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Remembering Christmastime in simpler days

by Minden Press-Herald

I am sure it is the Christmas season — the calendar indicates it, the buildings, and the homes have the Christmas lights out in profusion. The radio is playing Christmas songs and carols, the stores are packed with gifts, and the toy shops are just waiting for some parent to fill a child’s request. But there are some things that I miss this Christmas. Some are things we all remember in Minden from long ago, and others are my personal memories.

Do You Remember?

Alan Jackson sings a song that says, “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” Well, folks, it is always 4:30 here in Minden. In fact, all four sides of the beautiful clock in front of the green tiled building is on 4:30, everyday, all day. (Which means that twice in each 24-hour period the clock is right.) Do you remember long ago when it told the correct time?

Do you remember the pretty Christmas tree that stood in front of the glass doors at the Webster Parish Courthouse, where it could be seen from the street below? The beautiful decorations were put there by the late Margaret Gruner, who worked at the courthouse and was so talented.

And do you remember when the local Sears store had a real live Santa Claus during some of the days of the Christmas shopping, and children could climb on his knee and tell him just what they wanted him to bring them? My son worked at Sears during his college years when Sears was in the little shopping center on Homer Road. Sherwin Williams Paint store is there today. One of his duties at Christmas was to don a Santa Claus suit and listen to the requests.

Do you remember the Christmas parades of long ago with the beautiful horses that both ladies and gentlemen rode? The bands marched and they were hopeful that the horses would be at the back of the parade. Most times they were. But the streets were cleaner before the parade. I don’t know if the horses got excited or what, but they contributed to the condition of the streets.

Christmas Music

Do you remember the cantatas in the 30s that the church choirs performed? At First Baptist Church, we were still in the building that had been built about 1925.

I remember Mrs. Pearl Hart, who later married Dr. C. M. Baker. She was a beautiful lady, and my Sunday school teacher when I was about 12. She had long black hair that had a natural wave and curls. She drew it back into a loose bun at the back of her head. The top hair lay in deep waves, and an occasional curl would slip out and soften her face. Her eyes were deep blue, almost violet, with long eyelashes, and she had the deepest dimples in each cheek.

During the Christmas cantata, she would stand at the front of the church in front of the Lord’s Supper table dressed in a white dress, and recite the story of “The Other Wise Man.” She was one of the sweetest teachers I ever had, and such a dedicated Christian.

I might add that the church did not own vestments or robes so the ladies wore white dresses at Christmas for the Christmas music. I still miss the simplicity of life back then, and yet the Christmas story was just as real.

Santa, Santa, Santa

In Shreveport, Rubenstein’s had a huge, almost massive Santa Claus animated puppet (10 or 12 feet tall) in their window. He moved and music was playing with an occasional “Ho, Ho, Ho,” and it scared my children to death.

One year at Andress Motors, we stuffed a Santa suit and placed him at the wheel of a convertible that was on the showroom floor in front of the windows. I miss all the folks I worked with at Andress. I think all of them that I worked with are dead except Jeannine Miller, Thad Andress, Harold Toms, Jodie Faye Aarons (don’t remember her married name) and Mary Ellen Upton. So many gone and most of them forgotten.

Christmas Parties

When my children were in grammar school, there were room parties at Christmas time. I do not know if they still have them.

I miss hearing “Boe” Cook saying “Hi, Neighbor,” the first thing each morning as he began his radio program “Breakfast With Boe.”

I miss A. Q. Hackett walking through town passing out little wrapped candies to one and all, along with a cheery greeting.

The Preachers

Many of the preachers here in Minden had an impact on my life — Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic as well as Baptist. Often they came into Andress Motors Company where I worked and we would visit, talk about the different slants on our religions and have such good discussions. It was Bro. Rasmussen from the Methodist Church, the Rev. Davis from the Presbyterian Church, and Father DeVriend from the Catholic Church, and Bro. Miles from First Baptist Church.

I do not know if the priest’s name was DeFriend, or De Vriend, but I do remember how jolly he was, and how he kidded me about the loose knot of marriage we Baptists had, and he said he tied his couples in hard knots of marriage. So no divorces. I miss all these who added so much to my life.

A White Christmas

Only on a very few occasions have we had snow before Christmas, since it always seemed to be January or February before the heavier snows came. So we had to just dream of a “White Christmas.”

A Phone Call

About 40 years ago, the phone would ring at my home a few days before Christmas and a voice would ask to speak to John or Suzanne. He identified himself as “Santa Claus” and told them he was checking to see if they had been good or bad. And of course, they assured him they had been perfect little angels. He always used the telephone at the Banks Craton home. Often I remember that gentle Santa Claus, and I miss that phone call.

When Suzanne was six, she was scheduled for a tonsillectomy over the Christmas holidays. She had asked Santa for a ring. Somehow he heard about it, because it mysteriously appeared on the hearth of our chimney just a few days before her surgery.

Christmases were never happier to us than when we listened to the wants of our children and tried to provide enough of their wants to make them happy. The movies we made of those Christmases are so precious to me.

Holiday Decorations

I miss the decorations in and around my home that have always been a part of my Christmas. This year, I have been physically unable to assemble all of them. Only the coffee table holds my little nativity scene, and the mantel with my large nativity scene, along with some of my little angels that I made. And with the pretty little white crocheted church and angel that my neighbor, Mrs. Ruby Baker, gave me. This is just another concession to age that I have had to acknowledge. I still did most of my baking, beginning at Thanksgiving and freezing as I made something, limiting the quantities that I bake, and cutting down on the variety. There are friends that mean so much to me and a cookie speaks so much more eloquently than I can. I think it is Pillsbury flour that has the slogan “Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven.”

Church Family

I miss being a part of my church’s activities, of hearing the Christmas music, and the class and department Christmas parties. Most of all, I miss the Christian fellowship that has been a part of my life here for more than 70 years.

Some poet said, “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Maybe that is true, but there is such a loneliness on holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, when I miss the love of the family that has now gone on “Home.”

Years ago, a column appeared in the Shreveport Times entitled, “Dr.Alvarez,” and he had been a doctor at the Mayo Clinic. He described the old age maladies as “death keeps taking little bites out of me.” And so that must be what happens to me each year as I grow weaker and more unable to do the physical things I loved to do. I suppose I should be glad that I can remember how it used to be and be thankful for memories.

Please forgive this old lady for being so sentimental this Christmas and remember, as the paper said “Life is a journey and memories are the souvenirs” and so I have lots of souvenirs. Remember along with me, will you?

Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.

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