Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Bah, Humbug, you say, what'd'ya mean Christmas? Christmas is over, you twit!

Well, no actually it isn't. This is the eighth day of Christmas and we're filling up with a lot of livestock. By the time the twelfth day rolls around we'll have a splitting headache from all those Lords a-leapin' and Pipers pipin'. and Goodness spare me, the Drummers drummin'. Christmas isn't over until the last partridge is plucked and poached, and that'll be January 6 or Epiphany or Three Kings Day or Fortnight or whatever you want to call it.

So we can still reflect of Christmas.

It strikes as odd that I find no photograph of me on Santa's jolly lap. It seems to be de riquer to have a history of your kid plucked down upon the big guy. I don't even have me with a faux Santa, like the photo atop this piece. That's my Grandmother in the chair in 1985, the year before her death, and my
three kids standing. This is transsexual Santa, though, my Aunt Edna playing the part behind the beard. But I do have kids in more traditional Santa laps.

There are no such scenes of me and St. Nick, however. I don't know why. I did go to see Santa as a child. I didn't go to all those phony-baloney impersonator helpers, either. I went to the real Santa, you know, the one in Gimbels, the one the big parade welcomed to Philadelphia. I mean, they wouldn't have a big deal parade like that for a spurious Santa Claus, now would they.

He came in at the end of all the floats and bands and balloons, but maybe not the firetrucks because a big hook and ladder pulled up to the side of Gimbels and Santa climbed rung after rung up to the window of Toyland, suspended briefly above the WIP sign waving, before he stepped through the window and took his place on the throne of wishful thinking.

I don't know when I really became conscious of Christmas. I was pretty young when somewhere between the Air Raid warnings and blackouts of World War II days, things which scared me with the hustle to pull down blackout shades and huddling together waiting an all clear, I noticed another bit of excitement. Christmas preparation, which came subtly at that early time. I remember my mother and grandmom  bringing down a box from the attic from which they hung these red cellophane wreaths in each window. There was a candelabra with white lights that went in the larger front window to shine out toward the avenue, that being Washington Avenue in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

I do remember a visit to Santa. Our grade school took us. Santa took up residence in the "Historic" Log Cabin that was in a slightly different location in those days, not yet moved down into Kerr Park. We were led two by two along Lancaster Avenue escorted by our teachers. We went in one door of the cabin and out the other, stopping in the center to clamber aboard Santa and squeak out what we wanted for Christmas. I don't know what I wanted that year, but it wasn't a Red Ryder Beebee Gun, of that I'm sure. It might have been Roy Roger Cap Pistols, though. Santa gave each child a toy on that visit rather than some Candy Cane. I got a large tube of Tinker Toys.

Tinker Toys were round dowells of varied lengths and these thick circular pieces with holes all around.
You pressed the dowels in the holes and joined them together into things. There were also some thin triangular pieces you could stick on here and there. I loved that little Tinker Toy set.

There were other things I became aware of concerning this holiday. Two houses on Whiteland Avenue had lights in the windows, which I could see from my bedroom. One house was all red and the other green. There weren't yet a lot of homes that had lights, but the week before Thanksgiving you would see workmen busying themselves along the stores on Lancaster at center town. They were stringing lights up the lampposts and across the street. On Thanksgiving Day someone threw a switch and the town blazed with color for the next month.

In Kerr Park, about where the Log cabin is today, the borough erected a life-size Nativity Scene. They can't do that anymore.

Christmas was a big thing in my boyhood because it was a big thing to my folks, especially my mother. I got my years worth of everything on that day. I got my toys then, but also my wardrobe that had to last until next Christmas. Santa brought the toys, all on glorious display when I came downstairs early those mornings, put together and unwrapped before the tree. Once my parents had shook off their sleep (they always seemed extra tired Christmas morning, almost like they had been up most the night) we would gather about the living room and open the wrapped packages. I got mostly clothes here. I got my shirts and pants for the year, and my socks and underwear, too.

I got socks from my daughter Noelle this year. I told everyone when I was a boy it was hard to get joyful receiving socks, but as an old man I am overjoyed to receive socks. Ah, it has come full circle. I am now getting my years supply of socks again.

In 1947, during Christmas vacation when I was in First Grade, we moved from town to the back of a
swamp in Glenloch. There were no houses with lights I could see because there were no nearby houses. I was living in the sticks and December was a chill, leafless month there. But it was there I heard Santa come. I was lying in my bed all expectant for the morrow, the 25th, to dawn when I heard a whoosh of his sleigh circle the house and something thump down upon the roof. It had to be Santa for what else could it be? After that Christmas Eve no one could argue away my belief in the Chief Elf. That disillusion had to wait a couple more years.

Over Christmas Vacation of 1949, when I was in Third Grade, we moved back to Downingtown. We moved yet again, but just across the street, and it was nearing Christmas. I was home alone, a not unusual circumstance at this
point of my life, and Iva, the girl from across the street I had been friends with forever was visiting with me. (Pictured right, Iva and me in 1946, both 5.) We began to explore the house, peeking where we shouldn't and in the closet of the spare room, the guest room where we had really never had a guest, were stacks of toys, the very toys I wanted for Christmas. Oh wow, I declared, what a wonderful Christmas this would be. If my parents were giving me these great toys, think what Santa would bring.

Yes, that Christmas morning I stopped believing in Santa Claus.

Christmas Season began with Thanksgiving then and ended with NewYear's day, or perhaps for some on January 6. There was no display or sound of Christmas song on the day after Halloween. There was certainly commercialism in that time, but it was not as blatant and persistent as today. We weren't bombarded with Radio or TV commercials. Buying the best deal wasn't the emphasis of the season. It was a quieter time, a more respectful time, a more joyous time, a more reverent time and I miss it.

I hope your Christmas was merry and peaceful and so let it be for the New Year!

1 comment:

Ron said...

Very nice write up Larry. I had forgotten about those green cellophane wreaths that you hung in the windows. You forgot to mention the bubble candle lights. The memory of those beautiful many colored lights are forever embedded in my memory from Christmases of the late Forties and early Fifties. By the way, I always envied you as an only child at Christmas because you got all the presents. Me, I had to SHARE.

Very nicely done Lar. Thanks for sharing your Christmas memories. Oh, one more thing. You do know that Gimbels is nowa parking lot. What a shame.