Museum Musings: Christmas memories


I’ve lots of folks’ memories to share, and I’m not wasting words.  The form will be different but my intention is the same.  Enjoy!

John Stineff: “I remember going to the old Courthouse, and Santa was on top of the stairs. We stood in line and one by one we went up those stairs.  I remember receiving ribbon candy, an apple and nuts. It was very exciting for a young kid.  Also, Dad always brought home a huge peppermint log.  Mom would put a little hammer next to it and we ate it all during the holidays.”

Kristi Rhodes: “Every year my Papa gathered up all 10 of us grandkids, and we would go down all the country roads of North Zulch to the neighbors’ homes, singing Christmas carols.  Each year we would use a different mode of transportation.  One time it was horseback, another with a tractor and hayride, and another time in his covered wagon pulled by horses, always different.  We always looked forward to it, and I think the neighbors did too. Grandma would go, and many times aunts and uncles piled in, and of course the dogs, can’t forget them.  The cousins were Signe and Lacey Emert, Morgan Donaho, Tara Thrailkill, Brandon Boyd, Carl Boyd, Casey Lucherk, Keilan and Klute Kyle, and me.  Usually we’d come back from that same trip with a Christmas tree for Grandma, an evergreen that we grandkids thought was perfect but was often the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen!  We then spent hours making salt dough ornaments for the tree.”

Dee Corley Wallrath: “Every year when we finished putting our tree up and lights across the front of the house, we all loaded up in the car and drove back and forth in front of the house really slow to see how they looked.  I never shared that with my friends at school, afraid of getting laughed at.  When I got older, I learned that lots of other folks did the same thing!” 

Karen Kelly Hopkins: “In my first Santa memories, Mother, took me with siblings Kathy (Harris), Jodie (Bishop), and Frank, to see Santa at the courthouse. Daniel and Sandy were not born then.  Santa gave us an apple, an orange, and a candy cane if I remember correctly.  I remember seeing Santa at the old Courthouse and the newer one too.  When I was in fourth grade, we got our first store-bought Christmas tree.  We had moved to the Trav Connor place on Highway 90 where Mrs. Connor often visited us, and that year she bought us a Christmas tree.”

Earll Washington: “Mrs. Ruth Berry always made sure that my sister, Angela Washington-Clifton, and I had our ribbon hard candy and Queen Anne chocolate covered cherries during the Christmas season I was overly excited about her gifts because Angela hated the cherries and I would end up with both boxes.  Mrs. Berry was such a sweet person and the memories of her kindness will forever be with me.”

Denise Montgomery Sarno: “My favorite Christmas memories include my grandparents, Jim and Lois Ferguson, whom I called MaMaw and PaPaw. No matter how scattered the family was, they all came together at Christmas.  It seemed to be that every Christmas we had a new baby to lovingly add to our family.  The house smelled of Christmas, homemade cookies, pies, candy, and MaMaw’s turkey and dressing.  After dinner, my beautifully-talented Ferguson clan sat around the piano, playing and singing Christmas carols and church hymns in perfect harmony. God was always first, church was part of PaPaw, like breathing.  We prayed together, always remembering the true meaning of Christmas, PaPaw made sure of that.  One Christmas, I-45 was shut down due to the weather, so we all got stuck at MaMaw and PaPaw’s house.  There were approximately 35 of us, adults and kiddos. We had a blast!  We slept on mattresses on the floor and sleeping bags.  I had a real adventure, I got to sleep on an inflatable float that we had packed away for the summer!”

Kay Campbell Bennett: “I recall getting to go to the Christmas parade and Santa throwing out candy to us kids on the street! It was so special! I also remember going to Reed’s to see Santa and tell him what I wanted for Christmas! I remember later riding on float and being part of the fun. Also as cheerleader, we were allowed to ride in the parade. At school we gathered food for baskets for the needy!”

Carroll Bradbury Fox: “For many years, Pa and Sweetie (Bill and Elayne Andrews)” had a huge Christmas party on Christmas Eve. My family opened gifts before the party ~ they called it having ‘our tree’.  The biggest anticipation of the night was a visit from Santa.  I remember barely being able to contain myself waiting for him because he was the REAL one!! He just so happened to be Buck Price because we know the real one is very busy on Christmas Eve!  I remember the laughter of all the people, the hugs, the friendships! Cars were parked across the bridge all on the side of Shady Creek Lane.”

Wayne McVey: “When I was a kid, the Piboin family lived here.  Mrs. Piboin, was the home ec teacher at MHS for many years.  =Pam, Louis, and Bert were her and Mr. Piboin’s kids. They were a great family, all us kids used to play together.  Mrs. Piboin used to fix everybody a bag of something for Christmas every year and send it to everyone’s house.  Usually it had that Louisiana touch to it as that’s where they were from.  They were great folks and I really miss seeing them now!”

Karen Stevens Altom: “I remember standing in line to see Santa in the hall of the Courthouse was how I learned the difference from left and right. Mom kept telling me we would see him soon, that he was ‘up there on the right’!  I also remember visiting my friend Sonja (Forrest) Buffaloe when they had gotten their new silver aluminum tree with the rotating light disc that made the tree different colors.”

Susan Wilson Mayrant: “I recall as a kid, the anticipation of waiting for the day that we could get a Christmas tree. When we lived in the country we cut a tree but after moving into town we usually bought one.  The trees were sold at the grocery stores and would be fresh and smell wonderfully, but they didn’t arrive until the 18th or 19th!  My Dad did his shopping on Christmas Eve, always for surprise gifts of his choice. He would also come home with arms loaded with all kinds of fruit and nuts. Special times!”

Sally Singletary Knight: “I remember waiting to visit Santa Claus at the old courthouse, and driving by Mr. Willie Isgitt's house to see the reindeer he had cutout himself and placed on his front lawn.  There was always a huge thermometer at the front of the First Baptist Church that measured contributions to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering, and the Christmas Cantata with Mrs. Pyle lifting her beautiful soprano voice in praise. Most of all I remember the warmth and love of family and friends.”

John Hardy: “In the 1940s and 1950s, Burtis Drug was open every Christmas morning, because that day Dempsey Davis, Bob Woods, and Rodney Chambless served eggnog from a clean white slop jar!  They furnished the spirits, and Dooly Burtis supplied the ice cream.  Lots of local men went in, and those three served it free to all of them.  Back then I wasn’t old enough to partake.”

Leta Ann Wells Carson: “I recall exchanging gifts in class in elementary school.  When school let out for Christmas holidays, we kids would walk around the square and do Christmas shopping. Back then Mom flocked our trees with a gun that attached to a vacuum cleaner. It was so gorgeous n looked like real snow unlike those cans of spray they sell now. I remember that first silver metallic tree I ever saw was at Farmers State Bank, and there was a light with various colors that changed tree colors slowly and continuously.”

 Heather Harper Ellett: “When I think of Christmases growing up in Madisonville, I think of the Christmas lights down 21 towards Midway. I’m biased, of course, since our house was one of them, but the lights always seemed brighter down 21 because the road was so dark and winding. You’d round a corner, and a single strand seemed to light the entire sky in the black of winter. The Fowlers, the Henrys, and many others made sure to put something up every year. One year, our family put up 5,000 lights (poor Mom and Dad), and one of Dad’s friends joked that our house looked like a brothel.  I didn’t yet know what a brothel was, but I knew it must be good because of how snazzy our house was!”

Pam Hunt: “When I was three and my sisters were 9 and 11, we lived on PeeDee Road in a big old house with a cistern to catch rainwater. We were poor, with nothing, not even warm clothes or food to eat.  On Christmas Eve my dad took us girls to see Santa in the old Courthouse and I did not know who Santa was.  He asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I said, ‘Nothing’.  He looked at me, saying, ‘If I gave you something, what would you want?’ I answered, ‘Nothing.  I'm hungry.’  Santa then talked to my sisters.  He gave us each a paper bag holding an apple, an orange, and lots of nuts and candy, and then he gave my dad the box, saying, ‘My day is over.’ When we got home, we found the box held six more apples plus oranges and lots of nuts.  We had a little tree and with candles on it, and on it we hung candy canes from the box. That night my mom smiled as she made an apple pie, a pecan pie, and a cake.  We had a hen and dressing, all quite a feast for us that Christmas in 1950.  The box also held a coloring book and crayons that my sisters loved.  I may have been only three but seeing my mother smile meant everything.”

Jeff Farris: “I recall a Christmas during World War II when I asked for a BB gun.  Metal products, couldn’t be bought because all metal went to the war effort.  Mother learned that Bobby Prescott had outgrown his BB gun so she bought it for me.  It was in good shape and served me well.  Those war years were hard but good memories.  The rationing of milk, sugar, and other supplies meant that many foods were scarce or absent from everyday life, and there weren’t lots of sweets for Christmas.  Licorice was the only candy sold, and we couldn’t get ‘real’ either.  An ice-cream substitute was made with honey!”

Eddy Jo Grigory Jemison: “Once near Christmas, when I was playing hide and seek with the Carter boys, I dived into their mom’s pantry to hide.  Oh, my goodness--there were shelves of red, green and white divinity candy!”

Brady Bibbs: “We didn’t have lots, but our Christmases were memorable.  We were taught the Reason for the Season.  Mama took my kids to town to Five and Dime stores, to spend a little money on gifts to exchange.  There was always a church Christmas pageant, and Mama prepared foods, fruitcakes and such, for weeks in advance.” 

Curtistene Burnett Baylor: “Daddy was a butcher at Carter’s Grocery for years, and Mr. Carter always had a fireworks stand out front.  When they closed Christmas Eve, Mr. Carter divided leftover fireworks among the employees.  It was always a late night for Daddy at the store, but we forgave that because we knew he had fireworks!  On Christmas Day, we usually went to Elwood for a meal with Maw Dean and family there. Uncle John Dean was often in charge of the tree, and he always wanted a big one. One year he cut one so big that it filled the whole living room, and he tied our gifts to the tree!”

Biva Byrd: “When our children were small, my mother-in-law, Lenora, came to spend the night lots of Christmases, to make sure the children stayed in bed through the night in case Santa needed the our  help putting things together. One year Santa left a train that James (Coach Byrd to many) had to put together, and when he finished, he played with it for quite a while!” 

Jo Cannon: “When Bill, our oldest, got a train, Santa had to leave it in the box and head on to other children’s houses.  My husband, Will Ernest, and his friend, Rodney Chambless, put it together late Christmas Eve.  They ran it a lot that night, ‘just testing it’!”

Neil Lindsey: “One Christmas, our sons, Gary and Mike, asked for bicycles. Santa brought them early and left them at a neighbor’s house, covered in sheets. The boys walked right past them several times, not suspecting anything. When Christmas Eve came around and the boys went to sleep, that neighbor, Mr. Taylor, and I rode the bikes down the street to our home, singing ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ the whole way!”

I hope these took your minds back to precious good times.  Merry Christmas to all!