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Remembering Home at Christmastime

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

We moved back to my mom’s home on North Hill in Akron in the early January 1957. Best move of my life. But where did all this snow come from?

I got settled in at St. Martha’s school because the family went to church there too. I still remember how wonderful the church felt at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

The holidays finally arrived and all of Mom’s brothers and her sister began the migration home. We had a gifting policy that everyone would chip in to and then they could buy just one really good gift for each person and that it was understood it was from everybody. This rule did not apply to kids, so I had many gifts under the tree. Everyone commented on what a grand Christmas I would have as the gifts began to stack up. My uncles enjoyed this policy too, because it meant no more underwear or socks, instead they got a nice Bulova watch or London Fog topcoat.

My Aunt Margaret was the perpetrator of the scheme, so she would designate who would buy what in order to keep the gifts secret, and she made a list to calculate each person's share. Right down to the penny. She actually handed my mom a bill for $57.03 one year, precisely, and gave my mom 22 cents back for the quarter coin payment. You knew it was going to be a good haul based on how much your cut was. The accounting took place on Dec. 23rd, and everybody paid up. No pay, no play.

My Uncle Ed came back home all the way from Alamogordo, NM for the holidays and 8-year-old me idolized him. He worked for the Martin Company at the time, and they just happened to build war planes and missiles. He brought home a real desktop mock-up of the Martin Matador. This was the original cruise missile, and he had designed the guidance system for it.

The Uncles and Aunt Margaret tolerated my constant pestering and questioning, probably because they didn’t have any kids of their own, and they only had to put up with me for holidays.

Each year they always bought a special toy for me open after Midnight Mass. It was carefully chosen for THEM to play with, and usually break overnight, because I would hear them hooting and hollering into the wee hours of Christmas morning. This year it was a wire controlled flying airplane, and by morning it would still fly if you spun it like a lariat over your head, the batteries were long dead, and one landing gear wheel was gone. But I still won this year because I got a “real” missile and all they got was a toy airplane on a wire.

Flying toy airplane. Best Christmas gift for snowy days.
They don't make toys this exciting anymore.

Boy does this bring back memories. Still fun memory. The best gift one year was a toy called Odd-Ogg. It was a toy that would roll forward if you tossed a ball into the “sweet spot” and would laugh, taunt, buzz, and roll backwards if you missed. It survived the night and was even still going strong at the following Easter gathering.

So back to the story. It was really snowing, and Lawson’s was a half a block away, and Ed needed smokes.

"Let’s send the kid, he’s got his buckle up galoshes and it is really close". Just three streetlights over on the next block.

Now I am 8 going on 9 come January and not old enough to “buy” cigarettes, so he sends some change with a note, and I’m on my merry way.

"Who remembers the smell of rubber smoke in the morning?"

With a heavy, wet snow coming down, (remember this is the Rubber capitol of the world) the snow was turning a grey color now and would have a black dusting by morning.

Again, back to the story. I get to the store and give the nice lady my keep me out of jail note and the money. Tsk, tsk, tsk was her first response and then deciding it was OK, said let’s go.

Old Cigarette machine, with a vanity mirror.
Antique cigarette machine made it's own change.

She led me to the machine put in 2 quarters, found the Lucky Strike handle, pulled it, and out popped a pack of Lucky Strike butts with 3 pennies under the cellophane wrapper. They only cost 47 cents back then, so they gave you the change.

So, I walked home through the gradually darkening snow, beaming with pride that I had helped Uncle Ed. I think he even patted me on my crew-cut head.

Before the holidays were over, I had it in my head that if I only had five whole dollars, I'd be rich. I had accumulated coins totaling $3.77 stored securely in my old cigar box treasure chest and begged and pleaded with Ed for enough cash to hit my goal.

It looks like I wore him down, so he traded my coins for a $5 bill.

I guess those 3 pennies in the pack were mine after all.

These are early memories, growing up on North Hill. If this sparks any memories for you, please comment or post your own story. If it made you smile please share.

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