When we were living at 908 Vine Street in Missoula,
Dad would take me with him to
get our Christmas tree. Before we left Missoula Vern got
to go with us but my sister Myrtle
was too small. We crossed the Van Buren Street Bridge and
walked east on the Milwaukee railroad tracks up Hellgate
Canyon at the foot of Mt. Sentinel. At a certain place a
small stream trickled down from a spring and that is where
we started to climb. In the wintertime the water was frozen
so it wasn't easy to keep from falling on the ice. I would
grab branches to help me along. Coming down was a different
One could slide, which was fun. Once I tried to sit on the
tree and slide but Dad put a stop to that in a hurry, for
the tree would have been ruined.
Dad and I would climb until we got to a meadow and there he would build an enormous
fire over which he broiled steak. On this one occasion I
was allowed to drink coffee. Then we would tramp through
the snow searching for the perfect tree. One time Dad said
the snow was so deep that I should stay by the fire and keep
warm. Something about his voice and manner kept me from begging
to go which ordinarily I would have done. Years later he
told us that he had seen a mountain lion at the edge of the
woods, attracted to the spot by the smell of the steak. Dad
said he walked toward the lion brandishing his axe and the
lion turned and ran. I'm thankful that the lion was behind
me so that Dad saw him instead of me.
Walking back along the railroad tracks in the dark was always scary for me, for
at that time of the evening a Milwaukee train always came
from the east. We could hear it coming when it was miles
away. I'd call, "Dad, I hear the train coming. Let's get
off the tracks." But Dad would say, "We have lot's of time." I
wasn't sure about that but I stayed on the tracks as he did.
Finally we would get off and as the train came rushing by
the ground trembled - and so did I.
When we got home tired and hungry. Mother would always have hot soup for us.
I'd hold my icy hands over the pot-bellied stove in the dining
room. Oh, how good it felt! This was the same stove around
which we dressed on cold winter mornings.
Tree cutting day was one day I didn't complain about wearing
long underwear, but oh, how I hated the things! I could never
get the legs
folded neatly so they wouldn't bulge under my long, black
stockings. I wonder, did anyone? I can still remember the
day I rebelled and wouldn't wear the underwear any more.
It was tradition in our family that Dad put up the tree Christmas Eve and after
the three of us children went to bed, he and mother trimmed
I can remember the fascinating bulbs he bought, made
in Germany, in the shapes of fruit and nuts and colored
accordingly. They lasted for years. In the morning we had
to stay in bed
until we were called and then we walked into a dark room
except for the tree lights. It was magic.
In my childhood days there weren't heaps of presents piled under the tree. We
always received something new to wear, a book, a game,
a Parker puzzle, and a Christmas stocking filled with candy
and an orange. I think I was happier than my great-grandchildren
are now with so many presents that they don't know what
do first, and then ask if there are more. We spent the
day reading or putting the puzzle together. That was one
in the year when we couldn't help with the dishes, either
setting the table or washing them, for the Haviland china
was used and we weren't to touch. The Haviland china Mother
and Dad got by buying from a salesman from the Larkin Company.
He sold door to door much as the Watkins company did later,
and the same products.
In one house we lived in there were hot air registers in the floors upstairs
and many are the times I crouched over the one in my bedroom
about Christmas time trying to hear what I was getting for
Christmas. I never did hear a thing, but I always kept trying.
The second floor reminds me of something that has nothing
to do with Christmas. Part way up the stairs of that house
there was a landing
that had a window directly above the bathroom window
in the house next door. One day I discovered that I could
into their bathroom and see Mr. Jones, who owned the
grocery store at the corner, taking a bath. I thought it
funny and told mother. She evidently mentioned it to
Mrs. Jones for the shades were pulled after that.
One Christmas I received a little black wrought iron stove,
complete with pans. It was the number one gift as far as
I was concerned.
During the afternoon Dad rocked too far back and fell
over on the
stove, breaking it to pieces.
Because Dad had grown up an orphan Christmas always meant a lot to him. It seemed
fitting when he died in December 1948 that the Columbia
Funeral Parlor had a Nativity scene and Christmas music
playing. He would have loved it - and perhaps he did.
1988/9 for Life Story Class
ChritmasMem1.txt Page 2 of 2 01/19/01 2:00 AM