Old fashioned gift giving at Christmas
By Lily Kongslien
Special to the Star Journal
Most of our Christmas presents were handmade or mail ordered from a catalog. A memorable gift my father made was a wooden jointed jumping jack made to resemble a tall clown or elf which was fastened together ingeniously by twine in such a way that when the string was pulled, the jumping jack would lift his arms and legs.
A doll cradle, made by my father, fit a doll I had inherited named Betty. I still have the cradle and it has been enjoyed by my own daughter and granddaughter.
A small wooden duck with moveable head and wheels instead of feet, was one of my first pull toys when I was young. This toy was also used by my children and grandchildren as they first learned how to walk.
Other gifts my father made were some wooden and wire puzzles to be challenged by brain power. We made our own Jig-saw puzzles using a favorite picture and gluing this on to cardboard and then marking and cutting the pieces. A book containing punch out paper dolls and huge colorful collection of clothes was a special gift and was a wonderful addition to my collection of “catalog” paper doll families.
One year, my brother received a wind up train plus the standard favorite “Krazy-Kar.” I was not too much interested in such toys but spent hours with my two dolls and my cradle. One of my dolls was from the mail order catalog and arrived with a vivid pink bonnet and so I called her “Pink Bonnet.” She had dark hair and received a new wardrobe from my mother each Christmas.
The other doll was called “Betty” as she was formerly Betty Carroll’s doll from a fox farm my father worked on. One year at Christmas, my mother decided to make Betty a complete new wardrobe and worked late into the night on this. Before Christmas, there was a hump at the end of the couch covered by towels. I knew it was Betty all dressed up and I could hardly wait to see her.
When Christmas Eve arrived, I made a dive for the hump that I thought was Betty and the statement was made “Maybe that was not intended for you but for Stella, our neighbor girl.” I started to cry and my parents knew they went too far in their teasing. The gift was for me and it was Betty all dressed up and all her new clothes, shoes and coats. I was very happy.
As we got older, books were always Christmas gifts. We were told we could pick out several from the catalog and I especially remember the Christmas I received “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” and the series on the Merriweather Girls. My brother picked out the Tom Swift books. Books provided many hours of pleasant reading and these books were read over and over again.
We received our fair share of hand-knitted mittens, scarves and hats. One Christmas, my mother made me a pretty fur muff, to match the trim on my coat. I didn’t wear it much but was thrilled to have it for special occasions. Yearly my mother made new curtains for our kitchen windows at holiday time. These were probably made from colorful flour sacks or feed sacks and turned out very frilly and were stiffly starched. It gave the kitchen and breakfast nook a fresh look.
New clothes were always welcome Christmas gifts. I remember a brown corduroy dress, with brown wool sleeves and vest. It was my favorite until I outgrew it. I also remember a pair of rayon stockings I received just before Christmas so I could wear them to the annual program at our school.
My father made several plant stands for mother’s house plants and mother made many fancy and detailed pillows which decorated our coach and also table runners and doilies for under the lamps.
I am thankful for the warm memories of Christmas past and look forward to new memories each Christmas.
May you have a wonderful holiday season.