Monthly Archives: December 2016

Xmas

How We Celebrated Christmas in the 1950’s

Earlier this week, President-Elect Donald Trump finished a victory tour speech in Wisconsin.  At the end of his speech, he said, “Merry Christmas.  God Bless America.”

It did not hit me at the time, but then I began thinking, ‘when was the last time we heard that from an elected official?  From a president?’  I know we haven’t heard it in the last 8 years and I finally quit straining my brain to remember if we heard it from George ‘Dubya’ Bush.

Then I began reminiscing about Christmas when I was growing up in the 50s.  About our small town.  About our family.

I grew up in a small Midwestern farming town with a population of less than a thousand.  Within a 10 mile radius, there were probably another thousand people.  (Our town was so small, we had to take turns being the town drunk!)   As I was growing up, that time after Thanksgiving always, always got you greeted with a hardy “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”  Before Thanksgiving it was always, “Happy Thanksgiving!”  After Christmas it was, “Happy New Year!”  I really don’t believe I heard anyone greeted with “Happy Holidays” until I left to attend college in the big city.

Our little town tried to keep it simple with the standard, stock greeting of Merry Christmas.  We had three churches in our town; a Methodist, a Lutheran, and a Catholic church.  They all did special programs and services for their parishioners.  But the best program was put on by the high school music department.  It involved both the choir and the band playing the traditional Christmas songs. When I was in high school, I was a participant in this program.  Everyone in the audience knew the words to every traditional number that was presented.  Our town kept it simple.  No modern, hippy-crap music for us, by God!

Santa made his annual appearance…at the local movie theater.  Every child got a bag of candy and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap.  For a small town, it was a very big deal!

The merchants went out of their way to make Christmas special.  We had two big events a year in our town, the first was a Midsummer celebration that is still held on the third weekend of June.  And, coincidentally, Christmas is always around the third week in December, exactly 6 months apart. The local newspaper would have a Santa with reindeer picture, which was the foundation of a coloring contest.  Every kid would color the picture, submit it to the paper, and then wait to see if they were one of the top three finishers in their age group. I believe the age groups were 5 to 12 years old.  Even if you were not the winner in your age group, it was a big deal to see your name in print.  (The big prize was seeing your name in print.  There were no participation trophies!)  The winners got prizes.  Some of these prizes were cash!  The winner would get two whole dollars! Today, two dollars would not get you two candy bars; but in the 50s, that would get you four trips to the movie theater with soda and popcorn!

Each merchant would place ads in the newspaper with entry forms for a drawing that they were having in their store.  There were about a dozen entry forms taking up a whole page in the paper. Our paper was a weekly, so these entry forms appeared three times before Christmas.  Everyone, including my family, would meticulously fill out each entry form and deliver it to the sponsoring merchant.  For a small community, these drawings generated a lot of ‘buzz,’ and a whole bunch of local sales for the merchants.

Our town had about a dozen pair of street lights through the commercial area.  These lights were the old mercury-vapor lights which always had a slight orange tinge to the otherwise bright light.  At Christmas, the local electric company would string cable across the street from one street light to its corresponding partner across the street.  They would then run green garland and lights up each lamp pole to the top.  Then, they ran green garland across the street draped from the cable.  This garland was not lit.  The crowning touch was the face of a big illuminated jolly Santa right in the middle of the street.  The same decorations were on a dozen pair of poles, about 50 feet apart.  One night, I drove into town.  The streets were empty.   There was  light fluffy snow falling to the ground on a windless night. The street lights were casting their ‘orangish’ hue on the falling snow.  Between that, and the lit posts, the lit Santa faces and the store front decorations….it was magical.  Not bad for a town so small that the city limit signs could have been located on the same post.

Here is a big change between today and the 50s; Christmas did not begin until after Thanksgiving! Even in the big city, no Christmas merchandise or decorations were displayed until the day after Thanksgiving.  Our small town followed that unofficial rule diligently.  Now, I am seeing Christmas decorations and merchandise in October.  There is nothing quite as sobering as hearing Christmas carols on Musak on October 1.  I know this has been done for commercial reasons, but don’t you think it detracts from the holiday and the purpose of the holiday itself?  Its the same principle as the last election campaign season. Too long.  Its over.  Good riddance.

Christmas was very special for our family.  The biggest focus was on our Christmas tree, and we had some really beautiful trees.  By trade, my dad, Big Daddy G, was an automobile body work repairman.   Dents, dings and crashes were his specialty.  Big Daddy G was a Picasso when it came to painting cars.  He carried this talent to our Christmas.  He would flock our fresh cut trees in his paint spray booth.  When he flocked a tree, it looked like snow had fallen on it.  He got creative for many years, but I remember one year and one tree in particular.  He bought a Norway pine tree with the long needles, took it to the shop, and flocked the whole tree in a very light blue color.  It was gorgeous!  Then, it was decorated with red and green ‘bubbler’ lights.  Bubbler lights were about three inches long and the thickness of a pencil.  Once plugged in, they would heat up and create bubbles that gently ran from the bottom to the top in some kind of liquid.  With the addition of silver tinsel, the customary glass bulbs and the crowning expensive glass ornament……….this tree was spectacular!  I would pay $200 to have a color photo of that tree today. Unfortunately, all photos were black and white and I have not seen any bubbler lights for over 50 years.  Maybe they were radioactive or cancer producing, but they sure were pretty.  When the tree came down, the ornaments, especially the crowning ornament, were all carefully packed and stored as they were not only expensive, but were all very fragile glass.

Of course our family had Christmas gifts.  And I, being a hellion in training, would search out the aforementioned gifts, find them, open them, play with them, and then wrap them up again.  All of this without anyone being any the wiser.  I was really good at expressing surprise while opening the gifts at the family gathering.  I started all this larceny at the ripe old age of 6 years old, and continued until my teens.

The two worst ‘Christmas snoops’ in the family were by mother and my grandmother.  In retrospect, they were both worse than the kids when it came to wanting to open the presents early.  The anticipation of what they got almost became an obsession.  They would both pick up a package, look at it to see if they could see through the wrapping paper for a clue to the contents, and then shake the package to see if there would be a ‘tell-tale’ sound.  This procedure was begun about two weeks before Christmas, but generally about a week after I had already played with and re-wrapped my gifts.  One year, Big Daddy G bought my mom a very expensive coat.  It was what she needed and what she wanted.  Before wrapping the gift, Big Daddy G placed a small bell into the box.  It drove my mother crazy!  She picked up that package and gently shook it at least 50 times before Christmas trying to figure out what it was.   It was hilarious and provided the rest of the family with much entertainment.  Not to be outdone, the following year my uncle and I decided that grandma needed a lesson, too. I had gotten Lincoln logs for Christmas a previous year.  The Lincoln log container was a round cardboard cylinder with a metal screw top.  So we took this container, filled it with broken glass, wrapped it,  put a tag on it saying it was from Santa for Grandma, marked it ‘extremely fragile’, and put it under the tree.  We knew the ‘extremely fragile’ marking was not going to stop Grandma from shaking that present, and we were right!  Both of us perpetrators were in the room when she picked it up and shook it for the first time!  The sound of the broken glass and the corresponding look on her face was priceless!  It was funny as hell and my uncle and I had to leave the house.  We were both suffering from a very strong fit of laughter to the point of producing tears in our eyes.

Our family was small.  We all got together, aunts. uncles, cousins, grandparents on Christmas eve for food, eggnog and other liquid libations.  Christmas day was for each individual family.  Even though our family and our town enjoyed the ‘Santa’ tradition of Christmas, it was never forgotten that the purpose of the holiday was the name of, and the birth of Christ.

I miss those days.  My small town is no longer small.  We don’t have the flocked trees with bubbler lights and fragile ornaments anymore.  Two dollars doesn’t get you into four movies.  The older relatives are gone.  My, how things have changed.

But there is one thing that I can do that immediately puts a smile on my face and reminds me of  the Christmases of my youth……………

“MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!”   “MAY GOD BLESS YOU, YOUR FAMILY, AND AMERICA!”

Grandpa T

 

 

donald-trump

An Open Letter to President-Elect Trump

Dear Mr. Trump,

Congratulations on your recent victory as the President-Elect of the United States of America.  I was one of your supporters from the minute you announced your candidacy.  Admittedly, I thought the winning ticket would be a Donald Trump/ Marco Rubio ticket.  I can see why, as a result of a very tumultuous and nasty debating season, you did not take Senator Rubio as your running mate.  I was not familiar with Mike Pence, but he is indeed the perfect person for the Vice President. Grounded, experienced, loyal and intelligent, he is everything a person could want as the Vice President.

I was your supporter from the beginning because I believe a businessman who could establish a successful financial empire is more qualified (and needed in this country!) than a slew of career politicians who seem hell-bent on destroying a perfectly good country and government.

You have had an excellent start on making America Great Again.  I agree with many of the efforts you have initiated and would like to add my two cents in hopes of making these positive changes for the good of our country.

Voter ID.  Could we please pass a law making it a requirement to present a valid photo ID to vote in a federal election?  In Canada, to be able to vote you must have: (1) A driver’s license, or, (2) A provincial or territorial ID card, or, (3)  Any other government card with your photo, name and current address.  But like the those shopping channels on television…..wait, there’s more!   To be able to vote in a federal election in Mexico, you must have:  (1) A government issued photo ID card with a thumbprint and an embossed hologram, and, (2)   All citizens are required to personally enroll and show proof of birth or citizenship, and, (3)  Applicants are required to personally return to collect their voting credentials.

Why do our neighbors have more practical, stringent and sensible federal voting requirements than our country, and yet at the suggestion of such requirements it is considered racist?  To not have ID requirements simply wholesales the value of our citizenship in comparison.  All those wars fought, all those battles won, and all those lives lost….all to protect our country, and yet, we allow people who do not share our values, who will never contribute to the well-being of this country, who are here to be takers and never contributors….to vote and sway our national elections.  A travesty by any measure.  Shame on us and our political leaders for allowing our democratic principles to be compromised and abused and degraded by the use of voter fraud.

Job Creation.  Keeping businesses in America, bringing new foreign businesses to America, and bringing off-shore American businesses back to America would create jobs for Americans.  Two things could be done to make this happen and to stimulate the economy.

First, cut the existing federal corporate tax rate in half.  The U.S. already has the highest corporate tax rate of the industrialized nations, and corporate taxes account for only 11% of all federal government tax receipts.  Individual income taxes are responsible for 47% of all federal government tax receipts, while payroll taxes contributed by employers and employees account for another 34%. Corporations are in the business of making money.  By allowing them to keep a larger share of their profits, they will purchase more raw materials, expand facilities and hire more employees….thereby increasing the amount of federal tax revenues from individual income tax payers because there will be more people working.  

I am sure you know that there are 112 million people working in the United States and 106 million receiving some form of government assistance?  Admittedly, some of the 106 million are social security recipients that have paid into, and are now collecting their benefits.  But, there are 90 million people capable of working that are not working, or at least they are not paying taxes.  That needs to change. Jobs need to be created, and the welfare system needs to be revamped.  You have made strides in that direction and I fully support those efforts.

Secondly, abolish the (Un)affordable Health Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.  Before the true expense of this program was known, employers were estimating that the cost would be 20%-25% of their total payroll expenses.  What did the employers do?  They quit hiring, began firing, or reduced working hours for their employees to 32 hours or less to avoid the burden of the program. This was necessary for businesses to remain competitive in the international marketplace, or go out of business.  This program, more than any other, has inhibited job and wage growth for Americans.

This program needs to be replaced with something that is affordable and practical for both the insureds and the insuring.  The federal government needs to get out of the health care business and let the bulk of this program rest on the shoulders of a competitive, free-market economy of insurance companies and health care providers.

Welfare Reform.  The largest single item in the U.S. budget is welfare.  The federal budget provides 75% of the funding for welfare programs.  The states provide 25% of the funding but are tasked to supervise the welfare programs in their respective states.  Unfortunately, even though there were laws passed during the Clinton administration limiting welfare to a five year term, most states conveniently ignore this law.  Why?  Because with the federal government footing the bulk of the cost, the states view this as another form of income for their state.  I would propose that the federal government reduce the amount of welfare payments to the states to an equal amount, cutting their 75% contribution by 2/3.  This would assist our federal budget and cause the states to be more prudent in their dispersal of welfare. (See Welfare Cost – The Big Gorilla in the National Budget, published 2/21/2013)

It is appalling that so many people included in the 106 million receiving federal government assistance have lowered their lifestyles to live solely on government assistance.

Term Limits.  The life expectancy during the times of our founding fathers in the 18th century was 35 years old!  To be 50 years old was considered to be a very old man.  Many of the original members of Congress served out of duty and patriotism, while at the same time making huge personal sacrifices.  Many of these people lost their businesses and homes because they were away tending to the needs of a new nation.  Needless to say, they did not ever foresee the eventuality of career politicians.

We all are aware of the disadvantages of having long-term career politicians.  Too much influence, too much money, too much campaigning, and too many lobbyists and personal interests.   Their primary concern is to get reelected and not necessarily what is ‘right for America.’  (Thus, one reason for your stunning victory, Mr. Trump.)

May I suggest that in the future, say 2028, all members of Congress are limited to 12 years of service.  Senators get two, 6 year terms and representatives get six, 2 year terms.  I would also like to propose that the Supreme Court justices be retired at age 70 or 72.  Here again, our founding fathers could not have known that we would let people ‘fossilize’ in place while serving on the Supreme Court.

Mr. Trump, if you can get legislation passed imposing future term limits, I would believe you could walk across Lake Okeechobee without getting your feet wet or without getting eaten by an alligator. Good luck with that.

The Wall.  I would like to point out that in 2014, over 47,000 Americans died of drug overdoses and over 35,000 were killed in traffic accidents.  Who would have thought that there would be more drug overdose deaths than those of autos?  Some of these drug deaths were because of the improper and illegal use of prescription drugs (opiates) and some from illegal drugs.  Whatever the reason, the bulk of the flow of illegal drugs in this country is coming from our southern border.  If it takes a wall to stop that flow, then that wall should be built.

Of course, we need to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into our country.  If they are here with the best of intentions, then an application procedure needs to be established.  Because Mexicans require a photo ID with a thumbprint to vote, doing a background check should not be impossible.  It would not be surprising to learn that other Central/South American countries have similar ID’s. Unfortunately, many of the ‘border crossers,’ are here for nefarious reasons, or are unaccompanied minors.  Illegal immigrants involved with crime need to be sent back to their respective countries. If caught again, they need to be imprisoned.

Safety and Security.   Mr. Trump, the three classes of people that I hate the most are terrorists, murderers, and pedophiles.  I am personally not interested in ‘reforming or rehabilitating’ anyone accused of terrorism or murder.  I believe that capital punishment should come into play for these two crimes and the sentences should be carried out within a two year period.

I believe that anyone charged with killing a policeman, fireman, or medical rescuer should be given the death sentence.  I believe that any terrorist that kills an American should be given the death sentence.  I cannot think of a punishment cruel enough for a pedophile, but I suppose we would have to settle for incarceration.  After all, what kind of society have we become if we cannot protect our children.

The military needs to be expanded and updated to meet the challenges of our potential enemies. Whether we want to recognize the threat or not, both Russia and China have greatly expanded their military presence and have used them for expansionist purposes.  The goal of Russia is to put together the old USSR as much as possible beginning with the invasion of the Ukraine.  The Chinese are saber rattling and expanding by making strategic artificial islands in the South China sea.

Does anyone know for sure the real ambitions of Iran or North Korea?  Both have threatened with the use of missiles and nukes.

These are just a few of the problems to be faced with your upcoming administration.   There are many more.  So far, you have done an amazing job of cabinet selection.  Surrounding yourself with the best and the brightest should make your job easier and make for a better America.  I apologize for not writing sooner, but it took me a month to sober up from your victory party!

God Bless America.

Respectfully,

Grandpa T