Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

When Santa Walks Backwards . . .

leave a comment »

. . .does he sound like

he’s saying “Oh, oh, oh?”

Christmastime a Long Time Ago

By Tom Morrow

Another Christmas has arrived, and that takes me back more than eight decades of my life.

I recall the anticipated booty that never came but appeared in my dreamscape during the 1940s and early ‘50s. What toy-land wonders we didn’t know about weren’t missed. Comparatively speaking, post-war toys were, at best, primitive. Plastic was hard to get after World War II and metal of any kind was expensive. Toys were, shall we say, “fragile.”  

The biggest problem when fighting off Indians and robbers trying to win the American West was with six-shooters. Many toys, especially pistols, were made of compressed sawdust. When told by an opponent to lay our pistols down on the ground, we did so ever so gently lest they break apart. On more than one occasion Mom came to the rescue, but got the barrel glued back a bit crooked. A few times she glued the barrel upside down.

The only gift Santa might bring that would be close to today’s Christmas morning booty was Tinker Toys, the Legos of that time. Gift ideas for Santa were limited because there was no television or Internet. Hints for him, as well as Mom and Dad, were found primarily in store windows or in the annual Sears, Wards, or Spiegel catalogs.

Those items of joy neatly on display in store windows had price tags. The price of $3.95 seemed to be the most popular number.

Being “good” was always part of the bargain and having lots of presents under the tree measured the amount of joy you expressed. In lean years, Mom would increase the gift count by wrapping socks separately to make the day seem more abundant than it really was.

For every boy, electric trains were high on the list for most-coveted items. While Lionel train sets were the most popular, no self-respecting “Junior” railroad man would be satisfied with anything but an American Flyer. Lionel train sets were powered by centered electric track … three in total. American Flyers mimicked the real thing with just two rails.

Flyers were authentic-looking in every respect. Mom didn’t understand such things. Dad did, but had trouble with a more expensive price tag. A Lionel set was around $14.95. An American Flyer commanded $19.95 and higher. Dad never made more than $2,500 a year then so such extravagances were out of the question. 

But the Holy Grail on nearly every boy’s wish list was a Red Ryder air rifle. But Mom always said what nearly every mom did: “No! You’ll shoot your eye out.”

Gifting Mom and Dad was quite a challenge. Weekly allowances didn’t go very far. I got 50 cents a week and my sister got a quarter. If you had any money for Mom, there was always “Evening in Paris” perfume – for 50 cents, or a week’s “wages.” When my sister was helping Mom close up her house several years ago, a number of “Paris” bottles were discovered stashed away in keep-sake manner.

As for Dad, we somehow managed to buy him a necktie because Mom usually helped by giving us a dollar or three. This was for a man who had just one tie that he wore only for weddings and funerals.

One year our parents had some huge household expenditures so Mom told Dad not to worry about getting her a gift for Christmas. (You can see this one coming). Dad took Mom at her word while Mom presented him Dad with a couple of gifts. It was a very brittle Christmas morning.. From that year forward, my sister and I made sure Dad always had something for Mom under the tree.

Memories? You bet! Now enjoy the New Year! 

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 24, 2022 at 2:00 am

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