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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Memories of Christmases long ago

Submitted: December 14, 2016

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Submitted: December 14, 2016





When I was 5 years old my family moved from Rockford to a northern suburb of the city called Loves Park. It was a town of about 1100 people connected to Rockford by the long U.S. Highway 51. Highway 51 was called North Second Street in Loves Park and everybody in town had some degree of pride that our street ran all the way North to all the way South bisecting the entire USA. My father had secured a loan from a private investor based on his expertise in camera repair and had started a business in Loves Park a year before we moved there. He sold and repaired cameras and sold film, darkroom supplies, and even greeting cards for awhile. My father was a smart guy and fairly skilled socially and he made friends quickly with the townfolk through his business and through various social organizations. When he was young he belonged to The Jaycees, was a lifetime member of The Lions Club, The Chamber of Commerce, etc.

When I was 7, Dad found himself on the team assigned to the town's Christmas decorating. It was a wintry day sometime after Thanksgiving. We didn't start the Christmas Season so early then. I didn't know what exactly was involved, but I was excited to be asked to go along. It was cold that day, but I didn't mind winter so much back then. The first stop on our task was J.C. Patterson Lumber Co., a sprawling enclave of whitewashed buildings that smelled of old wood and newly-sawn lumber in huge sorted stacks. There was sawdust everywhere. I remember hot chocolate and men laughing as we made our way deep into the property and inside a large white two-story barn. I was selected to be one of the first up the ladder to the hay-mow attic.

 It was a gray day and it was dark in the old barn. At the top of the ladder, I saw straw everywhere and not much else. Then some men started rummaging through the hay and the clutter and began to unearth these startlingly huge curiosities. Lots of them. Piled on top of each other like the wooden boards down stairs. When my eyes became adjusted to the light and the straw was brushed away, I could see big life-sized reindeer and then carolers! Then came Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus and life-sized goats and sheep. They all seemed so big! Some plastic, some wood. Some wore cloth clothes and some were painted on. They were all much larger than the toy versions of these that we played with. There were fake wooden candles 5 feet tall, giant snowflake cut-outs. Huge wooden christmas trees with multi-colored painted-on balls. 

So much stuff. 

We brushed each of the magic items off and handed them down the ladder to be loaded onto a truck. I was very excited all the way through the work and then even more so when they found Mr. and Mrs. Santa and a full-sized Christmas sleigh complete with bells and fake snow and a huge burlap sack filled with painted wooden presents. I'm sure there was more stuff and more work to do, but I was gone. Mesmerized. They lost me. That was all I remember of it. I was still a Santa believer at that time and this was NEATO COOL! 

The next step was to take the stuff and set it up.

Loves Park at this time was a small town built along both sides of North Second Street ( U.S. Hwy 51 ) on the East side of the Rock River. North Second Street was a four-lane highway at the time with a wide grassy median separating the Northbound from the Southbound lanes. And that's where we set up our displays in a straight line running the whole length of the heart of the town ( five blocks or so ). Santa and the reindeer in front of the Park State Bank on the busiest corner in town at Riverside Boulevard. Then some carolers and some candles and fake trees eight feet tall. Then the life-sized Nativity scene in front of the theater. Then some more fake Christmas trees. It was very much like a parade down the median led by Santa and the reindeer.

And they stood there undisturbed every year, from years before we did it and for 10 years or more after that, from mid-November till after New Year. 

Over the years, they widened the road and the medians disappeared as did the Christmas displays. Maybe it's just as well. Everybody I've ever told about these days says the same thing,

 "You couldn't do that nowadays. Kids would destroy it the first night...They would make you take the Nativity scenes down...." 

Maybe there was some vandalism and fussing among some adults, but I never noticed it. 

All I saw was Magic.

© Copyright 2018 Brian Beebe. All rights reserved.

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