Area residents were asked to share their memories of Christmas, and many did so.
From Joe Bowsher
I don’t have any outstanding stories but a few memories. Of course the Christmas lights and declarations in the square were annual events in the ’50s. Jones Hardware with the toys and Santa on the upper level. The service clubs on most of the corners ringing bells for the Salvation Army. Greggs Department store windows and displays inside. As a newspaper boy the December editions were commonly more than 100 pages, and Christmas edition one of the biggest. I often could only carry a portion of the route then return home for another load. As a Boy Scout. our troop would sell Christmas trees at Pangles Grocery on Latham for a commission to the troop. For many years the Dairy Queen on Allentown Road was a big seller of Christmas trees. Christmas cards were very popular and the mail was delivered twice a day. Crowds of people on the sidewalks and in the stores. Of course every trip downtown required a trip up the Leader store escalator. It also seems like we experienced more snow in the ’50s that now. A time of innocence that has been lost.
From Becky Saylor Sharp
I grew up in Lima, but moved away when I got married in 1966.
I remember the year I wanted a Christmas tree with pine cones on it. My birthday is Dec. 22, so I asked my parents to give me a tree with pine cones on it. My wish was granted. My parents had a hard time to find such a tree, but it made me so happy. I did get other birthday gifts. We have an artificial tree now, and I have pine cones on it.
Other Christmases had a theme. One year all three of us kids got cowboy/cowgirl items, another year it was fishing equipment, and then one year Grandma made us look-alike pajamas, including my mom.
My dad took 8 mm movies every year so we could enjoy Christmas throughout the year.
From Joe Dunkle
I remember driving into town on High Street Road (Reservoir Road) in the snow. When I was little, if it was snowing and we were going to town, that meant Santa would be here soon. The best gauge was after parking at the “one-arm-guy-parking lot,” if we walked up High Street past the Central Fire Station we would find Santa and the Reindeer hanging over the sidewalk. On that wonderful day, you could bet yer bingo that turning left on Main and heading for the square should reveal another … BIG … Santa headin’ South over the square. Last but not least, after the two Santas were confirmed, the man himself (THE MAN) could be found on the second floor of Jones Hardware. The triangulation was done. All I had to do now was get home and grab the Sears catalog, plus my trusty red crayon. Next, I would circle every tank, truck, plane and cap gun. This was then given to Mom for submission to the North Pole.
We were so blessed to have a warm home filled with love. Didn’t matter what Santa brought. I knew he was a good guy that delighted all the children at Christmas. May yours be blessed, as well.
From VaLaire Orchard
I never had a Christmas tree until I was 6 years old. My mother, dad and I were in showbusiness and lived in hotels throughout the country. In fact, we usually were booked to perform on holidays so Christmas was really “just another day.” When I was 6, my parents brought me to Lima to stay with my grandmother and start public school. From then on, there was always a Christmas tree. However, the Christmas tree I remember most didn’t come about until I was an adult.
My husband, Art, was in the Army stationed at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, when we celebrated our second Christmas together. I had joined him in Texas and we were living in a one-room “apartment.” When Christmas came, we bought a tree about five feet tall. We didn’t have a car, but we thought we could get it back to our place if we hailed a cab. Either the cabs were all filled or they chose not to pick us up when they saw the tree. It was much too far to walk so we went to the nearest bus stop and hoped for the best. When the bus stopped, the driver almost said no, but, instead, he turned to the passengers and said “Is there room for a soldier, his lady and a Christmas tree?” The passengers looked at us, laughed and yelled “Sure!”
To be honest, that bus was more than a little crowded even before we got on with our tree, but those wonderful Texans were good natured, smiling and wonderful.
Our decorations were all hand made with balls, stars and a few strange looking angels all cut from colored construction paper but it was the most beautiful Christmas tree we ever had. We had 67 Christmases together but never one more memorable.
From Tesa (Brenneman) Jordan
1965 was a big year at our house for Christmas! I received not one doll, but four, and more games and toys than I could begin to play with. My older brother, Jim, got a home chemistry set.
New Year’s Eve, the power went out because of an unseasonal electrical storm. My parents were going out for a party, so my sister, Sally, was entertaining me by running her finger back and forth through a candle flame, by the glow of my mother’s many kerosene lamps, and one Bunsen burner, provided by my brother, which he chose to place on the fireplace hearth.
So fascinated by my sister’s antics, I sat down to watch, and when I stood up, my full skirt sailor dress became engulfed in flames! The skirt had been on the Bunsen burner! She screamed, turned me around and beat the flames out with her hands. My parents came running, yelling, because they thought we were fighting. The skirt of my dress was gone in the back, and my petticoat was scorched. My sister’s hands weren’t burned, and fortunately, her quick actions kept me from getting burned or my hair from catching fire.
Then my dad sat down with a book of matches and made me light every single one, thinking that would make me lose my fear of fire. It was years before I’d light another match!
From John Hollenbacher
I interviewed my grandmother Hazel Roberts by mail on Dec. 8, 1984. I was in eighth grade. She was about 94 at that time. She lived until 1993.
I asked my grandmother to tell me about her Christmas memories.
Grandma told me they never had much of a Christmas until she was married and then from then on, they always celebrated Christmas. She remembers decorating their tree with strings of popcorn, some ornaments, and white candles held in a little metal holder tipped on the branches. They lit the candles and luckily, never had a fire.
“Usually, after our celebration, we bundled up the baby and went to my mother’s house for dinner. Oh!”, she exclaimed, “my most memorable Christmas was the one when your great-grandfather gave me my beautiful diamond engagement ring and a box of candy.”
I asked Grandma if she liked Christmas better as a child or as an adult. “Oh,” she said, “Christmas was most fun when we had children to buy for and watch them as they opened their gifts and squeal with delight. That was real joy and happiness.”
From Fran (Carnes) Park and her husband, Joe
Frances was one of 13 children. She and her brother, Hale, would look at Christmas catalogs. They would choose what they wanted — pretend, of course.
Candy was a common gift. There was no tree in the early years of the Depression. Times were good until 1928.
There were beggars at the door during the Depression. Fran’s mother, Frieda, celebrated her birthday on Christmas with Baby Jesus.
In 1941, Fran married Joseph Park. He soon went to war. While Joe was away, Fran worked at Westinghouse. She earned $6 to $8 a week. At the Red Cross, she earned $5 a week.
Joe’s best memory of an early Christmas was the holiday he spent in Japan. He said he really enjoyed the Japanese countryside. He still has his early metal cars and trains, and enjoys looking at them from time to time. When he was young, he had a delivery side service.
From Janet Hussey
One of my favorite things to do at Christmastime in Lima, during the 1940s, was to drive with my mother and dad out through the West Market Street Boulevard area. Every house on the boulevard was decorated with lights and stars and wreaths. An even bigger wonder was driving out South Metcalf Street past the Standard Oil Refinery. There were colored lights on every building, smoke stack and tower. How did they get so many lights up in those high places and how many lights do you suppose there were? Now when I go past the refinery at night, I still think of the colored Christmas lights as they were, on the buildings, smoke stacks and towers.
From Karlyn Lauer
As a little girl in the late 1950s, Christmas was a special time. My father would study the newspaper which listed local neighborhoods with good Christmas light displays. In fact, the paper often sponsored contests for the best decorated homes. My father would work out a route, or area, he thought we would enjoy. Usually on a weekend he loaded the car with myself, mother and several cousins my parents helped to raise and we would tour the lights. We loved it and spent the evening watching for the pretty lights. The season also involved window shopping in downtown Lima. The two big department stores, The Leader and Gregg’s, always tried to outdo each other in window displays for Christmas. The scenes were often animated and portrayed some Christmas scene that made you feel as if you had been transferred to some magical land. It was a wonderful experience and one I miss as the days of the independent, standalone department store seems to be gone.
From Larry Inskeep, Lima
I will always remember my most memorable Christmas present that my parents ever gave me. It was when I was 14 and all I asked for was a gold ring, with a black onyx insert with a gold initial of my last name in the center! I had invited my girlfriend over to celebrate Christmas with my family and when I was handed this little box to open, I assumed it was the ring, so I just turned and gave it to my girlfriend to open, and as she did, I ask her to go steady. Later, after I took her home, my mother gave me a stern talking to, about how she didn’t know that was what I had planned to do with the ring, because she thought I was too young to be so serious about a girl. A couple years later when I had joined the Navy and came home from boot camp, both my mother and dad surprised me by having that same girl already waiting at our house, all wrapped up in a pretty ribbon for my Christmas present. This coming Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, Jetta and I will celebrate our “Golden Anniversary” with our three children, their spouses and all our grandchildren.
Now as Paul Harvey would say: “ Here’s the rest of the story!” Quite a few more years pass, and in 1974, on Christmas Sunday night at our church, Lima First Assembly of God, my wife and kids received their best Christmas present ever, one they had been praying for, for a long time, and that’s when I received Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. That, my friends, is the best present anyone can receive and all you have to do is ask Him to come into your heart and by His grace, He will! This truly is the greatest “gift” of any, and all Christmases!