How We Keep Christmas: A Veteran’s Family’s Burned Out Christmas 1922

Hello Friends!

The final story in my How We Keep Christmas series has given me much food for thought. The challenges faced by this young family in 1922 have made my heart ache yet filled my heart with an extra measure of gratitude for the blessings my family and I enjoy. While pondering I have wished for the “Paul Harvey’s Rest of the Story” version (for those of you old enough to remember his weekday radio broadcasts) telling us that this family lived happily ever after. Sadly that version doesn’t exist except perhaps with their descendants.

Wishing everyone a blessed and healthful Merry Christmas.

A Veteran’s Family’s Burned Out Christmas 1922

WE HAD been burned out about a year before last Christmas, losing our home and also nearly everything that we possessed. So that winter found us living in a miserable little un-plastered homestead shack, twelve by fourteen feet in size, on land adjoining our own, all we could rent until we could get on our feet again. There were four of us to occupy this gloomy, cold, little shanty, Daddy, the two boys, and myself. We had no visible means of support except to chop and haul wood. Prospects for “a happy Yuletide” were not a bit cheerful. Yet we determined to keep Christmas.

Daddy’s health was quite poor and we did not know but that he might have to go to the National Soldier’s Sanitarium and leave us on our own resources. Then a few days before Christmas, he sprained his ankle. He had a few unfilled orders for Christmas trees which had to be delivered in town seven miles away. It was miserable cold with considerable snow on the ground. Our older boy, William, aged ten, helped me to hitch the team to an old stone boat and we two hauled those Christmas trees to town. We got back long after dark, a hard cold trip down close to the snow.

While we were gone, Daddy and the younger boy, Donald aged five, had crawled out in the woods at home and cut a pine tree for our Christmas. He dragged this to the house and had it there when I arrived.

It was a question where to set up a tree in a twelve-by-fourteen house which already held two beds, a table, cupboards, a cooking stove, and a trunk. On the trunk at the foot of our bed was the only place we could set it unless we put it on one of the beds!

When both boys had drifted off to sleep,” the job of setting up and trimming the tree began.

We crowded the limby-pine through the door and succeeded in making it stand nicely on the trunk. Distant relatives in other states had mailed us small Christmas packages. These were opened and their contents hung on the tree. A friendly merchant and his wife, in town, had given me a box saying it was the “the boys.” This box proved to contain a lot of nice toys. When it and the other packages were opened and all the things they held were placed upon the tree, it made quite a display.

We squeezed out enough money from the sale of wood and Christmas trees to buy a few presents, a little candy and nuts, and some Christmas candles. It was late in the night and we were considerably tired by the time the tree was all trimmed. But we went to bed with a satisfied feeling of having done something for our boys.

Early next morning, Dad built a fire, pulled down the shades, and lighted the candles. Then he came back to bed and called to the boys. They awoke with a start and the first thing they saw was the great bright tree in all its splendor. I am sure no greater light of happiness could come into the eyes of the richest or wealthiest children on earth than that which shown in our two boys’ eyes.

For a moment, they stared in delighted, happy wonder; then there was a mad scramble for the tree. Santa Claus had been here indeed!

Our younger boy, Donald, likes engines and Santa had brought him a pretty nice big one the year before. But it had grown rusty and old-looking. So, I painted it green (a job for which Santa was given the credit) and gilt the wheels and it looked quite nice backed up under the foot of the big tree. Of course, he made for that first. William found gifts which were for him and soon each lad had an armload and were both trying to look at everything at one and the same time.

How much better Daddy and I felt than if we had followed our earliest impulse and let Christmas go by without celebrating.

We shall never let the Christmas spirit die in our home no matter how poor or hard-up we are. To be without Christmas would be like being without a home! —Mrs. Freda Klock, South Dakota