Wednesday, December 26, 2012

something missing

Gina and I bought our house in Southside the week before Katie was born over sixteen years ago.  The house has a fireplace upstairs and downstairs.  We use the downstairs fireplace because I don't particularly care for toting logs up a staircase.  All these years we've lived here, I've regretted not having a mantel around Christmas time.  Neither of my fireplaces have a mantel.  We always put up our Christmas tree downstairs.  I'm always disappointed that we don't have a place to hang stockings by the chimney with care.

Growing up in our house on Scenic, we had a beautiful mantel over our fireplace.  There was a beautiful old antique clock perched upon it.  Around Christmas, Mom would trim it with boughs holly.  Candles looked great up there too.  On Christmas morning we'd find our stockings hanging on the mantle stuffed with goodies.

After all these years living here, I  still feel something is missing.  I know it's just aesthetics and me being a little nostalgic, but it matters to me.  I've pondered many ways to put a mantle downstairs.  The rock on the wall (upstairs and down) are very uneven.  Nothing made would be able to fit flush against the rock.  At least nothing that I would be able to make.  One of these days I'll figure out a way, or pay someone to figure out a way for us to finally have a mantle over our fireplace.

One day I'll get my mantle, and it's going to be a big one, and home is going to feel more like home.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Disco Noel Hell

This album grates on my nerves.  My mother in-law had an 8-track of it when Gina and I were dating and early in our marriage.  She over-saturated her house with novelty disco music every Christmas.  Somewhere along the line the tape broke or her player broke.  I was happy to hear the news, but she wasn't.

I'm posting this song for Mrs. Betty Hale.  We nearly lost her last month.  The big thing that I am grateful for this Christmas is that she's back home and recovering.  We love her so much and happy to have her with us this Christmas.

About ten years ago Gina asked me to hunt Disco Noel down on CD.  The album never made it officially to CD, but I was able to find a bootleg burn of it on eBay.  We gave it to her as part of her Christmas that year so her house could once again reverberate with Disco Noel.  God help us everyone.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


When I was young, we had Christmas traditions.  Every Christmas holiday seemed to unfold the same way surrounded by the same familiar faces.  As time passed, traditions faded, new traditions established to later change again.

For quite sometime now, I find myself without Christmas traditions.  Each Christmas holiday season, every day seems to be just a reaction to what is transpiring immediately around me at each moment.  Most days I don't know how to respond other than try to go along with the flow of whatever happens next.

With a crazy economy, we have less to give.  With much sickness, we have less time and energy to think about having a Christmas like the ones we used to know - or would like to know.  I feel like a deer in a headlight these days.  I miss the tradition, but have little time for it.  I'm a little lost.  All I know to do is seize each day for what it's worth and enjoy the warmth of home and the love of family.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Santa's mug

We all have keepsakes of Christmas past.  I have a small assortment of these cups in various sizes.  I remember receiving a mugs like this from an elementary school teachers.  I remember them being presented to the class filled with peppermint.  I also remember receiving a few from my aunt Florence who had also happened to be an elementary school teacher.  These were inexpensive items purchased from five and dime stores, but meant a lot to the children who received them.

My Santa mugs usually stay in the box and are rarely used to drink from or for seasonal display.  For some reason I can't pull myself to letting them go, so once again they remained packed away Christmas holiday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The real Santa

Back in the 1960's, the only place in Etowah County to see the real Santa Clause was in the store front window of Sears and Roebuck on Broad Street.  Children would line up for almost an entire block to get their chance to sit on Santa's knee.

The highlight of every family outing was to see Christmas lights was to drive by Rainbow Mattress Company to see St. Nick sound asleep in his bed.

Friday, December 7, 2012

holly jolly burl

As a kid, Burl Ives seemed to be a fellow who had been around since the beginning of time.  His presence seemed to be everywhere, on movies, on television, on vinyl.   I remember my dad expressed admiration for Burl Ives multiple talents.  He was a big presence on the screen, but it was his singing that stood out the most.  He was a genuine troubadour with an unforgettable voice.  As a folk musician, Burl Ives music was loved by young and old alike.

I remember a record album in our stack of records of his folk songs.  I believe I listened to that the most.  Songs included Blue Tail Fly and Robin Red Breast.  Most folks will remember the animation Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer that included a snowman likeness of Burl, voiced by Burl himself.  Two songs were featured on the cartoon that became holiday classics: Silver and Gold and Holly Jolly Christmas.

Those two songs embedded Burl Ives in our Christmas celebration ever since.  People may no longer recognize his face or name, but they are sure to remember that silver and gold voice.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Specials

I don't know if they would go over today like they did yesteryear, but I remember Christmas Specials.  Sure they have Christmas Specials today, but not like the ones we used to know.  I remember Bob Hope's Christmas Specials, and Bing Crosby's Christmas Specials.  Any celebrity who already had a regular variety show in those days had their own Christmas Special too.

My mind though usually goes back to Bob Hopes or Bing Crosby's specials.  They weren't mere shows, but seasonal events.  You didn't watch them alone.  The family would gather to watch them together.

Bob Hope's Christmas Specials were unique in that he tied many of these shows in with his USO entertainment efforts.  Bob Hope had entertained the troops through World War II, Korea, Vietnam and on up to The Gulf War.  His Christmas show to the soldiers fighting in Vietnam brought a great deal of controversy for those who were against the war.  Nevertheless, Bob Hope ignored the criticism and continued to reach out to the troops.

Whether he was entertaining the troops or not, we always looked forward to seeing our favorite king of one-liners come Christmas time.  Most shows he'd sing Silver Bells (from the Lemon Drop Kid) with one of his female guests. And yes, he'd always end each show with a song that was unmistakably and uniquely his.

Maybe we'll never see Christmas Specials like the ones we used to know.  We live in a different world. The audience has changed.  Yet, many of us, will still keep those warm memories for many Christmases to come.  Thanks for the memories!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Charlie Brown Christmas

I have been a Peanuts fan since I was a peanut myself.  I was an avid follower of Schulz.  Peanuts was the first comic strip I read in the Comics each Sunday.  I saved my money and bought the paperback collections of Peanuts and read them over and over again.  I still have the hard bound Peanuts Treasure on my bookcase.  The pages are barely hanging to the binding.  I wore it out three decades ago.

It was A Charlie Brown Christmas that I first heard voices of the Peanut characters...and the voices fit.  After seeing this special, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy had a voice.  Each time I read a comic strip, I heard them speak in the voice they were given on film.  It was A Charlie Brown Christmas that I first grownups given trombone wah-wah voices.  It was also very unusual hearing jazz as the soundtrack for a cartoon - unusual but it fit. Vince Guaraldi gave a wonderful atmosphere that stuck.
A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired on CBS on December 9, 1965.  It was so much more than a kid's cartoon.  As a young child of eight, I empathized with Charlie Brown.  I followed the story and related to his relationship with his peers.  The story was endearing and my young mind took in every frame of it.  Schulz unfolded a bitter-sweet story with a climax of Linus explaining the true meaning of Christmas.  

CBS executives were horrified that a television special would have such a blatant Christian message. Producer Bill Melendez tried to talk Schulz out of using Biblical references.  Schulz reportedly won him over by saying, "If we don't do it, who will?"  As it turned out, Linus' recitation was hailed as one of the most powerful moments in this highly acclaimed special.

These days there's a more anti-Christian/politically correct stance within the media.  A show like A Charlie Brown Christmas would be possible today.  I'm glad Sparky did do it!  To this day I am moved by this artful piece of animation.  A Charlie Brown Christmas is a timeless work for both young and old and generations to come.