Christmas Past

Recent and upcoming events bring some memories to the fore; remembering a Christmas held in the brick house at 1202 Fifth Avenue North in 1945. The tree almost hit the ceiling. My visual memories are all I have from the time, as I was only 1-1/2. We entertained members of each branch of the military, with presents for each one. This was a tradition my parents did all through the World War II years, and for two years after. There were alcoholic drinks for the adults, usually a home-made eggnog and a cider punch which my Dad made. There were both roast turkey and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, which my Dad made, recalling his youth in Canada. There were Christmas cookies, made with the new aluminum cookie cutters and several glass molds. The Santa Claus cake was baked in two heavy containers. The front was then frosted to the back with a rum/sugar/butter creation, then decorated in colors with a cake decorator. I think I still have that decorator; it is red plasticine which has a lot of ‘give’ and I have never been able to get it to work properly. My Mom could do it easily!All the trimmings which went with the main dishes were there. The Swansons who ran the Aloha Meat market always managed to keep us supplied with fine cuts of meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, through the war years and beyond. Mother always said she would never be afraid to eat their meats uncooked, as she knew the cuts were the best to be had. (I never tried to find out if they were that good). There were deviled eggs, a shrimp dish, mashed potatoes, giblets and gravy, and pies.

Usually, my Uncle Gene and Aunt Margaret would drive up from Rainier Valley to share Christmas Eve or Christmas, never both the same year! My Uncle Sid and Aunt Mary would come over from Yakima every year, always on Christmas. My aunt, who currently resides in Bremerton, and uncle, Richard and Dorothy Jane Hull, lived in the 1000 block on Taylor Avenue, having moved up from Portland as the war continued. Their daughters, Adrienne and Leslie, were with them. Leslie was six months older than I, so we became close over the years – we still manage to break each other up in laughter. My sister was closer to Adrienne in age. My Walla Walla cousins, Darrell and Bobby, rarely got to visit us in Seattle in those years. Bob was in the service, training at Pensacola; Darrell’s heart murmur kept him from active service, but did not dampen his ability with saxophone. His band played all around eastern Washington. Bob stayed in the service until 1949, serving with the Army of Occupation in Germany.

But back to Christmas – I still have the little blue lamb which was given to me that year, along with several books which were Christmas gifts. Comparing some of them with today’s offerings of children’s books, I find that quality still tells in drawing book buyers. How many of you in the Society can remember those years and those special Christmases, perhaps remembering how worried you were about loved ones who were in service, or relatives who lived in the war zones? It was a time when America could be proud of many of the achievements and sacrifices we made during that time. I wish I could go back to those times, in part to better chronicle them, perhaps with a video camera to follow the preparations for Christmas and the decorating of the house and the tree.

My sister and I divided up the classic ornaments which we had for the tree. In later years I bought one new special ornament for the tree every year. This became a tradition which lasted until I moved away from Queen Anne Hill in 1990. Some year I hope to restart that tradition, although perhaps I did when I bought the hanging Queen Anne High School ornament for my sister several years ago.

Traditions are nice, but circumstances often change things irrevocably. We only had roast beef with Yorkshire pudding once after my Dad’s death, and I never got to ask him what his early Christmases were like. He died just before my 6th birthday, so there are many questions for which I never learned the answers.

May the best of the holiday season come to each of you, in whatever manner you choose to celebrate. We have another year of adventure ahead, with some explorations into areas both familiar and ‘uncharted,’.