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Christnas Memories 2007...
 
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Wasn't It A Wonderful Life?
from Paul Ceria

I remember those two big trees in front of the Greek Catholic Church(1) on Second Street. Do they still have them? They used to trim them totally with blue lights. When the trees became snow covered, the lights would shine through the snow. One of the most beautiful sights at Christmas. I can remember walking home in the snow late at night and when there was little or no traffic, I would stop and admire them.
Continued below photo...


A Christmasy view from Second Street

I also remember trimming the door at my parents' home on Penn Street. (The house is now occupied by the Rhodes family.) They were large old bulbs, probably of the variety used during WW II. They got very hot and you had to be careful they would not touch anything flammable. I can vaguely remember those hot lights on an indoor tree just a few years earlier. When I would put up the outside lights, my budget-minded mother would yell at me not to burn them too much. "The light bill will be up to $7.00 next month!"

Another memory is the bulbs strung up from High School Hill all the way across town to what used to be the street running down to the Acme Market(2). The were shaped like regular bulbs, but were colored. I don't know who paid the electric bill, but even with the cheap rates of those days, it must have been a fortune. I remember leaving the record hops on Saturday night and how they would color the snow banks plowed up near the sidewalks.

Christmas was special. Mom baked a lot. Nut horns, poppy seed rolls, and the delicious nut rolls. My grandmother used to bring us each a box of Toroni, honey nugget imported Italian candies. These small blocks of heaven were flavored with citrus, coffee or chocolate. Each had a small wafer on the sides, very thin and like communion hosts. Each was in its own individual tiny box and foil wrapped within a larger box. The tiny boxes had wonderful pictures of places in Italy, some of which I saw last year. The one "present" I won't miss, but still appreciated, were those sticky popcorn balls wrapped in colored cellophane. They were like eating sticky Styrofoam! I usually traded mine, but most of the time you would have a hard time doing that trick.

On Christmas Day I loved the smell of the roasting turkey. It was always turkey, but since my father did not like poultry, my grandmother would come to Christmas dinner with a rolled stuffed roast and it too was wonderful. I still make it from time to time. Golly it smells like heaven as you roast it. Of course, the Nanty glo of my youth was not a place of ostentatious homes, but they were just fine! Most folks ate in the kitchen, as did we, but there was always room at the table for everyone and anyone. The table would be so full there was not room for even one more item. Behind my usual chair was an old-time server that was covered with baked goods and Mom kept full for all of the holidays. In fact, there was always something good there year round. What a cook and baker she was!

I used to hear the snow plows at night. Snow, especially in January and February, was always heavy and the plows would work at night to keep the roads open while we slept. I remember listening to them work as I drifted off to sleep at night. I would always groan as a teenager, because I would have to shovel out the sidewalk to the street and then find the plows had filled it again by morning. Also, there was that tedious job of taking out the ashes from the coal furnace to the ash pile behind the house. One could put on boots, but trudging trough the two-foot-deep snow (deeper, if drifted), would get more snow in the boots than on the outside.

Coal furnaces! These were the "cursed blessing" since they kept you warm, but were dirty, required constant monitoring, and of course, if you watch the movie A Christmas Story, you will know what a "clinker" is! Shovels, pokers, and "banking the furnace" became common words of my childhood and teen years. At times, the fire would go out at night and one would be freezing cold in the morning and have to start it from scratch. These smoking devices would not even wait to start their misery on me in the winter. In the fall, a load of wood would appear and with Dad, we would split the wood for kindling and after throwing each stick into the cellar, stack it to be dried. It gave a rustic smell to the cellar and, once done, gave you a secure feeling of being all set for Old Jack Frost.

As a kid, and even a teenager, I used to fantasize of moving away to Florida or California where it would be warm forever. I got my wish later on and I can remember Christmas Eve of 1967 in particular. It was hot where I was and I kept thinking of the above memories. I was on the Cambodian border and my only Christmas wish was to come home in one living piece.

God bless my home town. I still love the place and its people, and yes, the snow too.

— Paul Ceria, Fayetteville, N.C.

1. St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church
2. Lloyd Street

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Christnas Memories 2006...
 
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A Sad Christmas Memory
from Sallie Covolo

Not all of our memories of the past are "warm and fuzzy feelings." Many of us did not have warm and memorable Thanksgivings and we are not wildly anticipating Christmas. I would like to share a not-so-happy Christmas memory. I always want to make the Holidays different from the Holidays I experienced as a child.

My goodness, here I am 70 years old, and still crying over the 1943 Christmas when I was just seven years old. To begin with, I lived at Crossnore School, which is way up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Almost everyone was taken home for their Holidays except my brother Stephen and me. There was one girl in my dormitory named Jacqueline who had not gone yet. Then she left and I was alone in the dormitory for a day or so (it seemed like eternity) waiting for Daddy to come. (My mother was a patient at the State Hospital.) It was so nightmarish being there alone.

Finally, Daddy came and took us over to his sister Mamie's for Christmas. My little sister was already there. She was living there with my Aunt Mamie, and I did not realize how much I had missed her until I saw her there. Aunt Mamie and Uncle Early were older people in their early 50's and they had grandchildren. They had one child of their seven who still lived at home and that was our cousin Betty, who was 16. The "boys" were off in the war.

When the time came to go back to Crossnore School, I pitched a tantrum and begged to stay at Aunt Mamie's with my little sister. Aunt Mamie did not really want to deal with another child, but she said ok. Then my brother Stephen, who was 10, started crying and begging to stay with her and she said no.

To this day, I still cry when I think about Stephen going back to Crossnore School alone. Stephen and my little sister Mary are no longer with us but I still think of them at this time of year and wish I could go back and return to Crossnore School with Stephen.... I can only imagine how alone he felt.

I do not try to create Christmases like the Christmases of my childhood.

(Webmaster's note: Sallie Covolo is married to Nanty Glo native Dominic Covolo and is a regular contribution on the Nanty Glo List, where she posted this letter. I requested permission to add it to this permanent Christmas page. The Covolos now live on the Sacramento River Delta in Northern California. —Jon K.)

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Valley Christnas 2003...
from Judy Rose
 

Revloc,Pa. After the first snowfall of the winter.

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"It took me an hour to find and cut the one I wanted."

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Another satisfied Chickaree Mountain tree farm customer

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Blue Chestnut Street at 4:30 p.m. December 5, 2003

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Choose from any seasonal song represented
by each of the musical notes at right.

 

Christmases in Blacklick Valley—2002

    An Advent series on charisma, saints and angels

    Two Christmas articles by David Caldwell:
    1: Hardrock, Coco and Joe (includes film); 2: Yes, Virginia...

    What to Tell Children about Santa, by Mary Ann Losiewcz

    WHAT TO TELL CHILDREN ABOUT SANTA?

    It's funny how the topic of Santa is one that a lot of parents wonder about. I know I believed in Santa while I was growing up, and yet I also knew that Christmas was a very special day as it was Jesus' birthday. Maybe to me, in my child's mind then, it was how I associated the two. I thought that Santa Claus (or St. Nicholas) gave out presents to the good children the way the three Magi gave out gifts to Jesus. And the funny thing is, I guess that's the way I explained it to my children when they were growing up.

    When they were old enough to understand, they asked me if there was a Santa. I did the same thing that David did with his foster kids. I told them that while the "person" of Santa was not real, the "spirit" or essence of Santa should live in all of us, not only at Christmas, but all through the year. I tried to instill in them that Christmas is special as a time of remembrance, but that the more important thing to remember is how generous our Savior was. Not only did God give us the "special gift" of His Son, but the Son gave us all the gift of His life so that we can all live. Santa gave out gifts to all children, and we should do the same. God has given us all special gifts in life, whether we are teachers, parents, writers, coalminers, office workers, doctors, whatever. All He asks is that we share those gifts with others.

    I've even told my children that God wants us to live Christmas every day, and to always give to those who are not as fortunate as we are. While we may not have a lot monetarily, we have so much in the way of faith and love. God wants us to share that with those lives that we touch. Every year, our Church has a "giving tree" which is a Christmas tree on which are hung "ornament tags" of those less fortunate. Every year, the tree stays the same size, while the number of tags keeps increasing. What I have noticed is that by a week before the items are due back at the Church, no matter how many tags were on the tree, there are none left by that time. And the following week, the entire Narthex of the Church is full. We even had a visiting priest ask the congregation this year if we were planning on taking up a special collection to increase the size of the Narthex to allow for all the gifts.

    Maybe that is how I've come to see Santa in Christmas as an adult, while knowing the specialness of the Day because it's Christ's birth. In this day and age of uncertainty and so much hate in the world, I want to keep the image of Christ and Christmas and the generosity of Santa in my mind. I teach CCD (religious ed) for the parish, and every year at this time, we go over the season of Advent and Christmas and what is special about them. I try to bring together to the kids the true spirit of Christmas, in the generosity of Jesus. We even go so far as to discuss St Nicholas (who's Feast Day is in December) and Santa Claus (although the children I teach are seventh graders and don't necessarily believe). I want them to feel the true meaning of Christmas and how special it is.

    Maybe this note is a bit rambling, but I just wanted to say how much it moved me to write.

    And to tie it in to the past topic, I wanted to mention that every year, I give my students a gift at Christmas. It isn't something huge or extravagant. But I do give them all an angel for Christmas. Last year, I gave them all angel ornaments for their trees. This year, I was able to find enough angel pins the same to give them each an angel pin to wear all the time. I want them to know that God is with them all the time and that He sends His angels to watch over them and keep them safe. The pin is sort of a reminder that they always have a Guardian Angel from God with them, just like the Angels that appeared 2000 years ago to the Shepherds in the fields.

    And lastly, while Santa isn't supposed to come for adults, I think we all realize that each and every one of us is blessed with some sort of gift this time of year. I think it's even in proportion to the gifts we give out to others. As I mentioned in this space before, some of you know that I attempt to write music. It's a hobby of love of mine. And last year, I wrote a song for my Parish that the children sang at their service on Christmas eve. They also sang it at St. Timothy and Mark's Church (Twin Rocks) last year. Well, this year, God is giving me an even better gift. My daughter was asked to do the song solo with the children's choir. All the children from last year had been asking the director if they were going to do the song again. He didn't mention anything to them. But this past week, he called to ask Amanda to do it as a solo. We are all so proud of her and know she will do well with it as a gift back to the Baby Jesus.

    God bless you all at this time of year and may each of you have a Blessed Christmas and a Joyous and Better New Year than you have had in the past.

    Mary Ann Losiewcz

      Christmases in Blacklick Valley2001

      Two Christmas memoirs by David Caldwell:
      1: CHRISTMAS; 2: A WHITE CHRISTMAS MEMORY

      NANTY GLO GRANDCHILDREN AT
      NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE

      CHILDHOOD CHRISTMAS MEMORIES, Judy Martin

      CHRISTMASES THEN AND NOW, Judy Rose

      A CHRISTMAS STORY, Trudy (Rummel) Myers

      'NANTY GLO GRANDCHILDREN' at National Christmas Tree: Nanty Glo native Frank Charney sent this picture of four of his grandchildren taken December 27 at the National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC on a bitter, cold night. They are the children of Kevin and Cathy (Charney) Weldon, who were visiting their grandparents in Arlington, Va., for the holidays. From left, they are Allison, 3; Danny, 2; Caitlin, 6; and Kevin, 5.

      Update, December 27, 2012: below are seen the same children ten years later, with their mother and grandparents. From the left are seen Cathy; Allison; Rose; Kevin, Jr.; Caitlin; Frank, and Danny.

      CHILDHOOD CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

      I don't really have very many memories from my childhood of Christmas. There were only two things that really stuck out in my mind and the first one was when my mother sold the punch cards to get me a doll for Christmas. It was when you sold the circle and they got to punch out a number and see if you won the doll. Also, the person selling it, if they sold the whole card, got the same doll. It as a make up doll and I was so proud that year.

      Every other year that I could remember we got clothes because Dad was sickly and didn't work a lot so we got what was needed most. Then when I met Jim and we got married in November 1963 we had to start out with everything new. But the Lord works His ways and that year was the year that his dear Aunt Nonie Kovach was buying all new decorations and gave us all of her old ones. At that time (38 years ago), these ornaments were 17 years old. I still have some of them (as through the years and five kids some have gotten broken) but since they are glass and very easily broken, I usually only put one or two on the tree now in order to save them as long as I can. They are very precious to me because I can't ever remember at that time of anyone giving us anything that valuable, with so many memories for them. It seemed to me the best Christmas, even though it was our first in our married life.

      There were rough times and good times in the 38 years, but I remember one particular year where we didn't have much but still tought the boys to give rather than receive. They had only one gift from Santa and not a word was said by them. I was the one who cried because they had accepted things as they were and didn't ask if that was all. That particular year, when we went home to my parents' for the holidays there were two big boxes of presents for the boys. They thought they were in seventh heaven (excuse the pun, since we are known as the 7j's).

      It seems that my sister worked at the bank and one lady asked her if she knew where there was any Goodwill places to give these three boxes of toys to because her children had so many and were getting more for Christmas. Well, my sister took them and gave the one box to my older brother who had 4 children and the others to us. She and my mother sat and wrapped all these things and when we arrived gave them to the kids. They had never seen so many toys in their whole life. I do not believe in giving a lot of toys anyway, but that year it seemed that the Lord knew what to do and did it. He worked through others, as he usually does to make our Christmas happy for the kids.

      Now as I have only 11 real grandchildren, two from a foster child and three others that we somewhat adopted as their mother came to live with us when she was 20 and needed a family to love her. Also my one son has a sister-in-law whose daughter is always around, so we buy what we can for all of them. I started when our first granddaughter was born, buying a silver dollar for each so that when they grow up they will have 18 or 19 silver dollars in a row and a collector would give them more for a collection than one here and there. This was our way of helping in a small way to help with college money. I sincerely hope the price of silver is up when they need to cash them in for college money.

      Also, we buy each an ornament every year so that when they get married they will have that many to start decorations for their own tree. Many ideas I have gotten from older generations that I have met from the many times we have moved and made new friends.

      The Lord has blessed us with many new friends over the past 38 years and we really treasure them. I remember as a child singing, "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.".I thank the Lord today for the many friends and relatives that He has given me in all the years since I gave my heart to Him.

      I wanted to put this on the Nanty Glo Christmas letters you asked for but couldn't figure it out since I have never done it before. Maybe you can transfer it or whatever you want to do.

      Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and we love your column. I read it first thing every morning before breakfast. May the Lord also bless you in the coming year.

      Yours, Judy (Mrs. Jim) Martin

      CHRISTMASES THEN AND NOW

      As Christmas 2001 approaches, I'm inclined to reflect somewhat on the Christmas of "then" and how it differs from the Christmas of "now." Back then, as a child...a Christmas wish may have been for a baby doll that walked and talked, a new sled and snow on which to ride it. A new bike and no snow so you could ride it. And as I got older, I wished for roller skates with toe-stops that came in their own fancy case. A new Poodle Skirt, an Angora Sweater. A record player to play those Pat Boone and Everly Brothers 45's and on and on and on....

      Those were the requests of youth...of youth that had not a real care in or about the world. Back then so long ago, every school, church, Post Office, court house, store, and park had a Nativity Scene proudly displayed...and without fear of repercussions from those who would later shout "Church vs State."

      A trip with friends to the woods for a hemlock to serve as a Christmas tree...little money was available then to buy a pine, a fir, or a spruce,...so a hemlock would do, and nicely, too!

      Judy Rose and husband Hobe

      My Christmas list has changed along with me...older and wiser now, I make adult wishes for steady employment and good health for family and friends, a long and safe life for my children and many grandchildren. I wish for my 86-year-old mother to live another year, and most of all I wish for "Peace on Earth" so my youngest child will not experience, firsthand, the horror of war. The tree of Christmas now is stored in a box from year to year...it always stands straight and the limbs and branches are full...much grander than any hemlock, or is it?

      I cling to the old, with cranberry and popcorn garland strung from branch to branch, listening to "Jinglebell Rock," Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," and so on, and I remember how bittersweet and innocent it was "back then." And sometimes, if we wish hard enough...a wish will come true. I got that walking, talking baby doll...this past week at the daycare center she attends, my 20-month-old grandaughter followed behind the visiting St. Nick saying, "Santa, it's me, Lauren!" Oh!...and the Nativity? In our little village we still have one, proudly displayed in our one and only government building. We don't call it a Nativity or a manger, we don't say the words Christ child or Virgin Mary....there are little statues of people and animals, and we simply refer to them as "some of the local residents and their pets."

      Season's Greetings and may the Peace, Love and Joy of Christmas be with you through the coming year.

      Judy Rose

      A CHRISTMAS STORY

      December 18th's Jonal entry containing "presents" from the past and your two bells reminded me of something from my childhood Christmases. As you know, I've written about my life on the farm below Belsano where I grew up, near the old Cowley farm. My Aunt Violet Paul and I would make our annual pilgrimage to the very large and very dusty attic to retrieve the big rectangular box that contained the ornaments for the tree.

      I often wondered what that box had contained before it was the ornament box. Being so little myself, it was awesome to see such a large box. That box was always special to me. The memory that I really want to share, though, is the ornaments themselves. Naturally, they were the old glass ornaments that most of us remember, but they were so unusual. As I grew up and the ornaments in the stores changed to plastic, cartoon characters and on and on, I forgot about those old glass ornaments of my grandmother's. The ones with the unusual faces, and fruits, etc.

      It wasn't until a few years ago that I began seeing those old glass ornaments in stores, in specialty shops and on the Internet. The price tags on them needed a bank loan to acquire. It suddenly dawned on me that these ornaments that originate in Germany were probably the very same ornaments that my German grandmother may have acquired from her mother or grandmother. Had I known then what I know now, I may not be wealthy from the sale of these original ornaments, but I'd be rich in memories to be able to take those beautiful glass ornaments out each year to hang on my tree. A gift from the past, a memory of Grandma, the unknown knowledge of where they came from or how they were acquired.

      I like to dream that they may have been bought in a little shop in Germany by one of my ancestors who brought them along when they traveled to this country to start a new life; bringing a part of their ancestral life with them. I'll never know now. The ornaments have been long gone for too many years, and I'm sure the story is also long forgotten. Or perhaps, nobody cares about it but me. That's ok too.

      As an aside, I'll throw in one more memory, that may remind some of the older readers to remember this. Before all those fancy (expensive) sugar-coated cereals were invented, some of us grew up on what was called "coffee soup." Anyone remember? "Coffee soup" was made by crushing saltine crackers into a bowl and pouring coffee (with milk) over top to soak the crackers (thus the "soup"). Sugar coating was provided by pouring sugar (to taste) over this concontion. It was warm, filling and gave you a jump-start for early cold mornings (this was also known as cracker soup).

      If you wanted variety, the alternative to crackers was sliced homemade bread. Same recipe. I loved "coffee soup" so much that one year under the Christms tree, I found that Santa had left me two boxes of saltine crackers!

      Merry Christmas all.

      Trudy (Rummel) Myers

       

     

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