Our First Christmas Tree


Up until the Christmas season of the year 1923 our family celebrated Christmas without a Christmas tree, just as every other family in the Ginney Block. The only places that we children were able to see and enjoy decorated Christmas trees in those days were in school or on the Public Square, where the City annually erected a large tree as its greeting to the citizenry. Our family Christmases, which were religiously oriented, did allow us as children to hang our long black stockings on a chair molding that ran along the kitchen walls. Each Christmas Eve, our parents would lightly hammer some nails in the molding that ran along the kitchen stove. The nails served as hooks, upon which we would hang our stockings with anxious anticipation. That was the only sign that indicated that we as children expected a visit from the jolly one whom we used to call Santo Nicolo, who only brought gifts to good children.

The Christmas tree had never been a part of our celebration until this particular year, and only by happenstance. At the close of school on the last day before the start of the Christmas school vacation, Miss Jeannette Rice, the sixth grade teacher spotted my brother Sol and me as we were leaving the building. She came over to us and asked if we would like to have the Christmas tree that she had brought into her classroom during the previous week for the enjoyment of her children. She told us that we were welcome to take it home.




We accepted the offer with alacrity. We were so anxious to get the tree home that we picked it up, stand and all, completely decorated with tinsel, popcorn balls, paper chain decorations, and candles, quickly carried it out of Miss Rice's classroom, lock, stock and barrel. I can recall the look of surprise and amazement on Miss Rice's face. I am sure that she had thought that we would first remove all the decorations before attempting to carry it home, which was several city blocks away. I am sure we made quite a sight as we crossed four major thoroughfares, slowly picking our way home, trying hard not to jiggle the tree too much because we did not want to lose any of the candles or decorations. When we arrived at the Ginney Block, our astonished neighbors watched as we gingerly carried it up the two flights of twenty-seven steps to our flat. Our parents were even more surprised and shocked to see a completely decorated Christmas tree, stand and all, practically walk into their kitchen without any prearrangement or warning. I am sure that at first they did not know whether to be angry or happy at the prospect of having to make room for a tree that was already starting to shed its needles. The look on their faces made our hearts sink, as we realized that our living quarters were very tight, and that space was at a premium. Then our hearts leaped as we saw the look of consternation on our parents' faces turn to great big smiles. As I look back on it now I think that they must have realized how much we wanted that tree and that we had performed quite a feat by transporting it all the way from school, without losing a single trinket or candle.




To our happy surprise our parents rearranged the kitchen furniture to make room in one corner for the tree. On that Christmas Eve, we lit the candles and sat around it until bedtime, at which time the candles were put out and we were hustled off to bed. That was the only Christmas in the Ginney Block that we ever had the pleasure and luxury of a Christmas tree when we arose Christmas morning and rushed to see what Santo Nicolo had left for us in our long black stockings. Although, as always, we found an apple, an orange, some hard candy, and a small ten cent store toy such as a miniature auto made of cast iron, we were especially happy because we were able to sit around a real live Christmas tree with real live candles and decorations for the first time in our lives.