STATON: The wonder of Christmas

From the time I was a little girl, I have always felt the wonder of Christmas.

I always loved seeing the sparkling lights on the Trimble theatre in Mount Sterling as we came over the viaduct leading into town where we would turn onto Main Street leading to my grandmother’s apartment.

My head would move from side to side looking at all the decorations in the store windows as we rode. I tried to take it all in.

We seldom went to Winchester even though we lived in Clark County because we were so much closer to Mount Sterling.

I have written in past articles how my family spent Christmas and the traditions that were kept from year to year.

To name just a few, my daddy always cut open a coconut and divided it up among his five children, the same happened with a large, barber pole-looking candy cane. Filbert nuts, chocolate drop candy, apples and oranges were what we enjoyed every Christmas Eve night.

I always wondered how other people spent their Christmas and decided to dedicate this column to two very special people I have known for about a year now.

They did not grow up here but grew up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. I decided to ask Hurston and Billie Sue Hall to tell me what their Christmases were like. I am so glad I did.

I hope you get the same enjoyment from their two very different experiences of Christmas that I did.

First I want to relate to you what Hurston Hall told me when I told him I wanted to write about his memories of Christmas as a child.

Hurston came from a very large family. There were six boys and six girls. Hurston’s father worked in the coal mines at Weeksbury in Wheelwright, Kentucky.

Hurston told me the very first Christmas he ever remembered his daddy had taken him to the parking lot of the company store. They had Santa Claus. He said it was crowded and he was so small he could not see Santa. He remembered pulling on his dad’s pant leg and telling him he could not see. Hurston said his daddy picked him up and held him up high enough to see Santa. He told me that, from that day on, he believed in Santa Claus.

He told me the next Christmas he remembered, was when his dad had left the coal camps and moved to Virgie, Kentucky. He was still a very small boy when his dad asked him what he wanted for Christmas that year. He told his dad that he would be satisfied with a long-neck Pepsi. He told me his dad listened and that long-necked bottle of Pepsi was the only Christmas gift he received that year.

He did tell me his family always had some fruit and nuts at Christmas also.

He next told me about when he went with his dad to get the tree and help decorate it. He said that somehow or another that day he hurt his hand and his daddy told him if he slept with his hand outside the covers that night that Santa would take care of it. He told me he slept under the Christmas tree that night, and the next morning when he awakened, a magical thing had happened. He said his hand was all bandaged up and felt great to him. That was his gift.

Hurston said the Christmas tree was always so special to him. He told about the lights on their tree and they were so different from any I have ever heard of. He said they were the kind where you pulled a string and they came on.

I asked Hurston if he and his brothers ever played marbles because I loved watching my brothers playing. He said they did and then mentioned having a Taw marble. I had never heard of a Taw as many times as my brothers played marbles. I did know about the big marble and he explained that was a Taw. I wonder if my readers knew what a Taw was. Hurston opened a drawer and gave me a ball bearing that was the size of a Taw marble. I remembered the big glass marbles my brothers had. I still love marbles because they bring back such memories.

His wife, Billie, could not believe that Hurston’s family had lights on their tree because she said she couldn’t remember having lights on their tree.

Then we got into Billie’s memories of Christmas as a child.

Billie Sue had such a totally different childhood. For one thing, she was an only child with no one to play with. No cousins or neighbors with little kids around to play.

She said her first memory of Christmas was when she was around 5 or 6 years old. She lived on state Highway 23 and a train went right by her house every day. She became friends with the conductor of the train, as were her parents. The conductor’s name was “Burpo”.

She said on that Christmas, her Momma told her to go show Burpo what she got for Christmas. She said she went out and the train was barely going. When she got there, some man had sent her another doll. She said the train ran from Shelby to Jenkins.

She told me that every Christmas she got a doll and the next year after she got another doll, she asked her mom if she should take her doll out to show Burpo. Her Mom was not encouraging her but she went and someone threw something off to her again. She said Burpo often threw candy at her and other kids. She remembered getting some coloring books and always new crayons.

She and Hurston told me that often times the conductor would throw out lumps of coal to peoples’ homes so they could pick them up to burn and stay warm.

Billie said nearly every Christmas was the same for her because she just got a doll. I asked her what was her favorite doll and she said it was a doll whose eyes would blink open and closed. She said its eye got off-kilter or something and she tried to fix it herself, but when she did, her finger went down into its head. She said other people tried to fix it, too, but they never could get it right either.

Then she thought about how each year as she got older she would get a little cedar chest and inside it there was always cream candy. To this day, she said she has never tasted cream candy just like it.

She said once board games came about she did get a game of “Sorry.” She said she didn’t have anyone to play the game with so she would have her Mom and Dad play with her.

Billie said she lived in an adult world, and when the Car Dox business came to their area, she gained another adult friend. This was an acetylene tank business, and her parents became friends with Mr. Charlie DeBuss, the manager of the plant.

She said that if she ever got into any trouble with her parents he would help get her out of trouble.

Hurston and I called her a privileged character joking with her but we all agreed she had missed out on life without having siblings or someone to play with.

Hurston and Billie have only lived in Winchester a short while, and Winchester is lucky to have them in our midst.

It was fun listening as they learned things about one another they never knew. They have known each other since they were in the fifth grade. They both lost their mates through death, and if I remember correctly, it was a class reunion that got them together. They both feel God brought them together as husband and wife.

Sue Staton is a Clark County native. She is a wife, mother and grandmother.