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Dec 5 13 4:36 PM

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O.K!  Halloween is over, even the worst candy you saved till the end is gone.  The Thanksgiving turkey carcass we put in the garbage pail is now feeding the pigs in New Jersey (so they told me.).  This was the time of year our young thoughts turned to Christmas--thinking about what we wanted, drafting out our wish list(s) to Santa.  I often wondered why we didn't write to baby Jesus?  After all, it was his birthday we were celebrating.   However, I do recall that Santa delivered on some of our Jesus? not so much...prayers, evidently took longer, and like our parents, He tended to give us what we needed instead of what we wanted.  What I always wanted, and never got, were: a Red Ryder BB gun, an industrial strength sling-shot with ball bearings for ammo and a Ramar of the Jungle blow-gun...with poisoned darts.  Even a subscription to National Geographic would have been acceptable.   What I received were: socks, ties and underwear (My folks were like God).  I can't speak for the girls, but I'm sure they had their own special lists.  I know all my sister Mary wanted for Christmas one year was--Elvis Presley.  I remember this because it was written on one of those campaign-like badges she pinned onto her winter coat, just beneath her holly pin.  She was also disappointed when he wasn't under the yule tree after midnight mass...

For some other old recollections, check out this link:

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#1 [url]

Dec 12 13 2:32 PM

The old Christmas tree...

And it came to pass this time every year, a railroad car would roll into a siding off Chelten Ave. and unload Christmas trees: Noble firs, Douglas firs, Scottish pines and some Blue Spruces among others.  A veritable mountain of trees--all awaiting distribution to points around our town by men in trucks wearing Navy watch caps--all with that fresh pine scent and sticky sap, something I experienced sensually by rolling around in them until I took on that seasonal odor.  Loved that smell!  Some were huge, destined for bank lobbies like the Germantown Savings Fund, or the Mellon Banks and larger homes.  Most of the rest were smaller (6-10'),  perfect for most of our homes.  One would be ours, no doubt, but only after the annual ritual of selection.  That process would start at either Vernon Park or the Acme Market on Chelten Ave. near Rowel's Department store for us.  After much haggling over the trees in the $2.00- $5.00 range (outrageous!), my dear Mom would select the best of the worst, bind it up in twine and drag it home, leaving that tell-tale trail of needles along the way.  It would be put in our backyard,  left tied up like a captured soldier and, depending on the weather, would take several days to unthaw inside the house before it could be decorated.  Cut to size,  with the "bad side" turned to the wall and secured with tie-downs (Mom learned this technique after several trees were pulled down by little hands), this orphan of the forest was turned into "the best little Christmas tree in the world"--except for your own, of course.  Strings of big, fat GE bulbs went on first: red, blue and green ones--none of those later chincy little ones the Japanese pushed onto us, where if one went out, you lost them all,  followed by the heirloom balls (not broken in previous crashes), then ornaments the kids and family made along with tinsel for that icicle effect.  Finally, an angel topped the tree proclaiming all was well and only one addition remained--a plastic Santa, with an open sack on his back, was handled with special care and placement. A note with all the decorators names and those that were away was placed in his sack.  Over the years one might say: his sack "runneth over."  That little plastic Santa would become a most prized possession.   Sitting beneath this beautiful tree, along with family and friends, we would enjoy a glass of eggnog (with a shot of Four Roses) and sing a few songs before retiring. I can still recall, laying in bed, wondering how the hell Santa was going to get down our chimney, survive the roaring coal fire the old man made up to keep us warm overnight, and, if he did make it through this hell, he would be in our cellar facing the best watch dog in the neighborhood...Poor, poor Santa I thought, just before.....zzzzzzz.

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#2 [url]

Dec 19 13 7:35 PM

More Christmas...

There were two school days this old Germantowner always looked forward to: Those two half-days we were released before summer vacation,  and, the one around this time of the season,  that released us before the Christmas break.  This always went down with the nuns at St Vincent's turning over their desk to one of the parish priests who personally presented us with our annual box of teeth breaking, hard, colored candies--never varied.  It was much nicer bringing home candy to share than the usual notes from the sister declaring that "Your son may be responsible for the decline of Western Civilization."
 Thus released, I would be off to the Avenue, with two bucks wadded up in my little hand, to do battle with the hoards of last minute shoppers, all looking (hopelessly) for that perfect gift. I would get a lot of reminders from guys in black-leather jackets telling me: "Hey, Pal! The line starts in the rear."  Looking back, I find it amazing all that I could buy for that two bucks--gifts for five were no problem (if I wasn't too particular), with enough left over for a Tastykake reward.  The girls were easy to shop for:  anything warm, cuddly with a nice smell satisfied them.  The father and brothers, in contrast, seemed to prefer anything sharp, hard and smelling like new leather. Come Christmas morning, gifts were torn into with much gusto and appreciation.  Wrapping paper and ribbons covered the floor and derailed the little train that ran around in circles under the Christmas tree.  Naturally we would attempt to put anything handy to derail the little, Lionel Choo-Choo, sometimes laughing and squealing so loudly we drew the wrath of the old man:  "You boys knock off that noise or I'll have to come down and cut your" Buddly" off and feed it to the pigs." "What's a 'Buddly?'" I asked my slightly older, street-smart brother.  "You don't want to know," he said.  Merry Christmas!      

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#3 [url]

Dec 20 13 4:17 PM

At this time of the year, wherever there was a vacant lot, there was a good chance you may have found someone selling christmas trees. Also in the lot I recall the 55 gal drum used by these Christmas Industrialists, they made huge holes on the side of the drum and fill it with scrapes of wood making a great body warmer. I remember the lot at Seymour St. and Wayne Ave. Every year someone was selling trees there, I don’t know who but I recall their self made heater and sometimes when it was very cold I would walk in there and join them (nobody notice a little kid or if they did they did not say anything to me) Before we had a car I don’t know where my Dad got the christmas tree but this is the closest lot that I remember to Wissahickon Ave. and Clapier St.---and that is a long way for him to drag a tree. I know he got one for my Grandmother also, might have been this place since she lived on Tacoma St.

Last Edited By: jackmchugh Dec 20 13 4:19 PM. Edited 1 time.

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