The sights and smells of Christmas, 1939

If Christmas trees were for sale, my family was not aware of it.

Our custom during the years of the Great Depression was to make our own.

The following procedure was always used on our farm, located one and a half miles east of Adaza.

Dad would gather us kids together in mid-December, and with the aid of an ax and crosscut saw, we would cut branches from what we always referred to as evergreen trees. There were three of these large old cedar trees located just north of our seven-bedroom farmhouse. (To the best of my knowledge, these 30-35-foot-high trees still remain and mark the spot where my mother’s infant brother was buried in the late 1890s.)

After cutting three or four branches, we tied them together with twine string, the same type of string used for tying oat bundles.

The freshly cut branches were then placed in a used five-gallon Montgomery Ward paint bucket with two or three inches of gravel added to the bottom.  

Once in the house, a couple gallons of cistern soft water were added to the bucket. The pail was then wrapped in an old white tablecloth or bedsheet.  

Decorations were all handmade except for the large star at the top. Popcorn was strung to make a rope and rings of paper were held together by a paste made from mixing flour and water.  

The wonderful aroma of these fresh cut evergreen branches soon filled the room, something I will never forget.

One thing new for Christmas in 1939 was electricity.

We had a string of lights about seven feet long to use. Just to have electric lights anywhere in the house was something to behold, but to see a lighted tree in the front room by two large windows has proven to be a lifetime memory.  

Only one problem was of concern — the multicolored lights were wired in a series. When one burned out they all went out.

But not for long. Our older brother soon solved the problem.

Lyle D. Spencer, of Goldfield, was born and raised in Greene County near Churdan.

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Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161