Christmases in Blacklick Valley1999
FAMILY CHRISTMAS TREE TRADITIONS
When I was a small child my father secured the Christmas Tree. The tree was put up Christmas Eve and decorated after the children were put to bed.
When I got older it was my duty to get the tree. In those days we went to the woods for our tree. I would go out the streetcar track on the other side of Heisley Mines. It would be between one and two miles. If there was snow on the ground, we used a sled to haul the tree. If there was no snow we would drag it.
The tree was usually put in a bucket with stones around it and put in the corner of a room and the top tied to the two walls. The trees used at that time had very small needles and by the time Christmas was over and the tree taken down there was a trail of needles all the way to the outside of the house. Perhaps why we did not get the tree until the day before Christmas was because those trees dried out quickly and didn't last too long. I don't remember of water being put in the bucket.
When we were older and allowed to help trim the tree, it was fun making strings of popcorn to hang on the tree; first white popcorn and later colored. Our candy was chocolate drops and pieces of brillantly colored hard candy. Sometimes mother made Divinity. Also, there were times she made taffy and we kids were allowed to help pull it until it hardened.
George DillingA NANTY GLO CHILDHOOD WAS THE PRESENT
To pick any one memory of Christmas in Nanty Glo would be next to impossible, but I would like to share a few of thoughts of my childhood, which will be with me for all of my days. These could be Christmas, or just plain winter, or just some memories of one the most wonderful places to grow up in throughout the entire world. I would not trade these for a million dollars. St. Mary's School! And the long cold walks in the snow, but those didn't matter, for when the last day of school before the holidays came, we would all go to the Capitol Theater for a morning of cartoons, wildness (poor Mr. Bello), and a big paper bag of goodies given to us as we walked out.
Wonder who sponsored that (?), but I do remember the firemen were involved. Fruit, nuts, cheap cream-filled chocolates, hard candy that looked like little pillows, and the horrible cellophane-wrapped popcorn balls. We still ate them, though, as if they were finest of cuisine! You know what? I think they were. Godiva chocolates will never match such a child's bag of treasure.
Coming home from school always took longer before Christmas, because at age 8, you always had to stop at Cummings Hardware (Shoemaker Street side) to watch the toy Lionel trains (with three rails) and hope that the Santa, which you no longer believed in, would still bring you something to add to your set that went around in circles under the real tree.
I always remember the Christmas cards and watching my parents sitting at the kitchen table writing them for what seemed like hours, but at least then, a three-cent stamp could get one across town. Everyone in town seemed to exchange them.
How I remember the wonderful Christmas Nativity set in front of the Fire Hall and the pine tree behind it. I guess that is when Christmas in a public place was still to be celebrated rather than condemned by some sort of law. No one, even those wonderful folks who were of religious faiths than ours, ever complained of them.
Lights are plentiful now, but how I remember the large 120-watt bulb strings that hung from the telephone/electrical poles throughout most of the "downtown" area. It probably required four electrical generation plants to fuel them. I wonder if they still go up? Also do you remember those bubbling pencil-like electrical decorations that bedecked our trees? So much more beautiful than these puny little white things we now have.
And the food? Ah, what delights! Where I live now ethnicity is often talked of but rarely enjoyed as we knew it. The nut rolls, the poppyseed rolls, the nut horns, and the wonderful things that had origins in Slavic countries, Italy, and from so many other European locales from which we took our roots. Then came the high school years and the record hops. So many friends and so many memories. Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," now a standard, was a new tune in those days....as was Gene Autry's "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" from only a few years before. My age is showing isn't it?
Another memory is the sliding down the hills on cardboard boxes (can't remember the street) that went down from Second St. to First St. Rogers St. and Third Street were also great places after a storm. Also all the very long and very slippery streaks that covered the sidewalks which were made by kids sliding down then over and over after a long run. We loved them, but can remember the muffled grumbles of adults who had to negotiate them.
I also remember the beautiful blue lights that decorated the two pine trees next to the Byzantine Catholic Church on Second Street. How they glowed with such beauty when covered with snow. As you stopped and looked at them in the dark, all you could hear was silence. What a wonderful "sound" that was!
That memory still makes me decorate one tree on my lawn each year entirely in blue bulbs....but unfortunately, there is no snow here and my neighbors wonder why I hang on to quaint large bulbs and always in blue.
I also remember how, as an altar boy, that I thought my eighth-grade year would never come so that I could serve Midnight Mass. The smell of the incense and all! ...and the Solemn High Mass that I thought would never end.
And God bless our beloved Father Hackla for those small gifts he gave us. I still have one, a small pen knife, with the words "Altar Boy" inscribed on the plastic. Imagine giving a school kid a knife now for a Christmas present!
Most of all, I remember my family. They truly were the most precious gift of all and couple that into a package wrapped in the friendship from the most wonderful hometown in the world, what more could a person ask for in Christmas memories?
Nanty Glo, small and insignificant? I think not! I shall remember you and love you all of my days, for as my sister always says, "We had such a wonderful childhood!"
I could go on and on, but I guess in the end, growing up there was one of the biggest presents I ever got!
To all who read this and may remember, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the best in the year to come.
Paul CeriaA VALLEY CHRISTMAS NIGHTMARE
As I was growing up Christmas always had very exciting. I moved away from the Valley in 1991, shortly after graduation. Go Vikings!
I did manage to make it up to my folks' house the first Christmas after I moved. (I live in Alabama now.) It was like a mini reunion. I went to my mom's Balloon shop in Nanty Glo to see the display. (For those of you who do not know me you might know my mother. She is Angie Etheridge. She owned Angie's Balloons and Floral on Shoemaker Street right next to the Community Center.) The whole family took pride in the display window. It really added to the townor so I feel.
That, however, is not the most memorable part of my first trip home. I got together with my bud, Pat Hogan. We went out to visit his sister and say hello. When we left we decided to go down Factory Hollow. That was a big mistake. The hill was a solid sheet of ice. We made it down alright. It was the getting up that was difficult. Pat had an old car that weighed a ton. We started up and the car went sideways. I thought I'd get out and try to push. When I opened the door and stepped out I fell about 15 feet straight down. We were stupid young men to even go down there that time of year.
Anyways, after I managed to climb what seemed to be a cliff we carefully slid the car away from the edge. Now the car started to slide down the road with no one in it. Talk about two very nervous 19-year-olds. We knew we were in a real bind. The only way out was to drive through the creek at the bottom of the road. We had water gushing through the doors and we got soaked, but we managed to make it outalive. We had to drive 30 miles out of our way, freezing cold, all because we wanted to have some fun. It's memories like that that help me to survive.
Thank you for allowing me to share one of my favorite Christmas memories with you. If any of you have any current pictures of Nanty Glo or Twin Rocks scaned in your PC, please forward me a copy at home or, preferably, work. It will be very appreciated. Home: firstname.lastname@example.org Work: email@example.com
Webmaster's note: Of course the Home Page would also like to add any such photos, always. Please cc. us: firstname.lastname@example.org. jonTWO EARLY NANTY GLO CHRISTMAS MEMORIES
An early Christmas memory was coming out of the Old Miner's Hall before it burned down. Our early Sunday School was held in the Hall and the only memory I have of it was coming out on the porch holding an orange which was part of my Christmas Treat.
On another Christmas my brother and I each received a sled. We would sledride down Moody's hill (Davis Street from Lloyd down across Shoemaker Street). Lloyd Street was the main street out of town and very few cars ever came out Shoemaker Street. I left my sister ride my sled down the sidewalk on the hill. As she was coming down, I yelled, "car coming," and she turned into a telephone pole that was along the street. My sled had a wooden bumper and it cracked the whole way across the front of the sled.
Really there was no car coming and I learned my lesson. My brother and I could tell our sleds apart because mine was the one with all the black tape holding the bumper together.
George DillingNANTY GLO COUPLE'S FLORIDA CHRISTMAS
I have two sisters who had homes side by side in Frostproof, Florida. Each December they would come back to Pa. for Christmas. In 1983 my wife and I had one of the homes for three weeks. The first week we visited with my other sister and her husband and also drove to Key West. When they left for Pa. they gave us the key to their house also. Our daughter Peggy, her husband and two children drove down from Chicago; our son, Ken, flew in from California and daughter Lois flew from Pa.
We went to Epcot center and Disney World for three days. We enjoyed all the places we visited, especially the building called the Land.
On Friday we were in our shirt sleeves. Saturday we had to wear sweaters. Sunday was Christmas and when we got up it was 19 degrees, freezing the oranges. On Monday back at Epcot we had to wear winter jackets and before evening we had to buy hats (Toboggans). By Wednesday the temperature was in the eighties. Over night it was so damp that water was inside the car port and looked like it had rained. We had planned to stay until after New Year's but my wife said let's go home, so we left on the 29th. All in all it was a very enjoyable trip.
George DillingTEXAS TRANSPLANT FROM NANTY GLO
The Christmas memories of Betty Oaks brought back some memories for my mother. We live in Texas and people here don't know what nut horns are, but this week she made them. Believe me these Texans enjoyed them. My Mother's Mother was Rachel Rummell, who was the Sunday School superintendent at the Methodist Church for a lot of years. I don't remember, but my Mother, Arvilla Brosius, remembers the Christmas bazaars they had.
Merry Christmas to all of you.
Love,NANTY GLO, HUNGARIAN FAMILY
We always had a wonderful Christmas. My Mother always was making nut rolls and nut horns so it always smelled good in the house from those. We always had a Christmas Eve meal. My Dad would sing songs in Hungarian. We always walked down to the Methodist Church for midnight service. It was very nice. (There being) five girls in the house, we really had a nice holiday. We would visit our friends and they came to our house; we always had a lot of people. We had a lot of snow to go sled riding. I really enjoyed Christmas.
Hope all of you have a really nice Christmas.
Love,VALLEY, AND OTHER, TRADITIONS
Betty Jane (Kankula) Oaks
Since I'm a transplanted Okie now, over the years I've run across a few traditions that seem to be different here in Oklahoma.
I remember every year my parents, both from Nanty Glo, had the tradition of bringing in the tree on Christmas Eve. Daddy would put the lights on it that evening, and that's all. When we'd wake up and run down the stairs the next morning, "Santa" would have the tree entirely decorated and spectacular! This was so exciting for us!
I can't resist now, and put the tree up a couple of weeks before like most, but I wonder if anyone else, especially in Pennsylvania, may still do it the "Santa" way?
Also, you guys back east like your sauerkraut for the first of the year, where down here it's black eyed peas for good luck!
I'd love to hear any traditions you all may have for the holiday season!
Webmaster's note: We always trimmed the tree on Christmas eve, usually not even bringing the tree inside until that afternoon. However, we all put the whole treatment on the tree as a whole family rather than leaving some trimming for "Santa" to do. I think I would have liked that, however. The first time I ever saw a tree trimmed already early in December in a home was when I went to my brother's in-laws' for his wedding. Bob and Lois were married in Indiana (state) in early December in, I believe 1957. Everything was ready for Christmas at their home about December 10, which seemed strange. However, it made the house so festive for the wedding, and I was won over by it.
By the time I had starting my own family, it seemed more convenient to decorate well in advance of Christmas. Our young couple friends who might be induced to visit would come before, not after, Christmas, and it enabled us to share Christmas with our student friends before they left school for Christmas break, when the years we were in campus ministry.
As a general practice, Orthodox fast the 40 days before Christmasno meat, diary, alcohol, or eggs. So that's a major change since my conversion, the past five years. We always gradually started "celebrating" Christmas with bowls of candy put out and cartons of eggnog a couple of weeks beforehand. Though the fast doesn't prohibit all sweets, most of the Christmas treats are circumscribed.
Finally, I've evolved a tradition of our own family's...or at least I've never specifically seen it described by anyone else. I tell my children and grandchildren the tree represents the Christmas eve sky. We started having a creche under the tree already when in my parents' home and always still do. And it was a sticking point with my mother that the topmost decoration was the Christmas star, not an angel. I continued that. I believe it's a cross of the Mexican tradition of having a village rather than a tree, and the "reformational" Christian philosophy that I always taught that all of life is redeemed by the incarnation all coming together in our practice. I hope you like the ideathen everything on the tree, whether it's a puppy dog or a snowflake or Santas or toys or anything (not just "spiritual" symbols) are dancing in the Christmas sky to celebrate the newborn saviour!
Please share your tradition, in Pennsylvania or post-Pa., too!
JonCHRISTOFF STREET, NANTY GLO
I guess the best is growing up on lower Christoff Street. There are 22 houses on that street* and it was like the whole street was one big family. Everyone did up their homes in festive decor that everyone coming down Pergrim Hill could see.
I can remember we always had a big blue spruce tree, decorated from top to bottom and even under the tree had the train and all the trimmings. Gifts went alongside, not under.
Most of all, my parents were the greatest. Oh how I miss them.
They would give so much and ask so little.
On the street everyone baked and cooked like there was no end. When you went to one of their homes you must eat or drink something or they were upset.
Needless to say, living on that street any time of the year was great.
They talk about class reunions; I think that a Christoff Street reunion would be great.
Merry Christmas to all Christoff Street...thanks for the memories. Happy New Year!
Former 1553 Christoff Street*Christoff Street is the Nanty Glo street parallel to and east of Pergrim Hill.Webmaster
George Christoff reponds:
I too lived on Christoff Street and can say that there is no better place to spend Christmas.
I remember when my friends and family would come over Christmas night and we would go house to house singing Christmas carols (this would get us in the door so we could have [Christmas cheer]). By the time we got to the Scott's house we would have quite a large group of friends and family.
Since my parents and brother Chris have moved to Michigan, we now celebrate Christmas here. We have a good time, and all the family is together, but I sure miss the Christmases we had on Christoff Street.
George Christoff Jr.BELSANO
I was five the summer when my grandparents, Dave and Frances Paul, Aunt Violet and I moved from the homestead which was located halfway between White Mill and Adams Crossing (now called Vic Miller Road). We moved "all the way" over to the "new" farm on Route 422 just below Belsano. I can't say that I recall a few of the first Christmases (who knows why). But, when I was about 7-8, I keenly recall going to the woods behind the house with my grandfather. He told me we were going to get the Christmas tree.
I couldn't imagine this. I remember being very curious to know where he was going to get this tree. Soon he found a rather large hemlock tree and I thought, "That's too big for our house!" and "How will he ever get it home?" Much to my surprise, my grandfather (who was pretty old by that time) began to climb this tree! I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought he was too old to do something that only kids do in the summertime. I was afraid that he was going to fall down and get hurt.
By the way, he had also carried with him a hand saw, which went up the tree with him. Soon, he was cutting the top out of that huge hemlock tree. I remember it crashing to the ground with a loud kerthunk and swishing sound. After he descended the tree, he tied a rope on it and we began the task of dragging it back to the house; a large swishy path followed in the snow behind us. The picture in my mind now reminds me much of many Christmas cards I've seen with a man, slightly bent forward, pulling a tree behind him.
Later, when the tree was decorated, I thought it was the most beautiful tree I had ever seen (that's pretty good, since I obviously didn't remember any other Christmas trees we'd had). That tree still stands out in my mind, just as though it were yesterday.
Today, I long for the ornaments that I recall being on that tree. There were, what I now know, authentic German glass ornaments (the kind that go for very high prices these days). I had no idea then about the tradition and meaning of those ornaments, which I am certain belonged to my grandmother, Frances, who was of German descent. I often wonder now where she got them; had her parents brought them from Germany? And, of course, the tree was covered with the stringy silver icicles popular in that era. They were the heavier kind, not like the air-light ones we know today. In fact, I remember when the new lighter ones came out, how different they felt from the heavy "aluminum" ones we'd previously used.
If memory serves me correctly, that was also the year I got two identical packages under the tree. I opened them up, only to find two boxes of saltine crackers (a practical joke by my Aunt Violet). Well, after all, being "poor," we didn't buy cereal, and I'd become accustomed to breakfasts of "coffee soup" or "cracker soup." I'm curious to know if anyone reading this knows what I'm talking about.
For those who don't (and don't turn up your snout), coffee and/or cracker soup was a bowl of homemade bread broken into bite-size pieces, or you could use whole slices stacked up like pancakes. Crackers were crushed into a bowl (as many as you could fit) to make cracker soup. Over top of this concoction, you poured a cup of coffee with milk. To sweeten, sprinkle sugar over top. Yummy. Therefore, that is why I received two boxes of saltine crackers from "Santa."
Often, my brothers or sisters will bring up the subject of coffee soup. Even though they are pushing their golden years, they too get "homesick" for it, and have to make themselves a bowl for memories' sake.
Have a happy, healthy and holy holiday season!!!
Trudy Rummel MyersNANTY GLO One of the most vivid memories I have of Christmas was 1945. My father was fighting in the Pacific since 1942, and arrived back home several days before Christmas 1945. I was nine years old, and that was a wonderful Christmas that I still think about each year.
Bob CunninghamNANTY GLO After living away from Nanty Glo for some time now it almost makes Christmas back home feel like a lifetime ago. I have two "favorite memories" of Christmas; one is sad and the other quite amusing.
My first favorite memory is from Christmas 1982 and it was so warm that year we went to church without a coat. I lived on Lloyd Street behind the Journal office and that morning walk to mass at St. Mary's was one that will live in my mind forever. It just happened to be my last Christmas before my parents' car crash.
My next favorite is the first year my husband Ron and I were married and I was helping my in-laws, Ade and Shirley Johns, with Christmas cards. By mistake I licked and glued over 50 stamps to the back of the cards. I thought they were Christmas seals. We all got a big laugh out of it and I still am reminded every year by Ron not to put the stamps on the back of the cards.
I wish all of you back home a very happy and joyous Christmas.
Lisa JohnsTWIN ROCKS One of the fondest memories I have of the Christmas season was going Caroling with the Folk Group from St. Charles Church. I can recall a number of times we would go out through the town, sometimes from one end to the other, depending on how cold it was.... We would then end up back at the Church to decorate the Christmas tree and the rest of the Church for the Services. I know there were a lot of "home-made" decorations on the tree. I think most of them were donated over the years by different people in the town.
One other memory I have about that was the one time that I can recall the Folk Group going to one of the Retirement Homes (I think it was in Westmont). We did a small concert for the residents, but the best part was walking through the halls of the buildings and singing to the rest of the residents who couldn't make it to the lounge area to hear us. It was such a pleasure to see the joy we brought to the residents to let them know that they were not forgotten and to share a bit of the Christmas joy with them. I don't know who was happier, them or us, but I know I had a warm glow inside while we were doing that.
Mary Ann Losiewicz
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