A Christmas Memory

Christmas time is a magical time, but in the 40’s and 50’s the Soyars household was extra magical because my Mom and dad made it that way. We’d venture out as a family about two weeks before Christmas to pick a full and sturdy tree, that evening we’d decorate it. Christmas songs played on the record player as we sang along and went about our assigned tasks. My older brother and my dad would string the lights as my sister and I unpacked the decorations with my Mom. Mom put decorations on the higher branches, and my sister and I took the lower portions. To me it was a competition with my sister to see who could put up the most, and that often got me in trouble. My Mom was quick to remind me that Santa was watching, so I’d better be good. That always worked, and I responded promptly. With the decorations finished, my dad and brother strung the garland, and my mother and sister began hanging the tinsel. I wasn’t allowed to help with that task because I didn’t have the patience to hang tinsel one piece at a time. It was a tedious chore, and I was content to play with my toys and watch them. I always looked forward to the finale when my sister and I got to unwrap the many pieces of the nativity figures. Mom would place the snow skirt around the base of the tree, and my sister and I would pass the figures to her for placement under the tree. When we were finished decorating, dad would plug in the lights and the tree took on that special magic of Christmas.

It seemed that almost every day a new present would magically appear under the tree; however, we weren’t allowed to touch them. That would have to wait until Christmas morning. On Christmas Eve we always had a big family dinner with ham, turkey and all the accompanying dishes. Mom made the most delicious deserts which usually included banana pudding, chocolate cake, and lemon meringue pie. My taste buds are remembering as I write. After dinner, we’d take a drive to see the Christmas lights throughout the city. I remember watching the sky for Santa and voicing my concern that if we didn’t hurry-up and get home, he would skip our house.

I remember that Christmas Eve in 1950 when I was five. I hadn’t been able to go to sleep. I kept thinking about Santa Claus and the toys that he’d bring. I’d doze a while and then wake up and run to Mom and Dad’s bedroom and announce, “I think Santa came.” Mom would tell me the time. I remembered her saying midnight, one and two, but I don’t remember how many times I actually went to their room. After doing this many times, my dad said, “Come here and get into bed between us, but no wiggling or talking.” I did and soon fell fast asleep, waking up only when my sister came in around seven to wake us up. That was a really long night, but a memorable Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. May all your Christmas memories be joyous.

Musing about life in the ‘50s

My Dad with Mom and my brother Conrad 1937If you’ve taken time to review my website, you already know that I’ve written two books, and my latest one is a book of fiction. A coming-of-age mystery that takes place between 1953 and 1973. These were the good old days of my youth and early manhood. A lot of great memories from those years.

I grew-up in a middle-class neighborhood very much like the one that’s the setting for my book Three Whistles. Actually the book is based on many of the experiences I had growing-up, however, I did embellish the stories a bit.

Life in America during the 1950s was so, very different from life in the US today.

Milk was delivered by a man in a truck who arrived before sunrise and deposited fresh milk on our doorstep then collected the empty milk bottles from the prior day’s deliveries. Can you imagine that happening today?

Outdoors was our playground, and we’d be outside with our friends shortly after breakfast, breaking for a short lunch, and back out until dinner. Frequently, we’d be back outside at night playing hide-and-go-seek, kick-the-can or just hanging out. We ran barefooted in the summer with an occasional cut or bruise on a foot and an occasional bee sting to the sole of a foot. My dad’s remedy for this was to put a wad of juicy tobacco from his cigar on the wound. I don’t know if tobacco helped it or not, but it took my mind off the wound.

Some of the families on my street had television, but not everyone. We had two or three channels, and the programs were limited. Many shows were performed live, and mistakes would sometimes create dead space or worse. Before I moved to our new neighborhood in 1953, I’d often get up on Saturday morning and watch the TV pattern until the first show of the day began. On Saturday a number of shows for kids were broadcasted; like Buster Brown, The Adventures of Sky King, and Roy Rogers. They also started showing baseball on TV during the 1950s, and my dad and I were keen to watch the Yankees beat-up their opponents with Mantle and Berra leading the way.

I remember in the early ‘50s watching the Presidential Conventions with my dad. I mention this because of the all the political dialogue that dominates today’s media as we prepare for the 2016 presidential election. My dad was a Democrat, because he said they were for the working people, so, I was a Democrat, as well as a Yankee fan. Kids tend to mimic the people they admire, and I admired my dad. He was my hero. Unfortunately, he died in 1964 at age 57–to early in his life and in mine.

In the 1950s, I remember the Democrats as being conservative as well as looking out for the working man. My dad was very conservative, and I wonder what he’d say about the Democrats of today? They still focus on the working person, I think (today’s Democrats and educators would prefer person to man), but conservative is not part of today’s party language. I think I know what my dad would say and how he’d feel about that party today. Oh well, lives and things do change.

I wonder what the boys in Three Whistles would say about the politics today? Some of the guys were definitely conservative while others were more liberal. Speedy and Tank were liberal. You can see those leanings by their actions and choices in the stories in my book. I’m not offering a political opinion here–just some food for thought.

The picture is of my Dad, Mom and brother and was taken around 1937