MEMORIES – PAST & PRESENT-2018
Once again we are in what many call “The Most Wonderful Time of the
Year”, our season of Christmas. And
with it comes a treasure-trove of memories which help us highlight and prepare
for the coming days leading up to what the late organist Virgil Fox referred
to as “The Great Day.”
For all of us in Monroe and Walton County we have more than just
Christmas to be excited over this year; it is the town and county’s 200th
birthday, a monumental event! Many
of the citizens of our town and county will be taking part in many of the
various celebrations planned for the event and being able to say we witnessed
such an occasion is cause for celebration
alone….We will not see such as this again!
Every year at this time, I become extremely nostalgic, missing the
Monroe I knew and loved as a child and young adult.
I miss all those wonderful family friends I knew growing up who now
sweetly reside in my memory along with many family members long gone as well.
I strongly believe it was a combination of things, Monroe I knew sixty
plus years ago, the folks my family and I knew, the general spirit of the town
back then and all the preparations that went into making the Christmas holiday
of yore seem so special, has given me over the years the deep appreciation and
love for this season we celebrate today.
Walton Tribune Editor David Clemons sent out on Facebook recently a
request for folks to send in their Christmas memories which held a special
place in their hearts. I am sure
he was bombarded with replies and enjoyed every one of them.
I could not resist to send one of my childhood memories to him, the
Christmas Eve I decided I was going to hide under a love seat in our living
room, across from the Christmas tree and the fireplace, determined to see for
myself just how Santa was able to manage to get in and out of our house via
the chimney with his huge bag of gifts and create a wonderful scene for
After placing a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies and a bottle of Coke on
the mantle right where he would see them after crawling down the chimney to
our living room, I crawled under the love seat and began my vigil.
Both my parents found this most amusing, telling me I would have a long
wait as Santa did not like to be seen or disturbed when he arrived; he had a
lot of work to do and if he even suspicioned anyone was still awake in a
household, he just might not stop! Of
course I knew better, Santa WOULD be there and would be so engrossed in his
work, he would never know I was anywhere but in my bed as he did his work.
Late in the evening my mother came in and began turning off the lights
in the living room except for the tree. “We have to leave the tree lit for
Santa so he will have light from which to work,” she told me, leaning down
to look where I lay. “I just
hope you are not too disappointed if there is nothing to enjoy in the morning
by your determination to wait up for him.”
And with that she was off to bed, leaving me alone.
I remember looking at the large cedar tree in the corner of the living
room with all the colored lights giving off a magical hue, the smell of the
tree, seeing all the wrapped presents laying on a soft cloud of cotton from my
father’s cotton office. I remember the excitement of telling my friends how
I actually saw Santa after he landed in our fireplace, what he really looked
like, how long his beard was, the size of his sack of gifts, the expression on
his face as he enjoyed the cookies and Coke and then…….
Next thing I knew I woke up in my bed and it was early Christmas
morning! How did I get from the
living room to my bed and not remember it?
Scrambling from my bed, I woke my parents and my sister and we made our
way to the living room to see if Santa had been.
Remembering what my mother told me, I was a bit reluctant to go in,
fearing she might have been right.
But what a scene it was! The
tree, still lit, gave off a beautiful light to showcase the fact Santa had
been there, enjoyed his cookies and Coke and left gifts for me, my sister and
A big question loomed in my mind. Just
how did I get from under the love seat into my bed and not remember it?
Both my parents professed no knowledge nor did my sister.
My father, with a twinkle in his eye, mused, “I bet I know what
happened,” he said from his chair where he observed all the opening of gifts
and enjoying the excitement of the morning, “When Santa arrived you must
have fallen asleep and so he gently pulled you from your hiding spot and put
you in your bed so he could get busy with what he was there for.
He probably didn’t like being disturbed but perhaps the cookies and
Coke made up that bit of inconvenience.” To this day I still have no idea
how I got from one place to another and not remember it.
For me, the Christmas season is full of Monroe memories: the annual
parade through town, the stores decking their halls with Christmas
decorations, the streets and stores full of shoppers, the magic crispness in
the air that told everyone something magical was about to happen, the smell of
wood being burned in fireplaces all over town, the church choirs readying
their special music for the Sundays prior to Christmas Day, riding around town
after dark looking at all the decorations on houses on various streets, the
agony of waiting for the arrival of our big cedar tree from Mel Harris’s
farm, the anticipation of getting a “reprieve” from school for a couple of
weeks, the decorations all along Broad Street, “Santa’s House” on the
old courthouse square, the appearance of Santa in the windows of Gallant-Belk
and Aycock’s, and speaking of Santa’s, the
wonderful Santa & bag of toys that appeared like magic every December at a
certain time in the swing on the front porch of Dorothy & Bob Nowell’s
Walton Street home. Thanks to Lee
Nowell Radford, I finally learned the backstory of how that Santa came to be.
My most beloved Santa and the first one I ever saw face to face as a
very young child belonged to my aunt who would place him on a bed of greenery
on a desk in her living room. She
got him when she and her new husband were honeymooning in Santa Claus,
Indiana. He now holds a place of
honor each year in my den and is a sweet reminder of my childhood.
The Santa’s who rank second for me are the Coca-Cola Santa’s which
were created by the Swedish artist Haddon H. Sundblom
whom Coke commissioned to paint back in 1931 and did so for the next 35 years.
The “model” he used for many of those years was a retired salesman named
Lou Prentice, who Sundlbom says “embodied all
the features and spirit of Santa Claus. The wrinkles in his face all seemed to
be happy wrinkles which were so evident when he smiled or laughed.”
“When Lou passed on I began looking around for someone to replace
him. A friend I was talking to
about finding the perfect replacement suggested I use my face.
I took a close look in the mirror and realized I did have a close
resemblance to Lou. Since then I
have used my own face as my model for Santa Claus.”
Because of the spirit and magic Santa evokes for so many, I cannot help
but love and appreciate the embodiment Santa brings to millions all over the
world, but none so meaningful as the Santa’s I knew and loved in Monroe when
Christmas would come to town.