The Christmas of ’46

By O’Ceallaigh

Tree

We never had much going on for Christmas because we were poorer than church mice and in 1946 there wasn’t much hope of improving that situation.

But, we did have family and some of the simple things made an indelible impression on my young mind. Dad and the three of us kids would go off to the woods with the horses and wagon. We would always look for a good spruce or pine tree but they were few and far between on our farm. So, we would almost always end up with a hemlock.

Hemlocks were OK, but as soon as they were taken inside where it was warm, they began losing their needles. They would always end the season looking like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Needles all over the floor and bare branches with a ball here and there and scant icicles remaining on the skeleton-like tree! But it was always a memorable event to get that tree!

But, the Christmas of ’46 was going to be different. I don’t know where Dad got the money, but somehow we were able to get a real Scotch pine, fresh cut Christmas tree. We had a joyous time decorating it! That was also the first year we had real lights! They were the ones that look like little oil lamps with bubbles going up the stack on the top of each light! Some of them even worked!Bubble lights

To top the season off, we were loaded in our old ’35 Ford, three colored, with no windows in the back and with no heater. We all wrapped ourselves in blankets and headed for Jamestown!

Imagine the anticipation! We expected to arrive in town and, together, go and shop for Christmas presents!

We arrived to the sights and sounds of downtown Jamestown. Lighted garlands strung across Main and Third streets from one end of town to the other, drooping and arching in their multi-colored beauty. The Salvation Army Kettles with the bells ringing, all over town. Snow piled up on the curbs and sidewalks! Policemen were standing in the middle of the intersections directing traffic; waving to all the shoppers!photo-chicago-state-street-christmas-shopping-crowd-streetcars-1947

What a time!

We parked and received our instructions. We were to go to the “5 and 10” stores and select a gift for each other; Mom, Dad, sister and brother, and then return to the car. Dad gave each of us a Five Dollar bill!!!

I had never had that much money in my hand before! I looked at on the front and back and marveled! Then I set out to do my shopping.

I decided to shop for my sister and Mother first, they would be the hardest to buy for. My brother would get a little rubber car and my Dad, maybe a screwdriver or a Crescent wrench. (They were made in Jamestown) I entered Woolworth’s!

It was overwhelming! There was so much to buy! I looked at sweaters, hats and jackets but I had no idea of sizes or what went with what – I was a six year old! What would I know?

Then I saw it. It was a little Fluffy Chow dog, snow white and cute as a button. O, it was not a real dog, it was just a little white “show” dog with stiff wooden legs wrapped with adhesive tape and painted white. The fur was white, too and he had pointed ears sticking up out of the fur and a bright red tongue!

I had to have it for Mom!!

I worked at getting the attention of the clerk which was no small task for this shy little kid. I asked her, “How much is it?”

“$2.25,” the clerk answered. “It’s very nice. Is it for you?”

“$2.25,” I asked? “No, it was going to be for my Mom.” I was devastated! That was almost half my money and I had three others to buy for!

I just stood there for about three hours, it seemed like more, then, I decided: I had to have that dog for my Mom.

I bought it!

The clerk wrapped it in white tissue paper and put it into a small white bag. I gave her my precious Five Dollar bill.

I finished my shopping for the others and still had 25 cents left. I was very thankful and I could remember Mom and Dad talking about a “Thank Offering” at church. I would put that quarter in the Thank Offering.

I headed for the car.

That’s where all the joy ended. My Dad, brother and sister were already there waiting. They asked me what I had gotten for Mom. I took the little white Chow dog from the bag, unwrapped the tissue and proudly displayed the treasure.

They all laughed!

Dad, said, “How much did that cost?” I told him. They all laughed again and ridiculed me for spending so much on one person! I began feeling foolish, hurt and sad – and emotionally spent!

I managed to hold back the tears.

A few days later was Christmas Eve. We always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve. Mom got her gift that I had wrapped myself – rather crudely – and began opening it.

I heard my sister giggle! My brother snorted! Dad just sat there grinning. I would like to have gone and hid somewhere!

Finally the last of the white tissue paper was being removed exposing the little Chow dog.

The others all burst out with the story of how I spent so much on the little dog.

Mom said, “And I love it!! I’m going to put this right in front on the middle shelf of the china closet where I can see it every day!”Running-White-Dog 2

The laughing and snickering stopped.

Prolog:

The little Chow Dog kept his place on the front of the middle shelf of the china closet for the rest of my Mother’s life.

The little dog made the move to her dream house and still remained there on the shelf. I don’t know what happened to it after she died in June of 1956. I got lost in the chaos of the event, maybe the little dog got lost, too. Who knows?

But, it was always a reminder to me of her great love for her little boy and the Great Christmas of ’46.

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