Christmas spirit: Sharing memories and advice on catching and keeping it

December 2014 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, People

By Brenna Wiegand

Curiosity drew me to Mount Angel Towers to gather Christmas memories and advice from residents for getting into the holiday spirit. One idea is to join them in welcoming Victorian Era Christmas Carolers to the Towers for a performance Thurday, Dec. 18, 6 p.m. It’s free.

Jane Orange Harper, 85

It was Christmas 1979. My husband and I and our teenage daughter took our camper to the Grand Canyon thinking nobody would be there. When we got there the place was packed with all the snowbirds from everyplace – we were shocked. I’d told my friend to tell my husband I wanted these two quail figurines – about 8 inches high and very lovely – they probably cost $50 back then. My husband had a great big smile on his face and was so pleased with that he’d gotten me and when I opened up the package it was a silly smiling orange clown on a piece of marble – I though it was disgusting. He said he chose the clown because he thought I’d like it. He passed away three years ago. I prize it today and still have it because I think it’s wonderful.

Christmas spirit: Family is so important. If you don’t have family it’s very lonesome; otherwise, it’s a joyful time.

Lavina Windh

Lavina Windh

Lavina Windh, 96

We were three families – my dad, his sister and his brother – living a mile apart out in Saskatchewan, Canada, farming and ranching. There were 12-13 cousins and us older girls did the entertaining. We’d go sit in a corner someplace and read all these comic strips until we had something in our mind – would it be Mutt & Jeff or Jiggs & Maggie? We’d go find our costumes where all the visitors left their hats, mittens, scarves and coats. We’d dress up and laugh ourselves sick and silly. We wound up the gramophone or used the piano and paraded down the stairs where the grownups were half asleep after the big feast. We did that Thanksgiving, Christmas and Grandpa’s birthday – and we didn’t care if we never saw a gift.

Christmas spirit: Compatibility with family; lots of spirit and lots of good food – that’s how I grew up.

Shirley Smith, 80

Times were very hard back then but there was always a unity in getting us all together and a spirit that was just incredible. My sister and I got a doll buggy to share; we each had our own doll. They had all those ribbon candies and treats you couldn’t just go out and buy so we knew it was quite a sacrifice for the folks. We used to string popcorn and cranberries and make long paper cut-outs to help decorate the tree. The house was always open to others and so it made for more fun and more everything.

Christmas spirit: People need to pull their families back together and they need to bring God into their lives as the center; and they also need to realize that life doesn’t stand still; it moves on and so you need to learn to live each day to the fullest and bring the love back into it so that families start feeling united. 

Gary Bowlin

Gary Bowlin

Gary Bowlin, 76

I remember getting up in the morning and gathering around the Christmas tree – there were 10 of us – and receiving stockings in which were oranges and nuts and hard candies – those kinds of goodies we got back in those days. Having Christmas dinner and favorite desserts like pumpkin pie and one that’s not usual – prune whip. Mother cooked up the prunes and whipped them up and folded whipped cream and nuts into them. It was delicious.

Christmas spirit: Spending a little quiet time with God; singing Christmas hymns and doing something for somebody else – those all help.

Diana Batten, 77

It was the 40s; there were still five of us kids at home. Christmas Eve we had dinner then went into the big living room and we each had a package to open – probably a pair of socks – and as we were doing that we heard a “Ho Ho Ho” and sleigh bells and we knew we should be in bed. I still hear the sleigh bells and the “Ho Ho Ho’”and that’s the only Christmas that’s stuck in my mind, though one Christmas my parents managed to buy a bicycle – which we all shared.

Christmas spirit: Sharing with others who are not so fortunate and knowing that you helped to make their Christmas special. We have so much nowadays and we always have something to share. Once you start learning how to give it makes it a very different picture.

Dr. Jay Sayer

Dr. Jay Sayer

Dr. Jay Sayer, 82

Christmas Day 1973 I was living in Beverly Hills working as an actor and getting my doctorate at UCLA. My wife Constance, my 16-year-old son and I were driving along Little Santa Monica Boulevard and suddenly the man in the next car is yelling at us. It was the actor Elliot Gould, a friend of ours. He asked us if we’d like to go to a party and we said “Sure, why not?” It turned out to be at Groucho Marx’ house; we were just thrilled; he was a living legend. By then Groucho was getting feeble and there were very few people there. He introduced us to the man playing the piano and he was Marvin Hamlisch who wrote The Way We Were. My wife’s first husband was there; he had been Gould’s acting coach in New York. Groucho invited my son to dance. He got all red-faced, but Groucho got him up and he stood on Groucho’s feet and they danced around for several minutes.

Christmas spirit: I think you have to ask yourself “What is my relationship to God? How many years do I have to live and how well have I behaved so far?” Here’s another opportunity revivify your spirituality.

Bonnie Randolph, 72

We’d go to church and they’d always hand out stockings full of oranges and little candies. My parents didn’t have much money back then but they always took me to Sears. I’d get pajamas and stuff like that but as far as toys they couldn’t afford it.

Christmas spirit: Share, give. If someone is in need I want to make sure their needs are met. 

Carol Rambousek

Carol Rambousek

Carol Rambousek, 65

The first Christmas I really remember I was 4. Back then people didn’t get ready for Christmas until Christmas Eve, but it was Christmas Eve and I was really worried that we didn’t have any decorations or a tree up. I was really bugging my mother a lot about that and then, because I hated peas, somebody put a plateful of peas out for Santa and I just knew he wasn’t going to go for that! I was really hyped up about this but when mom read The Night Before Christmas I fell asleep and when I woke up, we had Christmas! The tree was all up and the presents were under the tree. I got a book – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and it was interactive – not like interactive now, you know; he had a furry head and you could feel his nose and as it told the story there were little flat things – like whistles in Santa’s bag that you could blow. So it was a really neat book – I still have it.

Christmas spirit: The thing I want people to realize is they’ve gone crazy – they just buy so much stuff. Christmas is really being together. 

Ann Vasconi

Ann Vasconi

Ann Vasconi, 75

We were living in Alaska; it was 1974 and my brother and sister-in-law had come for Christmas. Christmas Day my sister-in-law was taking a bath and we had an earthquake – about a 4.2 – and of course she’s screaming because the water’s all sloshing around in her tub. My daughters, who were 11 and 8 at the time, were yelling ‘Aunt Nancy, it’s just an earthquake!’

Christmas spirit: Get with your family and have a good time

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