Christmas at Our House in the 1940s

Author: Leo Lawton

October 11, 1999

My oldest brother “Bert” born in 1927, left to go to war in July 1944 when he turned seventeen. By then there were nine children in the family. Four more children were born, but others fled the nest so that there were never more than ten living there at one time. We were a large and very happy family.

During summer vacation from school, which lasted from about June twentieth until the day after Labor Day each year, my next three older brothers and myself often played in the woods on our farm. While engaged in this we were nearly always watching for the perfect Christmas tree. It must be shaped as nicely as we could find, and it definitely had to be a balsam fir. No other would do.

About a week before Christmas our mother would tell us it was time to go find a tree. We, of course, already knew which tree would be the one to decorate our home this year, so off we trudged, axe in hand, to cut the tree and return it to the house on top of a hand sled. Upon our return we first had to saw off the bottom to make it flat enough so we could nail a short board to it to facilitate its standing. Then we hauled it into our living room and stood it in the corner, attaching a cord strung from window frame to window frame, to insure its not tipping over.

After it was properly stood. We decorated it with strings of garland, tinsel, and our bulbs saved over many years, each with a story behind it. Some were hand me downs from Grandma Lawton while others had arrived via Grandma Halladay. A few others had came from friends over the years. After the star was placed on top of the tree, the rooms had to be suitably decorated. In the meantime the anticipation was building, hour by hour, day by day.

Finally it was Christmas Eve and time to get set for Santa. Each of us children placed a cereal bowl at our accustomed place at the kitchen table. In or under it we placed a name tag so Santa would know who’s bowl was which. After we had left a snack for Santa it was time for bed, but not near time to go to sleep. We would lie in bed for great lengths of time attempting to go to sleep, so that Santa would have came the next thing we knew, but to no avail.

Soon one of my brothers would be awakening the rest of us questioning if we thought Santa had came yet. The youngest would be assigned the task of awakening mother to ask if it was time to get up and check for Santa yet. If told “no, not yet,” then the whole process had to start over.

After enough rejections I think my mother just gave up, and we were allowed to go see if Santa had came. Inevitably he had been there, and left the most stupendous things. There was always an apple and an orange beside each bowl, while the bowl itself was filled with hard candies, ribbon candy, peanut brittle, and jaw breakers.
Under each bowl might be a coloring book, game, picture puzzle, or other gift. Also nearby might be a pair of skates, or sled, or other item that might be particularly coveted by that child at that given time. We also often received items of clothing, such as mittens or scarves, that were awfully welcome on those cold winter days.

As soon as we spied all this sudden wealth, we rushed back upstairs to show mother what Santa had brought. She was always so happy for us, and her happiness gave us a further lift of spirits on this most joyous occasion.