This year marks my 58th Christmas (one of these days, I will decide on what I want to be when I grow up), and I have some favorite Christmas memories over the years. My “Santa” years occurred as a young child in Amarillo, and when I think of that time, I have all of these random memories flash by. I can remember visiting Santa in his “home” on the grounds of the Biven mansion, which was the public library at the time. My Mom and Dad would make sure that Santa sent me a Western Union telegram from the North Pole (in Colorado) every year to acknowledge my letter to Santa.
Even back then, I was a rabid reader, and I loved to read collections of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts. That was my favorite Christmas Eve reading because it took my mind off of the events around me. Even today, I think he did his best work in the early 1960s, and this was the time when he wrote the panels that were the basis of the first Peanuts television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. One of the favorite things about that timeperiod was receiving the annual toy catalogs from Sears and, surprisingly, Western Auto. Western Auto was heavy on model trains from American Flyer, and I used to salivate over the Tonka toy fire trucks and the modern toy garages in the Sears book. Alas, I never did receive a fire truck.
My grandmother (I called her “Mommy”) lived in Stamford, Texas (near Abilene in Central Texas), and she would drive to our house for Christmas. Mommy was a regular Ford patron, and most of her cars had the window decal of a lasso rope around the words, “Made in Texas by Texans” which was applied to all the cars from Ford’s long-closed Dallas assembly plant. As she was one of the best customers of the Ford dealer in Stamford, her Christmas gifts usually included a model of the star of Ford’s new car line for the year. There was a downside to Mommy’s visits, however. Depending upon my dad’s work schedule, we sometimes opened gifts on Christmas Eve (except for the big "Santa gift'). Mommy was a rabid fan of the Lawrence Welk show, and I can remember that one year, we had to wait to open gifts until the show was over.
Those of you my age and over know that printed advertising was much different then. It often consisted of illustrations with extensive copy that often told a story. The big weekly magazines like Life, Look, and The Saturday Evening Post were regular outlets for advertisers. My favorites were the advertisements for the railroads, especially during Christmastime as they opened my imagination to a world beyond Amarillo. Airlines like TWA were also big magazine advertisers.
When we moved to the Los Angeles area, my favorite gifts to receive were airplane models, airplane books, and Matchbox toys in my stocking—I still have all the Matchbox toys. By the time my family moved to Dallas and I had become a teenager, my “want list” usually consisted of railroad books, which were too expensive for my meager budget. Thanks to my parents, Santa usually came through, and this cemented my mental association of the great streamliners with holiday travel.
Fortunately, as I moved into adulthood and married, the excitement of Christmas revolved around giving. For the decade we lived in Oregon, we would give items unique to the Northwest, and I couldn’t wait to see my parents’ reaction. Even though Dad has been gone awhile, I still get a thrill out of having my mom say, “you shouldn’t have.”