Christmases in Blacklick Valley—2000
Click here for Cyber Radio and more choices
The controller at left plays a Christmas Classics "radio" program on an independent site. After a 30-second commercial, you can pause, stop, play, and skip songs if you like. If the radio program isn't available, you can choose from any seasonal song represented by each of the musical notes at right.
I'd never tried online radio (using your computer to listen to music broadcasted through the computer's multimedia hardware) before today. I usually listen to music when in my car alone, but don't play it anywhere else. Except during the season. From Thanksgiving through New Year's, I take in as much Christmas and seasonal music as I can find.
Today, tired of replaying the one good CD I have at work with me (using in-ear phones to listen, of course, in this quasi-public environment), I decided to try the radio station link the preceding user of my computer had left behind (http://windowsmedia.com/radiotuner/default.asp now connected and playing on this page, barring technical disruptions).
My first lesson learned was that most of the stations are online operations exclusively, at least the way my predecessor had the directory set up. I used a dropdown menu next to format to look for anything that might pertain to Christmas. Sure enough, one of them is Holiday. Selecting that produced a whole page of Christmas radio stations. As anyone who knows me or has read my Nanty Glo novel would expect, I chose the one that seemed most likely to feature Christmas oldies that includes pop seasonal songs from the '50's and '60's as well as classic Christmas music.
The second lesson learned was that the program has to buffer for a half minute or so before you hear any music (your mileage may vary). After that, however, it's just like regular radio, but better (virtually no commercials, for one big thing). If you start the program and stop it, then restart it, you have to hear everything over again, but using pause lets you resume where you left off. And the only commercial I heard in the hour I got online with it was at the very beginning.
I love this site! It has Connie Francis singing Baby's First Christmas, one I hadn't heard since, well, perhaps 1963. It has Judy Garland singing Have Yourself A Merry Christmas. I usually watch the tape of Meet Me in St. Louis each season mainly to hear that! It has the original version of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (by Jimmy Boyd?). That one has been covered by everyone, but most versions are in elevator music strings and/or brass, rather than the voice of a child actually telling the story. That's an inimitable experience.
The site has some new seasonal music by the Backstreet Boys and others by soul singers that I hadn't heard before but want to hear again. I was waiting to hear It's Christmas Everywhere, by Paul Anka, which I wrote about two years ago, one that always reminds me of Christmas in Nanty Glo. But alas, if it's part of the collection, I never heard it. The program just ended after a couple of hours with no indication that it was signing off (unlike another program of Manheim Steamroller Christmas music I also heard on the site).
So how is this a remembrance of Christmases in Blacklick Valley? In a sense, most Christmas music takes me back to growing up on Redmill Road, attending Blacklick schools for 12 grades, Christmases celebrated in the EUB church in Belsano and First Baptist in Vintondale. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, unexpectedly, tugged at my tear ducts (one of the great appeals of Christmas music is its sentimentality). It immediately transported me to Indiana, Pa., circa 1953, when it was the pop Christmas season song of the year, and it played in Murphy's 5 and 10, then again at McCrory's, then at Stewart's Hardware and Ward's Catalog Store. For a minute, I was the kid in tow with Mom and Dad a couple of weeks before Christmas, happy as a poor coalminer's kid possibly could be.
How is it that the happiest memories can be saddest?
My favorite memories of Christmas was getting to sing in the choir at midnight Mass at Immaculate Conception Church. The choir practiced for over a month to make sure we could sing the Latin correctly. After all, this was one of only two times a year Fr. Callan allowed our Vintondale choir to sing.
My earliest memory was when I reached third grade and I was permitted to join. Sis Lybarger and Judy Morey were in charge because they knew how to play the organ, a sorry little console that had to be pumped by hand. That night, one of the pedals broke, and I spent Mass on my hands and knees (not that I didn't need it) pulling the broken bellow.
We looked forward to singing hymns like Panis Angelicus and Sleep Holy Babe." One year, we had to learn a new Mass, called the Missa Brevis, whose Sanctus dropped an entire octive from high E to low E. When we totally blew it, the whole choir broke out laughing.
I don't remember who said Mass that night, but those were the days when you didn't make mistakes.
Besides getting to sit in the choir loft, we also got to see which twice-a-year Catholics showed up for Mass. Also, you could tell who had stopped off at the Firemen's or the Vets for a Christmas nip. We got to catch a wiff of Eau de la Seagram's.
After Mass, we always had a buffet at our house. Standard foods were a canned ham and my mother's potato salad. Anyone who had been at church was welcomed to come over. The next day, we had to drag ourselves out of bed early to sing at Christmas Morning Mass. Strangely, our choir numbers were half as many as the night before.
For Christmas dinner, we followed the tradition of my mother's family, the Huths. The main course was and still is a prime rib roast with Yorkshire pudding. The Dusza girls still can't duplicate Aggie's popovers, but at least they are bigger than the hockey puck we made the first year after her death.
Christmas night was also special to me. I always accompanied my dad on his Christmas rounds. We went from one end of Vintondale to another visiting friends for a bit of Christmas cheer.
Denise Dusza Weber
Here we are; another year has passed and the memories are just as great or if not, greater, than in 1999.
I still can smell the nut rolls baking. Everyone had to have a bowl of mixed nuts with the cracker and the picks, but did anyone ever eat them???
I think back of the sight of that street, the lights were never brighter than on Christmas Eve.
Oh, how I miss that.
The neighbors were one of a kind, as I said last year: we were just one big happy family.
Again, MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL CHRISTOFF STREET AND A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
Thanks for the great memories,
Webmaster's Note: Did anyone ever eat the nuts? Absolutely. My dad ate most of them at our house, though I got a few. But we never “tackled” them until all the better treats were all gone, sometime in January. —JK
Tim McCullough here again to say hello to Nanty Glo! The Holidays are approaching fast! Thanksgiving and Christmas bring back many memories of childhood in Nanty Glo.
Thanksgiving was always a family gathering where our clan would feast on a succulent dinner. The women would spend many hours in the kitchen preparing the turkey and all the trimmings. The Acme on the bottom of the hill was the place to shop for the holiday goodies. I used to love going to that store with my family to shop for all the good food we would enjoy. We gave thanks for all we got during the year.
I used to get silver dollars for helping my Grandfather Harry McCullough, with chores and such things. By the time Christmas shopping season came around, I would have saved a pretty penny. I would have enough to put a little something for everyone in their Christmas stocking. We would go to the stores in town or Ebensburg to buy the stocking stuffers.
Christmas was a wonderful time for me. The hill overlooking my Grandfather's place was one of the best places to ride a sled. At the bottom, we always had two bumps to fly over at the end of the sled run. Embedded in my memory was when I was 8 years old. I got a new sled for Christmas. It got lots of use for many years. Fun was number one priority!
If anyone else has a holiday memory to share, please email it to our forum! Thanks for the memories, and everyone have a wonderful Holiday season. Best regards and warmest wishes.
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Christmas memories from 2001
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