Saturday, December 21, 2019

Growing Up Christmas, Part One

Photo:Family and Friends gathered for a Lowe Family Christmas celebration: (L to R) Frank T. Jones, Denny Lowe (known for sneaking under the Christmas tree), Flossie Denton Haynes, Mark Lowe (down in front), Lucille Chester Jones Smith, Wayne Lowe (enjoying some nog).  

While touring the wonderful homes on the Historic Homes Christmas Tour this weekend, I felt a warm, traditional feeling come over me. It reminded me of the days not so long ago, when the last day of school before Christmas meant the Holiday was upon us.  Join me as I go back a few years to one of those days.
When I ran into the house, my Mom and sister were waiting to take me to town to finish up our shopping.  Now I thought I was really finished anyway.  We had bought my school friends’ and teacher’s gifts, plus I had spent several dollars at Gossett’s General Store on the important gifts I bought my family.  We hopped into our big green Oldsmobile and headed to Springfield, while a light snow continued to fall.  We stopped at Kroger’s first, then headed over to Ehrenwald’s for several boxes; down to Randolph House & Co for some other items; and down the hill to Gregg’s for our last bit of shopping.  My Mom asked if I needed to do any more Christmas shopping.  I told her I would like to get a few things for the family and went down the aisles to complete my purchases. 
The way this secretive shopping worked was I brought all of the items to the front, while my Mom shopped in another part of the store.  My purchases would be rung up, bagged and held until my Mom finished.  My total was six dollars. I had purchased over ten items, including a large plastic flute for my brother, Denny, a stuffed dog for my sister, Beverly, a tie clip for my brother, Joe, and a checker game for my brother, Wayne.  When we got home, I knew that I had to hide the flute from Denny, (he had a reputation of sneaking under the tree) so I stuck it inside a paper towel cardboard roll and hid it under my pillow.  My sister, Beverly, helped me wrap all of the presents (but hers) and label them with tags.  She even helped me wrap the flute, which I hid under my pillow again, so Denny wouldn’t find it under the tree.
It was still a few days until Christmas, so it seemed that the hours just dragged along. The weather was really cold, so to go outside one had to wear several layers of clothing and then put on the heavy waterproof coat with a hood along with a muffler wrapped around your face. I think this is why we all appreciate the scene from Randy (the brother) falling down in Jean Shepherd’s Christmas Story.  Once you were bundled up and couldn’t move around we could venture out for a few minutes, until the face turned red and then you were ordered back into the house to warm up. The only time we could stay out a little longer was when we were feeding our baby calves.  We would heat up enough water to mix with powdered milk formula for the calves.  My brothers would argue over who got to pop the nipple over the bottle, but eventually we would head out to the pens to feed.  We usually got these calves from Mr. Leon Haynes, who had culled them from his dairy herd.  The calves would nudge and butt us, which was a natural way to stimulate their mothers to provide milk.  I was small enough that they often just knocked me over.  My brothers would laugh and tell me to hold on.  I would get back up and try again.  Occasionally we would have a calf, which would bite on the bottle so hard, they would pull the nipple off and the milk would run out.  If this happened, one of us had to start over with that calf.  My brothers could hold the bottle close to the calf’s mouth to prevent this, but my hands were too small and it was all I could do to hold the bottle anyway.
If I was lucky, Dad (J. W. Lowe) would take me to the Feed Mill on the days when we were out of school.
The Feed Mill was located in Cedar Hill where the road split between Main Street and Washington Road. Across the street was the Cedar Hill Methodist Church and next door was the Cedar Hill Baptist Church.  Today, the site of the Feed Mill is the parking lot of the Baptist Church.
There were four steep steps to the front door of the Feed Mill. At least they were very steep to a youngster like me. A storm door opened outward, which served as an additional obstacle to one short like me. Once inside, it was a kids’ dream – jars of bagged peanuts, a candy bar machine and a soft drink cooler.  The office was closed off from the rest of the building.  There were various types of heaters over the years from milk room electric heaters to propane heaters, but there was always a place to warm up. The balance of the building was unheated, which meant we had to store the extra soft drinks in the office to keep them from freezing.  My brothers, Denny and Wayne were the masters of making a drink freeze just right.  Once frozen to the right consistency, they would roll the bottle in their hands until the soft drink became a slushy treat.  One of our favorite frozen drinks was Kick, a drink very similar to Mountain Dew. RCs or Royal Crown colas were a close second.  If the weather was warmer, we were satisfied with a bag of peanuts poured into an RC cola.
Join me next week for more Christmas stories and fun.   Be sure to share your Christmas memories with your family over the next few days.

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