Sepia Saturday: Christmas 1959

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

I thought I was going to tell the story of the family tinsel tree, but when I looked for pictures, I found a before-the-tinsel-tree photo and, well … I changed my mind,

This is a photo of my mom and me on Christmas morning in 1959. We lived with my grandparents in Ottumwa, Iowa. The big dark brown square on the left is the coal burning stove for heat, although its warmth didn’t reach the upstairs. The green curtain provided limited privacy for my grandparents’ bedroom. The wall paper changed every few years as coal stoves tend to make things dingy. The door and wood trim was stained or painted dark and varnished. The big black and white television is on the right – shoved over a bit to make room for the tree. I could be holding a stuffed animal, but I’m not sure. I wonder what was in that tall package leaned up against the door? My first thought is that it is a room divider. The only running water was a cold water tap in the kitchen. Bathing occurred while standing at the kitchen sink surrounded by a folding room divider for privacy. But it could be something entirely different and fun. It looks like the tree has a silver bead garland and some tinsel. The tree topper seems a little unusual – a dark-haired angel surrounded by red?

Another photo taken that morning shows the other side of the room. Hmm – different wallpaper. Christmas cards hung on the wall and tucked in the picture frame. Unwrapped presents cover the couch. And there is my Grandpa Hoskins. This was obviously the year he suffered a serious injury to his hand at the meat packing plant where he worked. Grandpa had to go to Chicago for a few months for rehab and I missed him terribly while he was gone.

Later that day we changed out of our pajamas and combed our hair and my Uncle Roy, Aunt Joan, and baby cousin Cherie came over. Cherie was born in 1959, so that is how I was able to date this series of photos.

All of the family that lived nearby came for Christmas dinner. I love seeing my grandmother’s smile in this photo.

We always ate off of Grandma’s Blue Willow china on holidays. From left to right are my Grandfather, Aunt Vicki, Uncle Mont, Mom, me, Cherie, Aunt Joan, Aunt Wilma, Uncle Don, and Grandma. Uncle Roy must have been the photographer. The black formica table is covered with a tablecloth. It looks like I am taking a big helping of mashed potatoes. I will make a little well in the center for a big pat of butter. There is cream on the table for Grandpa’s coffee and he and Grandma are not using the matching Blue Willow cups, but the ones they used every day – Grandma’s would hold tea rather than coffee. Grandma’s sewing machine usually sat under the shelf below the mirror. I wonder where it is?

This next photo was taken the same Christmas, as evidenced by baby Cherie. We are with our cousin Deb, at her house in Ft. Dodge, Iowa.

My hair is fixed in the ringlets my mom managed to create once a week for Sundays and  special occasions. Cherie is too busy to pose for a photo. Since my mom worked at Sears, I always assume that items like matching dresses were something she saw at work and suggested or just got for all of us as gifts. If Deb or her mom see this, maybe they can add to my memories.

Well, that’s my little stroll through five photos documenting one Christmas.

Christmas in 2020 is not what we hoped it would be. It is likely that many of our family photos will be heads in “zoom boxes” rather than loved ones gathered around a table together. In whatever form it takes, I hope this holiday season brings you moments of joy and peace and the sharing of love.

Please visit my Sepia Saturday neighbors here to see what they have shared for us.

Edit: July 7, 2021 – I figured out that the first two photos were from 1958 – the year before my cousin was born, based on some additional photos. Doesn’t change much, but best to be accurate!

Sepia Saturday – The Provenance of our Christmas Stockings

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

The boy on the right in the prompt photo doesn’t look thrilled with his large overflowing Christmas stocking. My sister doesn’t look thrilled either.

She may have spent most of Christmas morning a bit out of sorts.

Her sisters, however, are happily engaged with gifts from Santa.

One earlier Christmas morning, it was just me and one little sister. My Christmas stocking is visible behind us. It looks like my sister’s stocking is one of Dad’s socks with a red ribbon attached.

Going back further in time, I’m the little one and there is an oversize Christmas stocking more along the size of those in the prompt photo. My mom probably got it at Sears, since that is where she worked.

When we moved to Great Bend, Kansas, we lived next door to an older couple, Mr. and Mrs. Chaney. At the time, it was just my parents and me. Mr. Chaney was retired from the railroad. Mrs. Chaney and I developed a relationship over Solitaire. She taught me several versions of the game and we spent many afternoons playing Solitaire “together”. It is a pastime I still enjoy. Thanks, Mrs. Chaney!

Dad(Jjim) says that he and mom often played bridge with the Chaneys. When I asked what their first names were he said he didn’t know and wondered if he ever did. They were always Mr. and Mrs. Chaney to him. They were the age of his parents, so it makes sense, although I’ll bet my mom knew their names!

Dad also remembers that Mrs. Chaney got a kick out of my first-born sister Karla, who knew where Mrs. Chaney kept cookies and would go and stand in front of the cabinet and wait. Of course, she always got a cookie.

Why have I gone on about the Chaney’s? Because Mrs. Chaney made my sisters’ Christmas stockings. They still look pretty good today!

We moved before Kristie was born, but Mrs. Chaney made her a matching stocking and sent it to her. The last one made is not hand-stitched like the others, so some of the sequins are missing. Mom told my sisters that Mrs. Chaney was getting older by that time and maybe wasn’t up to the task of hand stitching.

I don’t know where my stocking originated, but I think Mrs. Chaney fixed it up for me – adding lots of bling with sequins and a handle for hanging. Her handwork is still holding up, but the blanket stitching along the edge is coming apart.

My husband’s maternal grandmother made his stocking. She used a kit that came with all the components. He said she also made a beautiful Christmas tablecloth from a kit. His stocking is lovely, but I don’t know what’s up with the red-faced snowman. It needs a bit of repair and I keep meaning to do it, but at first I didn’t have the required beading needle plus all of the beads are sewn with one continuous thread and, well – I just haven’t done it.

At one time I made a stocking for my husband. Were we dating? Recently married, but without his childhood stocking? I don’t remember. I copied the armadillos from some of his doodles – he was always drawing armadillos at the time. The armadillo on the left is doing “Hook ’em Horns” and the one of the right is doing the “Sic ’em Bears.” This stocking is in need of work! I sewed the beading of his name, but everything else I glued on (probably in a hurry, as usual!), and things have fallen off – the wreath, the snowman’s hat, the angel’s wings, some tree ornaments … 🙁

Hmm – now that I think about those armadillos, I may have made this stocking during our junior year of college, when my husband left Baylor for a detour year at UT.

My mother-in-law made stockings for our children. They are really cute. Unfortunately, some of the felt provided in the kits has faded over time.

Santa brought a puppy to our first daughter when she was in second grade. She named the puppy Ginger Noel. The following Christmas she made a very large stocking for Ginger.

The last stocking I’ll share is one my husband and I bought at a craft sale in New England pre-children. We use it whenever someone is in need of a Christmas stocking. Santa put a few things in it for our son-in-law this year.

Well, I’m late to the party this week. We have entered the 12 days of Christmas, so Christmas isn’t really over, but the Saturday in Sepia Saturday was four days ago! Oh well.

Find more holiday cheer by visiting other participants at this link: Sepia Saturday!

Christmas Decorating: Mom’s Influence – The Advent Calendar

Sometime before I had kids – I’m thinking late 1970s, I was visiting my parents and mom was making an Advent calendar that she copied from a friend. She bought enough of everything ahead of time so I could make one too. We worked on our calendars at her kitchen table – soon covered with felt, scissors, glue, sequins, thread, paper, pencils, sharpies, burlap and with her sewing machine nearby.

I still have the instructions that I wrote from her copy.

Advent Calendar instructions 1Advent Calendar instructions 2Advent Calendar instructions 3Advent Calendar instructions 4

And the pattens for the ornaments and tree.

I didn’t finish all of the ornaments during my visit, so it was up to me to finish on my own. I didn’t understand a few of the ornaments – like the owl, for instance. A Christmas owl? What’s that about? I understand the imagery of the fish – but this one is maybe a little too “fishy” for the Christian connotation…

And how about the pig?

In the creative comfort of my own home, I didn’t always use the designs provided. I got the designs for the doll and the teddy bear from coloring books.

DSCN3311 - Version 2I don’t know if you noticed, but I never finished the Advent calendar. See that pocket with the number 1 on it? It’s empty. Over 30 years later and I still have one ornament left to make. Typical.

Here is a look at our almost fully decorated Advent calendar.

The missing ornament is supposed to be a reindeer, but I didn’t like the one in the pattern. As I was preparing this post, I found several ideas I had considered for the last ornament. Living in Texas, these included an armadillo and a pair of cowboy boots. Hey – unless you can explain the owl, I think the armadillo and boots are just as relevant. Besides, my husband used to collect armadillos, so it would have had meaning for us at the time.

That armadillo is traced from one of my husband’s signature armadillo doodles. He drew the cowboy Santa too. 🙂

Leave a comment and suggest what I should make as the final ornament.

Or should I just leave it as it is – a testimony to imperfection?

When we only had one child, she got to put each ornament on the tree to count down the days to Christmas, but with the birth of two siblings, it was necessary to evenly divide the task – which did not divide evenly among three children since there were only 23 ornaments. These days I hang the calendar on the pantry door in the kitchen and I alone have the privilege of counting down the days on our Advent calendar.

Thanks, Mom!

Mom also made the tree skirt that we use under our tree every year. You can read about it (and get the directions) here: Christmas Decorating – Mom’s Influence: The Tree Skirt.