By Bill Ward
---- — Paul Barada’s recent column about his Christmas traditions was as always enjoyable and brought back to me a memory I have treasured for a long time. I was quite young and we had just moved to our new home at 13th and Main. It was around 1940 and I was still sure of Santa Claus and his yearly visit. We had decorated as many did at the time. We had a cardboard Santa with a Coke in his hand courtesy the local bottling plant. We also had around two or three strings of the old style screw in lights strung along the front railing of our porch. Our Christmas tree had been put up and decorated and the Ward’s, Abernathy’s Newhouse and Caldwell relatives were all there. I was antsy because it was Christmas Eve and I had visions of Santa and presents on my mind.
Dad had been rather antsy himself for some reason and after supper and some conversation, a lot of it behind my back, it was decided Uncle Charlie Caldwell, who was ill and in the hospital at 5th and Main, sure would like to see me. Frankly, I really would rather stay and check things out, but being the well mannered young man that I was, and being pushed into it, I went along with the story. The weather was horrible much worse than even the recent snow storm. At this time, the city did not plow the streets so they were basically smashed down snow and ice under that. The only thing the city did do was sand the intersections.
Aunt Hattie Caldwell, Uncle Charlie’s wife, a couple of her children and her brother in law took me and off we went. I should have seen something was up when neither Mom or Dad went with us, but I had other things on my mind. We went to the hospital on Main and remained there way too long for me. Finally, we said our good byes and got in the car to head home. Only we didn’t head directly home we had to check out other decorations in town preferably away from our home. Up on Perkins Street to 11th then over to Morgan then to Park Boulevard back to 14th street and then back to Main. This intersection had a slight incline and the snow was deep as we had been almost stuck several times in our trip around the neighborhood. We got stuck and stuck well. The men got out and tried to push the ladies were happy to remain the car and me too young to be of help.
After some effort and not a bit of head way it was decided that I would head home only about a block away and get help. I was happy to go I was more than ready for something to happen. I bundled up got out and trudged toward home. I got there without much of a problem and bounded up the front steps. As I was about to knock on the front door, which was locked, I happen to notice Dad was just finishing putting tacks in the tracks of a brand new Lionel Train Set. Wow, what a deal. Was this for me? I decided to hold off a little and see what else might come about. Mom was putting out things as well and I started to think possibly this Santa thing was not what I had thought.
After a short time I got cold enough that I wanted in the warm house, and the train was being played with by dad and his buddies so I knocked on the door. Dad had a look of shock on his face when he opened the door and there I was. I told him about the problem just down the road and he and a couple of other men got in his truck and headed out to get the stuck vehicle undone and everyone back in our warm home.
Shortly after they left, the men and the two vehicles were back and all was well. I had my new trains set, some clothes and one or two small toys supposedly left by Santa. Mom did her best to continue the Santa myth and dad was more interested in the train than the story. Me I was wondering if maybe this Santa thing was not as it seemed, but also I felt that I would be much better off were I to remain supposedly ignorant of the situation I had seen earlier. I enjoy the remainder of the evening and decided to go along with the Santa myth at least for a couple of more years. Mom and dad and our guests exchanged gifts and all was well with the world.
I think Dad knew I had seen more than I was willing to admit to but he let things go. Uncle Charlie passed away that night so possibly it was a good thing I did get to see him one last time. Aunt Hattie and Grandma Abernathy the two sisters enjoyed the evening and in particular my enthused playing with the train and other toys left for me. All in all the evening was a success and one more myth of youth had unfortunately been dashed against the wall of reality. I played along with the Santa idea for a year or more but only with the idea it was to my advantage to do so, and it was.
So I would like to wish all of you out there a very Merry Christmas and prosperous and happy New Year. May you and your family have an enjoyable Christmas season and may Santa be generous to you and yours. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.