Nellie McDonald, 83, remembers the year Santa tried to fill the stockings and hers had a hole in it and candy had spilled all over the floor. “But, Santa fixed it. He had tied a knot in the end of my stocking and then filled it to the brim.”
“I remember I started doubting in Santa one year,” explained Katherine Livingston, 86. “Or at least until that red wagon I wanted so much showed up under that tree Christmas morning. I knew there was no way something that big could have ever made it into the house without me seeing it, so Santa must have brought it down the chimney. It was years later when I found out that red wagon had come home strapped on the front of the car and I was in the backseat the whole ride home.”
Katherine also remembered that there was always so much snow around Christmas time.
“My dad would blade a path for us each year so we could go out and cut a fresh red cedar tree. We would walk for miles looking for the right one; it had to be big enough to hold all of the ornaments we had made over the years and also the new paper-chains and popcorn and cranberry strings.”
“Hmmm, the cranberries never made it on our tree,” smiles Nellie, “I ate ’em.”
Katherine’s daughter, Sherry Lund, 61, remembers making homemade cookies and baked goods with her mother.
“We would box them up as gifts or trade them for other things. Or we would pull taffy, or make paraffin Christmas ornaments. I think that’s my favorite memory, just making things in the kitchen with mom.”
“I remember saving the walnut shells after we had cracked them and picked out the nut. Then we would glue them back together with a string attached and paint them shiny gold and hang those on the tree,” says Avis Hays, 73. “And, I can’t remember exactly why we always left Santa a glass of wine instead of a glass of milk,” she smiles. “I just remember that we were sure lucky because Santa liked the same kind my dad kept on the counter.”
“There was one Christmas when there was so much snow that no one could get to town,” remembers Mary Lou Foley, 80. “The maintainers came down the roads and cleared a path just so families could get to town and shop. It was on a Sunday, and stores opened up special for us.”
“I remember moving to California for a while when I was a child,” says Avis. “We missed the Christmas snow so much, we asked Dad to sprinkle Ivory Snow soap flakes around just so we could have a white Christmas.”
Raymond McDonald, 86, lights up when he remembers back to his favorite Christmas present.
“It was a wagon full of tangerines,” he says. “Us kids played with that wagon for years and years until the wheels were old and squeaky. I remember someone saying we ought to oil those squeaky wheels, but mom said to leave them alone. That’s how she always knew where we were.”
“My favorite present under the tree was a rag doll that I named Susie Bandoozie. That was what my dad used to call me. I think that’s why that doll became so special over the years; it made me think of him. I still have her; I’ve just handed her down to my son and his wife.”
“I’ve still got my Christmas doll, too,” says Mary Lou laughing. “She is 71 years old now, and for as old as she is, she sure looks a lot better than I do.”
“I got a doll, too,” says Nellie. “Her name was Helen, and she had the prettiest painted face. But I wanted her to have a ribbon in her hair, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it stay. I fixed that, though, and drove a pin right into that doll’s head. The ribbon stayed pretty good then.”
Betty Golightly, 88, remembers she and her sister each getting dolls one year. Betty received a pretty little girl doll, but her sister got the sweet baby doll that Betty really wanted.
“My sister didn’t take care of her doll, and when it got all worn out she wanted to play with mine. And when I wouldn’t let her, she grabbed it and pulled the head right off … boy was I mad.”
Loretta Shook, 73, remembers the year that all she wanted for Christmas was a baby stroller for her doll.
“That was asking a lot,” she remembers. “Times were hard.”
But her father came through that year and waiting for her under the tree Christmas morning was a beautiful, wooden doll stroller that he had made himself.
“One of my favorite memories is the year we were all so excited because we had seen real reindeer tracks in the snow,” explained Evelyn Hubbard, 87. “I’m not sure how many years later it was before we found out that Grandpa was responsible for that. It took him quite some time to pull that steer around in the snow to make those prints.”
Evelyn also remembers well the lesson of being “naughty or nice.”
“The only thing under the tree for me one year was a bundle of switches. I was told that I would have to search for any other present, if I was good. I think it was the next July before I found my first present.” Fortunately for Evelyn, she says she eventually grew out of her naughty stage… mostly.
A random look at some Winterset kindergartners’ Santa wish list shows just how much times have changed over the years.
While some of the wishes are comfortably familiar, it does look like the little red wagons have been replaced by “real” 4-wheelers and the baby doll accessory requests have shifted from strollers to the more sophisticated dolly lifestyles and their castle living quarters with luxurious swimming pools.
Lincoln– XBox game
Hunter-a real 4 wheeler
Emma-American Girl Doll clothes
Nile-remote controlled car
Josiah-remote controlled crane
Cohen-toy four wheeler
Brynn-Just Dance 4
Erin-American Girl Baby
Aiden-real four wheeler
Carly-American Girl horse and stable
Riley-remote controlled car
Nathan-remote controlled monster truck
The Holiday Happy Hookers
A club that first started in the basement of a church with just a few enthusiastic members is now reaching out across the state to welcome as many helping hands as they can get.
The “Happy Hooker Crochet Club” has come up with a way to help the homeless and disabled veterans, while at the same time repurposing tens of thousands of plastic bags — bags that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill, or worse yet, stuck at the top of your favorite tree blowing in the wind for the next several months.
“When the residents here at the Northward Plaza first heard about the project, they just jumped right in… some literally,” Sheenie McDonald laughs, nodding to Avis Hays.
Avis, 73, laughs and explains, “I wasn’t dumpster diving exactly. They were clean bags that businesses had tossed aside. What is really fun is when they give us a variety of colored ones. We’ve noticed that we tend to covet certain colors that will crochet into interesting patterns with the more plain colored bags. It’s fun creating new patterns and designs — I guess that makes them designer mats.”
The Northward Plaza residents meet on Wednesdays and work together as a team.
“We have ‘Bag Ladies,’ who bring in the bags, like Avis did,” explains Sheenie. And we get a lot of used, and clean bags donated from Fareway. And then we have the ‘Strippers’, that cut the bags into 3-inch strips; and we have the ‘Holy Rollers’, who tie and roll the strips into balls; and then there are the ‘Hookers’, who crochet the ‘Plarn’ aka: plastic yarn, into sleeping mats using a Q-size (other sizes can be used) crochet hook.”
According to Sheenie, the group had considered several other names before settling ones used by the original church group.
“They are having a lot of fun with this, and there is a lot of giggling and laughter that comes with it,” says Sheenie.
Each finished mat takes approximately 1,500 grocery bags. The group works together on Wednesdays, then independently in their own homes and on their own time.
“There is always a need for these mats,” explains Sheenie, especially at this time of year when there aren’t enough beds to go around for the homeless.
And according to the Winterset group, the project is not only fun and addicting, but it’s rewarding.
“It just makes you feel good to know someone is a little warmer and more comfortable tonight, because of you,” says Mary Lou Foley.