Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Toys and Memories

The author in his Roy Roger sweatshirt and Soupy Sales socks waiting by the traditional cedar tree for Santa and the family gathering to begin in 1960

J. Mark Lowe
Robertson County Historical Society
(previously published in the Robertson County Times)
My Dad purchased a movie camera on Christmas Eve of 1963 and we have a wonderful record of the people and gatherings of many holidays thereafter. Although everyone’s home movies look the same, it is hard to capture the true essence of those family gatherings.
In an effort to understand more about the childhood holidays and memories in Robertson County, I decided to listen to several friends discuss their most memorable holiday seasons.
Connie Head Lowe started asking friends on Facebook about their favorite Christmas toy and memory. Connie’s was Mr. Potato Head. It came with body parts but no body. You used a real potato. She remembered, “No telling how many potatoes we used, I bet mama and daddy were glad they had a good crop that year. Mama kept the apples and oranges in the hall were it was cool so they would keep longer, I can still smell the aroma it smelled like Christmas.”
The holiday season is filled with memories. Fragrances of cinnamon, gingerbread, and oranges fill the air. The smells and sounds of our memories connect us to our past and often to the enjoyment of special times of the year.
Edna Sloan Cooksey shared that her favorite Christmas toy was a 36" bride doll I received when I was six years old that I still have in the cedar chest. My doll is in great shape but one shoe broke but I think it can be fixed I just never bother to get her out and do it.
Dolls were definitely a favorite among this crowd. Dawn Foust Tinsley remembered receiving a Chrissy baby doll when she was five years old. Her hair was either short or you could pull it to make it long. Connie Head Lowe also got a large doll. Connie was six years old and her doll’s name was Cathy. Pam Head Champion, Connie’s sister, said she also got a doll about 1957. Pam’s doll had black hair and was named was Susie.
Cindy Farmer and Faye Hobgood Head both remembered their Thumbelina dolls. Faye said “I tried to take my Thumbelina apart to see how it worked. I thought my Mom was going to shoot me!” Cindy replied that she just wore her Thumbelina doll out.
Martha Walker shared her memories. “I think I still have every doll I ever got, and the clothes Momma made for them. But I remember when I got my "little red spinning wheel", I thought that was the neatest thing.” Martha said the only thing she ever made was a belt that was long enough for her Momma to wear. Martha also remembered a potholder weaving loom she received one Christmas. She added, “I thought I was going to get rich off [those potholders] selling them for a quarter a potholder, or five for a dollar.” Martha still has that loom.
My sister, Beverly Pyle, remembers a record player she received. It was one of those portable box types where the top fastened. She added, “I think the reason I loved it so much was that I always loved music.” Her Uncle, Hank Brosche, was a disc jockey in Bowling Green and gave her a bunch of 45 rpm records. All of Bev’s friends would come over and listen to music.
Colleen Bogenholm, who grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, remembered that every Christmas Eve, she and her sisters would always get a new pair of pajamas. Because they were so close in age, they almost always got the same presents, just different colors, etc. Colleen added, “Although our parents were not wealthy, we never knew it. My sisters and I remember such wonderful Holiday times. The one toy I remember was a doll I received when I was about five or six. These dolls did nothing, but their eyes did open and close. Their limbs did not bend.” Colleen said that later she and her sisters would take shoeboxes and make cars, so their dolls could travel around the country. They had such wonderful imaginations. Colleen’s daughter, Sara, and her friend, Jennifer Hatcher, both recalled playing with their Barbies. Sara remembered one that was really fancy with a big gold dress. She loved dressing up the dolls and she remembered receiving a really big Barbie doll house that she kept forever.
I remember gathering around the tree with my family as a child. Although the decorations on the tree changed through the years, the laughter, great food and fellowship were always present. Our home was always filled with friends and family. The gifts under the tree were not usually expensive, but every gift was important. Someone always commented about the blessings we had all received that year. Being the fifth child, I certainly heard many stories of earlier Christmas memories from my siblings.
Occasionally, my parents would load us in the family Oldsmobile and drive to town. Yes, we referred to Springfield as “town.” I remember visiting Santa at Ben Franklin’s 5 & 10 on Main Street. For some reason, I honestly told him I had not been good that year, and he gave me a lesser reward for my visit. I never made that mistake again. The next year I visited with Santa at Gamble’s Hardware on 5th Ave. My eye was on a bright red wagon. Santa came through that year.
Over the years, we visited Santa in many places in the county, and our requested gifts varied. Like many in America, we learned about the “wish book” from Sears, Roebuck & Co. or Montgomery Ward. We always loved our trips to town before Christmas. I remember sitting in the car at the Kroger (on 7th Ave.) watching the neon rocking chair at Garvin Furniture on Main St.. Springfield was lit up with the glow of Christmas lights and people were walking the streets “window shopping” after the stores had closed.
Old family movies and photographs cannot hold the smell of Christmas, but they can stir those memories that make our Holidays a special time. Family gatherings during this holiday are as varied as the individuals involved, but somehow, we have developed our own special family tradition – Traditions based on the memories of our youth.

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