Area residents were asked to share their memories of Christmas, and many did so. Memories will begin here and continue Thursday in the Lifestyle section.
From Chuck Siferd
I grew up in the 600 block of South Main Street in the day when nobody thought of driving uptown — you walked. If I had occasion to go uptown to Christmas shop, I would start out alone and in a short time would fall in step with others and enjoy a conversation. No real strangers back then. As you walked those six blocks and got closer to the Public Square you were joined by others along the way until it was elbow to elbow throngs of people in and out of Sears and Roebuck —Montgomery-Wards and Jones Hardware which also sold a lot of toys at that time. Ninety percent of the shopping was concentrated in that downtown area. Small groups of persons were huddled together sharing family news and news about former neighbors and opinions about current events — important information to those talking and those listening as well. What a wonderful way of communication. I miss it. P.S. This practice of communication went on daily but the Spirit of the Season made it special to me.
From Eugene Jackson
The Christmas decorations are going up. I know that Christmas is near. I miss my friends and co-workers at Ford and anticipating the time off at Christmas. I miss the gift exchange on the last workday of the of the year. The air waves were filled with Christmas songs like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “White Christmas” and “The Christmas Song.” It’s not quite like that now. For pure joy, nothing can rival the Christmas when I got my first bike. I will treasure that memory until the day I die. Today’s children get so much that Christmas does not have the same meaning.
From Martie MacDonell
Jim MacDonell, a resident of Lima and a geologist by trade, was a remarkable man with a flock of interests and abilities, leading to exciting projects benefiting local residents. I was lucky to marry into the MacDonell family and proud to call him “Uncle Jimmy.” Behind his back, I called him “my favorite Renaissance man.”
You could follow Uncle Jimmy’s station wagon as he made his daily rounds to check on his projects; and you could witness the ongoing installation of the new geologic exhibit donated by Jim to the Allen County Museum; the replica oil well being erected on the Allen County Fairgrounds; the Johnny Appleseed Girl Scouts’ new camping facilities; and Jim’s amazing workshop where he crafted beautiful objects from treasured wood harvested from “first stand” Allen County forests.
It was Christmas, and Uncle Jimmy expressed his affection and respect by giving gifts to his friends and family, and sometime just acquaintances. I was surprised on the morning before Christmas when I saw his station wagon pull up in our family driveway. He came to the door and presented me with a wrapped Christmas package, chuckling as he drove away.
On Christmas morning, I was the last to open my present after the children hooped and hollered while tearing into Santa toys. When I unwrapped the package, I saw a big and beautiful rock glistening in the winter sunlight. It was a rare specimen of Rose Quartz. I almost fainted with delight.
The days following Christmas were filled with social occasions. I happened to meet and talk with Joe Dunlap, the curator of the Allen County Museum, who was lamenting the sudden loss of an item missing from the geologic exhibit. I was wary about discussing the subject, given that I was picturing my brand new Christmas gift glowing on a shelf in our living room. It was the most beautiful gift I have ever received. Uncle Jimmy and I never mentioned what happened. I will never forget that Christmas, and I will love Uncle Jimmy forever.
From Kaye Closson Phillips, Bluffton
When I think of my earliest Christmas memories, my thoughts go back to our two-day celebrations, always starting on Christmas Eve. Our annual children’s Christmas program was held at our church in the country. Each child received a “piece” to recite. Memorization and practices started well before the day. The church was filled with parents and grandparents, all proud of the children who could say their verse without looking at the rolled-up script hidden in their little hands. I remember seeing my parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents smiling in the crowd. I also remember my grandpa replacing that script with a silver dollar, congratulating my one-line performance. Checking on one of those coins — a 1922 silver dollar — it is documented that it was given to me on Christmas Eve, 1960. I was 2 1/2 years old. After the program, each child received a red mesh stocking full of candies and always an orange in the bottom.
At this point, the excitement had just begun. We would travel a short way down the road to my great-grandmother’s home, where our extended family would meet for a Christmas feast. There would be special sandwiches, pies, cookies and candies. All were homemade and presented in a festive fashion. After we had visited and eaten until we could not attempt to try one more treat, we would head back to our home. Usually our departure would be signaled by one of the adults announcing that they had spied Santa and his reindeer just coming from the direction of our home.
The short mile home seemed endless as my brother and I speculated on what Santa Claus had left for us. We were never disappointed. Dad and mom made sure that Santa came through. One of the most memorable years was when Dad handcrafted a miniature wooden wardrobe and Mom filled it with doll clothes she had sewn by hand. I look back and wonder if I was suspicious of the clothes having the same patterns as the clothes we wore. If so, I would not have wanted to admit it and spoil the magic of Christmas. I treasure this gift still today.
Christmas Day was filled with visiting our grandparents on both sides of the family. We had more delicious foods, fun with our extended family and more gifts. Our special Christmas Eve celebration made it possible to enjoy Christmas Day with our other family members. My husband and I have carried out this tradition with our children, always on Christmas Eve, hopefully giving another generation the joy of the season.
From Richard Swallow
My greatest Christmas memories were as a child growing up just a few miles north of Lima. I did not grow up on a farm but a lot of my friends did. My first real solid memories began at 7 years of age. Times were still a little tough in 1939 (my birth year). I vividly remember having kerosene lights, a pot belly stove for heat and a path to the bath. Life wasn’t hard for me though. I had three older brothers, who I looked up to, a wonderful caring mother and father who kept family tightly knit. We may not of had a lot of money but we always had plenty of love.
At Christmas time, we always had a live tree, and decorating it was fun. We had a lot of home made decorations for our tree including popcorn strung together on sewing thread to form the garland that was to embrace this beautiful tree that had come to live in our home for a few weeks. I know sometimes when it was so cold outside that we would have some unwelcome guests to share the holidays with, and they were the mice that would get in and eat the garland right off the tree. My mom would make the best (colored no less) popcorn balls of red and green, and fudge and cookies. I loved them. Family would come on Christmas Eve for a five-star dinner and pie with hand whipped cream. It don’t get any better than that. A lot of stories were told by my favorite uncles and others that I totally believed, at least then, now I’m not so sure.
As I grew up, I would hunt a lot with my dad when he came home from work, and many were the night we came back with our supper for that day. And as times changed we got totally modernized. We had electric lights, running water and even indoor plumbing. Today it would be hard for everyone to go back to that lifestyle, but I sure would have a go of it. I will embrace these memories forever. I didn’t need to get big Christmas gifts or have fancy decorations to be happy and feel blessed, I have had the best of all. I am always mindful of the the greatest formative years of my life and the values my parents taught me. So never forget the reason for the season: It’s to be thankful for what you’ve been given and give love to others as Christ has loved us. Merry Christmas! Blessings from Richard to all. Never forget your roots.
From Kay Bowsher
As a child, World War II was on so gasoline was among rationed. Commodities as well as sugar, shoes, and some groceries which were obtained with ration coupons.
There were very few artificial Christmas trees around. The lights managed to scramble the wires while in storage so we had a lot of time spent loosening them before we could test the lights and find which ones blew the set to get it replaced. After the war, bubble lights became fashionable.
At that time city buses followed their routes about every 6-10 minutes and met in the Square for people to make transfers before continuing to the other end of the route. Cost to ride was 4 cents for children and 6 cents for adults. If you missed a bus, the wait for the next was not long.
The Square was usually busy with people.
There were several department stores on Main Street: Gregg’s, The Leader, Blattner’s, in the Square was Montgomery Wards and Sears where the present Convention Center is now, with JC Penney at the corner of Market and Elizabeth.
Kewpee was a favorite place for a meal or a snack. Equity Dairy had a large store on Main Street which had a cafeteria, along with several smaller ice cream stores in town.
There were at least five dime stores on Main Street, Woolworth’s, Neisner’s, Newberry’s and Kresge’s, as well as Grant’s. There were a number of dress stores between the other stores.
On the top floors of the National Bank Building was located the only radio station, WLOK. The radio station WIMA was on air by early 1950s.
Christmas mail was the heaviest time of the year so on at least the last Sunday before Christmas there was mail delivery. Of course at that time we did have two deliveries a day and first class mail was 3 cents.
Getting the Montgomery Ward Christmas Wish Catalog was always exciting to see what toys were available before making the trip downtown to look in each store to see what they had in stock. Some stores had a Santa for children to tell their wishes to. But none of this happened until Santa had arrived on the Friday after Thanksgiving to give a candy cane to all the children who passed through his line which wound around the Square and up Main Street. The line was long to get through the Jones Hardware which devoted its upstairs to toys. It was a must see each year.
Downtown decorations were always beautiful.
At Horace Mann School — and I am sure all the other elementary schools — we had a Christmas program with each grade presenting a special part to it.
Like most homes in Lima we had a coal furnace which spouted soot over the freshly fallen snow so snow did not remain white very long. Snowplows were not in use when I was a child, so a heavy snow made it difficult to get around town as well as find a place to park if you got there.