By Allen Hamrick
“You know, I remember” is one of those quotes that has started conversations throughout generations. It has always been a phrase that is associated with reminiscing about times past that are much different than today. These days, the internet has spawned Amazon and Google, among others, and has opened up a whole new world for people to explore. There is seemingly no question that can’t be answered, and research is just a flick of the wrist. Shopping – well let’s just say the internet has taken effort out of the equation and made it a task that you can do without ever leaving your recliner. Most would say that it is a great thing to have, and yes, I agree to a point, but exploring from your recliner will never give you the rich life you could have if you used your hands for something besides typing.
With the holidays of Christmas and New Year making their way back full circle from last year, it is a time for decorations, presents, food and good memories; a time when lists circle through families of the desired gifts they would like to see under the tree. It is also a time for remembering the year that has just passed and promises spoken under raised glasses that the next year will be better for sure. What happens though? Quick as a cat, the good times are here then gone, Christmas comes and goes and you realize that you spent way beyond what you should have and the lines at the return desk are nearly as long as they were at an Elvis concert. New Year’s Day comes and goes, and on January 2, you realize the promises made would take way too much effort, so you save them again for next year’s toast.
The people that can say, “Yeah, I remember when,” truly lived each day to the fullest whether it was hard or somewhat easier. Some of the quotes I remember from member of my family are, “Yeah, I remember when we had to trap birds for something to eat. Yeah, I can remember when the only thing we got for Christmas was a sock with fruit, candy, and nuts, and a good dinner. Man that was a good time.” Many stories are just when the family was together, when snowflakes made a huge difference in how the day went. The smell of food cooking, the taste of fresh made cookies, songs sung in earnest and kids shaking wrapped presents trying to guess what was in the box are all experiences that bound families together. A time when trees gleamed with an array of lights, candy canes and pop corn strings. Those were good times and some of us are fortunate enough to still have those opportunities.
One story in particular that is fond to me was of a family who had to put all their resources into paying their bills and having food on the table. They had nothing in the way of presents to offer each other, so they cut out pictures of items in a catalog and gave those with the promise that if they ever did get rich, things would be different. The sky was the limit, no limits shopping, and the family had one of the best Christmases they ever had. There was no pressure, no trying to keep up with the Joneses or breaking the bank. It was a time when you could spend a fortune without ever taking a buck out of the bank.
Catalogs were a big part of people’s lives. Sears, Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penney, Spiegel and flyers that came in the mail from stores like Hecks, K-Mart, the five and dime store and Reed’s Department Store, just to name a few. Those were the days when going to the post office was fun and a much anticipated event. Catalogs served not as just something to make your mouth water over what you couldn’t have, but as wall coverings, bathroom necessities, outhouse insulation, covering plants, fire starters, paper airplanes, research material, math education, inspiration to inventors and future clothing makers and, on special occasions, as a quick smoke when you were out of tobacco paper, using only the index section where there wasn’t any color or slicky paper. So, what can Amazon and Google do to compete with that?
Most families started way early in the month with preparations and plans. Families would get together and offer to help each other, and it was everybody’s duty to make sure that the less fortunate were taken care of. Generally, gifts were hand made from pipes to rocking chairs, from toys to food, which is probably the best gift of all. A good pan of homemade meatloaf with my own bowl of cole slaw is always on the top of my list, as long as I don’t have to share. Not store bought, but home made straight out of Mama’s kitchen. This season, make your memories be the best you can; be creative and make it fun. Remember the gifts you give now, you may be able to buy back in the spring at yard sales, so whatever you make, be sure that it’s something you want.