Mason County News
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At the Top of Erna Hill
Wednesday, December 7, 2011 • Posted December 7, 2011

Since we are in the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, I am going to try to describe what Christmas was like and how we celebrated the Christmas Season in the Hill Country during the days of the thirties while the Great Depression was still in effect for most families and at that time, I thought our family was at the low end of the Totem Pole as for as wealth was concerned but later in life, I discovered that was the norm.Thanksgiving and Christmas was always a feast to behold which consisted much the same as today’s festivities with turkey, cornbread dressing and all the trimmings. We usually had yeast hot rolls but as a country kid, the thing I remember most was that on occasion, Mama would have bought light bread and she would place a whole loaf in the oven in the wood cook stove in the wrapper and it gave off the most pungent order that I remember to this day. Of course, I would take the hot rolls today. Most of the families of that time raised turkeys for market and the buyers would come to the farm and load up turkeys in October into crates on a flatbed truck. A buyer from Brady was with the truck and he would catch each turkey and check the breast area for prime birds. All would sell at the same time and this was considered a cash crop for all. Mama kept back turks for next years crop as well as the birds for the holidays.My sister, Mamie, and her husband, Henry Phillips, lived and farmed in Callen, north of Menard and there were wild turkeys in abundance near their house. One Saturday afternoon, Henry killed a turkey tom and early Sunday morning, they came blazing home in their “34 Chevrolet coupe knee action front end with big fenders and hydraulic brakes and light bar across the front with a blue head wild turkey tied on the front fender. They came thru Menard and made a couple of stops and came on to Erna. They drove up that morn and used his hydraulic brakes, something new, and the car pumped up and down for two or three minutes from the knee action after he stopped with that turkey on display. In those days, hunting season began on Nov. 16 and this Sunday morn was November 15, so, it was time to pick turkey and get it in the oven because everyone knew Swanson, the Game Warden, would show up any minute.I know that you will find this hard to believe, but we had a hard time finding a cedar Christmas tree in those days. All of us would gather a couple weeks before Christmas and go up the mountain at Leon Point on Uncle Dave Andrews place and spend an afternoon trying to find trees suitable We got trees for our family and Grandma Andrews and Aunt Allie. Aunt Allie never had a home other than the one I live in at present and she lived in it 80 years. Mama was not too keen on decorating but Aunt Allie went all out because her house had two chimneys, which was easy access for Santa. This being in the ‘30’s, electric power was only to be found in the city so we dug out the fundamental decorations and began the process of the home type. We popped pop corn, dyed some red, some green and left part white and strung the corn on strings as the wrap around garland, made pop corn balls from the home made sorghum molasses and baked various shaped cookies as hanging ornaments with sugar icing of red and green. Since we had no electricity, this did not stop us from having a lighted tree. Aunt Allie had candle-holders in which a birthday type candle could be placed in a pronged holder on a metal dish and a clip on the bottom to clip on a branch. Santa always arrived on Christmas eve at our house and he was welcomed with the lighted candles as they always managed to get lit just prior to Santa’s arrival as each gathered around the tree.Of course, everyone knows that one can actually freeze with a fire in the chimney, especially when you save wood due to the fact that someone had to chop the wood. Well, one Christmas Day, Uncle Roy Andrews from Eldorado, decided to build a really big fire so he filled the cavity with dry wood and sat back to enjoy. Well, as it began to flame up, it caught the resins in the chimney itself and fire began traveling from the bottom out the top and spewing sparks everywhere. This certainly warmed everyone because we all had to get outside with wet woe sacks and surround the house fighting sparks as they settled.Presents were never much as a sack of fruit and candy with a toy or two was the norm. Most of the adult gifts were gag gifts of some sort. I remember a bunch of neckties floated from to another every Christmas. Neckties were not a part of dress for us. Another was a claw hammer with one claw broken off and I remember of someone receiving an electric saw, before electricity arrived. This was a regular handsaw with an electric cord wired onto it. One Christmas, some of us received some useful gifts. In the fall of “47, the craze to move to Arkansas was on so my cousin, Dudley Andrews, and I drove Dad and Uncle Herman to Arkansas for a first hand view. This trip got the move out of their system but that Christmas, we all received nicely wrapped gifts containing worn out boots and shoes. Too late, fever gone.My brother Cecil who was 10 years my senior, was a believer in fireworks. He always managed to scrape up enough money to buy some nickel packs and a few BABY GIANTS. We were to frugal to set the whole nickel pack off at one time as is done now, but we would separate each and pop individually to make the festivities last longer. We always held the cracker in the hand to light from a coal of fire and then throw. On occasion, we had one to explode in our hand and a sore hand was on for a few days.Now, to move on to our current system, we usually go to Houston to get our 8 year old grandson, Aiden, and keep him for the holidays, so on the way back home, we will find a fireworks stand open and the shopping is on. The days of being frugal are over so we stock up. Aiden was anxious to get to the fireworks so I let him fire some each day. One evening, he was firing what I used to call hand held crackers. He lit the fuse and it seems to go out and as he started to re-light, the fuse spewed and he reached back to throw and it went off behind his ear. I looked him over and all seemed Ok but he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said “Pop, will I ever be able to hear again”.?Same Christmas week of 2010, we had our friends, Pineknot and Nelda Linscomb over for canasta games one evening and Aiden entertained us with his fireworks displays. First, he fired the Roman candles and we have a dog, Hogan and these fireballs were something from——so he chased each one as Aiden shot. We also purchased a cone shaped devise that when lit from the top, it would spew sparkles and flame up about 12 feet. We were watching Aiden thru our triple windows in the kitchen as he sat the cone down and lit the fuse. He turned to run back and as he did, Hogan, the dog, ran in grabbed up the cone and took off around the front of the house in our big yard, spewing flames out of the side of his mouth, all over the place with Aiden in chase. When the thing went out, Hogan dropped it and backed off and stared at the cone in disbelief. This was the dramatic end to Christmas 2010.

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