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The sights, sounds and smells of Christmases past

The sights, sounds and smells of Christmases past

As presents begin to pile around my nieces and nephews on Christmas morning, at some point I will reminisce about Christmas when I was a kid, in the 1950s at my grandparents’ home in Kilgore, Texas.

We drove to Kilgore from Memphis, Tenn., a day or two before the big day. It was a grueling, 10-hour expedition down bouncy, two-lane Hwy. 70. We cruised through cozy, country towns named Emmet, Hope and Hazen before they became freeway exit signs.

We made the trip in a black, 1951 Ford, forged from steel and chrome. It had a 3-speed on the column and did about 55 miles per hour, floored. There was a hole in the floorboard behind the gas pedal, where you could watch the asphalt fly by. We would always suffer at least one flat tire.

Kilgore was a sight to behold during Christmas. It was an oil town during the oil boom of the 1950s and oil derricks as tall and thick as pines were decked out in multi-colored Christmas lights. Each derrick sported a white star on top.

The Christmas tree for the home was purchased with a sharp ax, the mistletoe, with a keen eye and some climbing skill. There were card games, candlelight services at the church and singing.

During the holidays, my grandmother turned into a short-order cook. You walked into the kitchen, told her what you wanted for breakfast, and she cooked it right there. She looked at the world, and us, through the rosiest pair of glasses you could ever imagine.

The smells of Christmas dinner were overpowering. After the presents were opened, and the excitement died down, we could think of nothing else – the turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, casseroles, glazed ham with cloves, cobbler, pies and fudge.

Whatever our noses may have promised us though, in the end our stomachs proved no match for the massive Christmas spread. Christmas dinner tis a feast best conquered over time.

My mother’s childhood Christmas gatherings in the 1930s were much smaller than those in the 1950s. People didn’t travel extensively back then because the roads were horrible and the cars completely unreliable. Unless relatives lived close by, Christmas was usually limited to the immediate family.

As a child, my mother lived in the Kilgore Gulf camp, a collection of a dozen or so homes built by the oil company for its employees. After the Christmas presents were opened, the kids burst out of their homes into the camp to share their excitement with others.

Christmas ties the past to the present like no other holiday. So no matter how big or small your family, or whether you traveled from near or far, before the bows and wrappings begin to fly, and before the kitchen is cranked up high, we at Delta Farm Press wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas.


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