My Childhood Memories of Christmas

Posted December 22, 2020 at 12:51 pm

In memory of the late

Evelyn Shelton Guffey


[Editor’s note: The following account of Christmas memories fro years past, was discovered by a family member of the late Evelyn Shelton Guffey, and was submitted to the Clinton County News, for consideration of publication. The essay is a wonderful account, and a valuable lesson for many of our younger readers, of how life was in rural Clinton County decades ago. Consider this essay, our Christmas gift to our readers and we hope all of you have a very Merry, and healthy, Christmas holiday!]

I was born during the era of the ravaging great depression, on May 2nd, 1934, 65 years and seven months ago. Back then times were hard and money was very scarce. There were very few automobiles, no factories around anywhere near, or work of any kind to do. Even Santa Claus had a hard time coming up with a toy for every little girl or boy.

My childhood memories of Christmas are many. I doubt that I can remember all of them, but I guess the most memorable one was when my little sister, Ruby Edith, was born.

On December 23, 1939, our parents, Roscoe and Delie Shelton, got us four older children, Dottie, John, Charles and Evelyn, up in the wee hours of the morning. Our Daddy walked us up the road about a half mile to our Aunt Mary’s house. She put us back to bed and we slept in until after daylight.

Aunt Mary made breakfast for us four and three children of her own, on an old step wood cook stove. She took up the biscuits and they passed them around and when they got to me I said, “I’ll wait until she makes us the corn bread.” Huh! I thought that cornbread for breakfast was just like the sun coming up. My Mama always made it for us kids, and I was a five year old corn cracker.

I didn’t mind at all eating the biscuits, I liked them too, it was just that I thought that everybody made cornbread for breakfast, and that she just hadn’t taken it up yet. Our Mama also spoiled her sons by making two kinds of gravy every morning, one out of corn meal and one out of flour, and I liked and ate both kinds. Anyway, I have been teased for the rest of my days about “waiting until she takes up the cornbread.”

That day was very cold and there were snow flurries all day. Daddy came back after us in the afternoon. On the way home he said to me, “I’ve got something pretty at the house that you will be proud of.” He wouldn’t tell us what it was. I said, “What is it? And where did you get it?” He said, “Mrs. Gibbons brought it over there.”

We were so surprised when we got home to find a beautiful little baby girl, and there, too, was a box of little baby clothes, some little tiny flowered, cotton print long dresses. I remember I said, “Did Mrs. Gibbons bring the little clothes too?” We would sit in our little chairs and beg them to lay her on our lap and let us hold her. She looked like a big live doll. We were so proud of her.

I also remember when I was a little girl, about seven or eight years old, I had one nickel that I had put away in a little tobacco sack in the trunk. I was saving it for Christmas. My two older brothers, John and Charles, and I walked to Narvel Post Office and Store on Christmas Eve with our Uncle Henry Shelton. He took his little basket of eggs with which he usually bought the most of his groceries, as he had a flock of white leghorn hens, and most everybody sold a few eggs back then.

With my one precious nickel, I bought two balloons, two pencils, and a package of chewing gum. Each were only a penny back then.

Sometimes, Selby, the mail man, would come along on his horse and say, “Better bring the farm wagon to the Narvel Post Office, there’s a great big box or two there from your Uncle Jim and Aunt Evelyn Sheffield.” They lived in Indiana and worked at the factories there. They didn’t have any children of their own, so they made our Christmas very happy many times with a big box filled with presents for everyone, toys for each child and candy. They will always be in our thoughts on Christmas.

I still have my big crying and sleeping doll that they sent to me when I was about five or six years old. I thought it was the prettiest thing that I ever saw. It had on a pink wool coat and cap. The cap had blue feathers around the brim. That year my little brother, Dallas, got a big box in the mail addressed to him. It was a big red truck that he could ride in.

With World War II going on, we were lucky to get what we did. Sometimes our mother would send to Albany by our oldest sister, Dottie, as she was going to high school there, to get each of us a very small toy at Chilton’s 5 & 10 Cent Store for a nickel each. A little China doll I still have and treasure very much.

Our parents did not have much money to spend. As I look back now, I wonder how they did as well as they did, with six kids to raise, and they had to plant and can the most of their food on the farm.

They usually made a trip to the Narvel Store in the farm wagon near Christmas and would come home with a big meal sack full of stuff and would lock it up in the cellar to keep us younguns out of it.

It was a big thrill on Christmas Eve. Us kids would usually go to the Hancock Creek bottoms near our home and search until we found the perfect Christmas tree. It would always touch the ceiling. We used sycamore balls covered with chewing gum foil to decorate it. We would string popcorn and use crape paper chains and use any kind of little do-dads that we had to make it look pretty. Why, we didn’t even realize how poor we really were! They let us put the tree up on Christmas Eve and we had to take it down the day after Christmas. It wasn’t put up from Thanksgiving to after New Year’s as now is the custom.

At York’s Chapel, where we went to school, we would always draw names and exchange little gifts, and sometimes have a Christmas play, then Santa Claus would come in with a treat for us all. Usually it was apples, oranges and candy.

Us younguns always hung up our stockings by the fireplace on Christmas Eve night, and we could hardly wait to come down the stairs on Christmas morning to find our stockings full of apples, oranges, bananas and a few pieces of candy and nuts (at Christmas was the only time that we had these goodies) and maybe we would get a small toy.

Most of our toys were homemade, like truck wagons, sling shots, pop guns, stilts, shackle bags, rag dolls, shuck dolls, peanut dolls, checker boards and we had some fox and the goose boards, and balls and so on like that. We did have some dominoes and Chinese Checkers that were gifts to us.

Sometimes on Christmas Eve, Daddy would bring in the little ham boiler kettle and sit it on the old wood cook stove in the kitchen and they would boil a country ham or else maybe they would cook a big rooster and make dumplings. Mama and Grandma made dried apple pies and cakes, and our older sister, Dottie, made chocolate fudge and divinity candy, and they sometimes made us popcorn balls.

In the fall of the year, we would gather hazel nuts, walnuts and hickory nuts and near Christmas hunt mistletoe and holly and spruce pine to send to our Uncle Jim and Aunt Evelyn in Indiana.

We didn’t have much back in those days, but we really appreciated what we did get and we were happy and that was all that mattered. I am glad that the children today can have more than we did, but I don’t think they appreciate what they get like we did.

We knew the true meaning of Christmas and remembered “The Reason for the Season,” “The True Story.” We enjoyed hearing and singing Christmas carols, like some of the old favorites: Away In a Manger, and Silent Night.

We saw several big snows. I remember one Christmas there was a real big snow on, and ice was frozen on all the trees. It looked like a crystal world.

We didn’t have a snow sled, but we would slip out the corn scoop and ride over the hills in it on the snow until our Daddy caught us with it and made us put it up.

The precious memories of our childhood and our humble Happy Little Christmas will forever be written in my heart.

Merry Christmas!

And, Happy New Year!


Evelyn and Tilmon