley’s. I remember the eggnog — the good kind! Fat would tease Grandma Dupuis uncontrollably and, oh, we would laugh so much. Good times!

Mary Walton, Pinewood
Fifteen or so would gather together at Grandma’s for Christmas in Riverside, California. My Auntie (Cynthia Jane) was a fantastic baker. She made all the breads and pies from scratch! We all enjoyed the dinner and were thankful to be together.

My Auntie also made dolls. One doll I remember was Red Riding Hood. It had a red hood, one for grandma and, when you lifted it, the wolf. Auntie collected canaries; a beautiful one remember was almost the color of my hair. I got my love of birds from her.

Danna Morris, Buena Vista
My man coming right to me and saying, “I love you.” That’s my favorite memory.

Velda McCammon, Parkview
When we lived in Spokane, we had a cabin that we were building on the back lot on Lake Thomas. So, us and our two girls and a boy and our Irish Setter “Coco” would go to the lake. If the weather was bad, we would do puzzles, and we glued them on the wall. When we sold our cabin they remodeled, but they did not want to destroy the puzzle wall. And one of the puzzles was “Goofy, “my son had put it together. We had great memories at Lake Thomas.

Phyllis Mahurin, Parkview
It was Christmas morning in the year 1931. All of a sudden, we four children heard jingle bells and in popped Santa Claus, all dressed for the occasion. It was during the Great Depression. Santa grabbed my mother and danced with her. She was a French war bride, and Mr. Moser, as my older brother recognized “Santa” as one of their teachers, who could speak some French and he and my mother could converse some.

My dad had a good job, and we had a nice Christmas tree decorated beautifully. Santa went on to visit other families and we had to eat breakfast, we were told, before we could open the gifts. It was hard to wait but we did, and then we flew at the gifts! I received a baby doll with all the trimmings. My brothers got hold of the baby bottle and blew it up (because that’s what boys do) and I bawled.

Orville Garrison, Parkview
Back when I was young, we didn’t have much, but we always had a tree. In those days, nobody had any money, even with government jobs. Mom and Dad always found a way to get something for us kids, even if it was only one small toy.

Joyce Kostelak, Parkview
In August of 1961, we invited a little girl to spend two weeks with us in the country, for a program through the Herald Tribune Fresh Air Fund. The rules were that you could invite the same child for Christmas, which we did. When my three girls were unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, each of them gave her one of their gifts. It filled my heart with pride to see their generosity! One month later, we adopted this little girl!

Lesley Cody, Parkview
I had a half sister who was 14 years older than me. When she graduated high school (at the top of her class), she went off to join the Civil Service. After a couple years in the states, she was offered a job in Hawaii. If she would stay for 18 months, they would pay her way over and back, which she did.

She wrote that she would be coming home around Christmas, and by then I was somewhere between 6 and 8 years old. She called from Portland, Oregon, and said that she did not know what bus that she could get on, and that it was really busy. So, we put our good clothes on and we went into Spokane. We went to the bus station about noon and we waited and waited and she didn’t get off the bus. We waited until midnight and there wouldn’t be any more buses until morning. So, Mom got on the phone and tried to find us a hotel room, but there wasn’t one to be had, as this was Christmas Eve!

Well, she had heard that every taxi driver knew where you could get a room. Dad said, “Ok, I’ll do it,” but she said “No, let me do it because he will think he can get in on it.” Which is exactly what happened. He was so disappointed when she said “hold on let me go grab my husband and daughter.”
Well, he took us to a filthy hotel. My mom said no way were we going to open up the bed and sleep in it. We slept in our good clothes, and I thought it was exciting to sleep in the same bed as my folks.

I remember dad said you’re not going to sit on that toilet, and he made the little round arms that he used to do when we were traveling and I sat on them to do my business.
We went to sleep and got up first thing in the morning and went to the bus station. I can remember Dad showing me how you put nickels in the machine to get coffee or whatever and I remember we got pie out and had it for breakfast. I thought that was exciting.

We stayed there all day Christmas Day and it was probably 4 or 5 in the afternoon when she came off the bus arm-in-arm with a sailor. She said they weren’t letting any single women on the bus because they wanted the servicemen to get home and this sailor walked up to her and said, “would you like to be my wife for the trip?” And she got on the bus with him and nobody paid any attention.

Editor’s Note: Our thanks to Buena Vista Healthcare, Parkview Senior Living and Pinewood Terrace for helping us collect these memories from our honored senior citizens.

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