The happy little ghosts of Christmas past

Look, Dave, look!

Not a thousand Hallmark Christmas movies can recapture the magic of a child’s Christmas. Maybe Cousin Eddie on Christmas Vacation, our favorite holiday movie (along with It’s a Wonderful Life), whose heart is bigger than his brain. But the Head Groundskeeper hereabouts remembers the magic and wonder of early Christmases. Old guys remember their youth fondly as a simpler time only because they, themselves, were simpler then — not the times.

A page one story in the weekly Sun Prairie Star Countryman in December 1949 reported an old-fashioned school children’s Christmas — the kind of news you can’t read any more about a Christmas pageant they don’t do any more.

A real baby supplied an unusual note of interest to the Nativity scene at the Sacred Hearts school program held Sunday afternoon and evening at the Parish Hall. David, the infant son of Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Blaska, is probably the youngest actor ever to have appeared on the hall stage.

Read it here.

Your raconteur was playing baby Jesus in the manger. Am told the little bugger raised his foot in the air at one point in the production, thus stealing the scene from Mary and Joseph. (Still haven’t used the myrrh.)

This was before Elvis

The first song on the AM radio that registered on a little boy growing up on a farm east of Sun Prairie WI was “How Much is that Doggie in the Window,” a No. #1 hit for Patti Page in 1953. 

Mom and dad would get a babysitter so they could go into town to watch television at a favorite tavern. Must have been 1954 when we did get a set (as they were called). We kids — eventually there would be six of us — lay belly down on the carpet patiently observing the test pattern and the sound we called “Coos” until a program appeared. Howdy Doody, Sky King, Roy Rogers, and the original Lassie (the Jeff and Gramps years) were favorites. The TV repairman visited regularly to replace the overheated vacuum tubes. 

From 1953 to 1957, pioneering Today Show host Dave Garroway shared the camera with a chimpanzee sidekick named J. Fred Muggs. Asked mother if I could have one of those things as a play pal. An early disappointment. 

Our one room school

Your irascible bloggeur entered first grade at Oak Lawn country school on County Hwy VV, two biffies in back, 24 kids in eight grades playing Annie Annie Over! We read Dick & Jane books. (“Look, Jane, look! Look, look, look!”) Mrs. Alma Taylor announced that a girl would not be joining us for the 1955-56 school year because she had contracted polio that summer.

A wire strung across the front of the single classroom supported a bedsheet — the curtain for our school play. Your host enacted Santa’s reindeer Donner; his antlers formed by pipe cleaners. All I remember afterwards was Mrs. Taylor thanking the parents who crammed into our desks says, “Well, that’s the best a little country school can do.”

Read somewhere that Santa Claus liked a snack of milk and cookies as he made the rounds. Mother overruled that, saying Santa would rather have a nice cold beer.

“What kind does Santa like?” her little boy asked.

“Schlitz,” was the answer. Young Blaska couldn’t believe his luck!


Blaska’s Bottom LineMore good fortune! We had plenty in the Frigidaire!

What is YOUR favorite childhood Christmas remembrance?

About David Blaska

Madison WI
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6 Responses to The happy little ghosts of Christmas past

  1. Almostarepublican says:

    Merry Christmas! I have many memories, some of them happy and some sad. I’ll share a happy one. I loved decorating the tree with lights and tinsel and sitting in the living room at night with nothing but the tree lights on. What a peaceful feeling that was and one that recreate each year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One eye says:

    I remember being fascinated with Kodak instamatic flash cubes. I had a stash of used up cubes.

    Tonka trucks ruled.


  3. Liberty says:

    So many beautiful memories of Christmas back then. For me, it was the magic of the entire season: the snow, the lights, the bake sales, the wrapped presents under the tree (and opening them up on Christmas day), the good will, the anticipation.

    One memory in particular was how our Catholic church was decorated during Christmas. To the left of the altar was the nativity scene, with beautifully lit trees on either side.

    You’re right, nothing can recapture that. I also wonder: Do today’s kids experience that same magic? Does Christmas have the same meaning for them as it did for us? Or has the rot so ever present in our country today permeated even Christmas?


  4. Joe Hanneman says:

    A bit before my time, but I recognize most of the surnames in that article. Glad that the live Nativity was indoors!


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