It was Christmas Eve 1971, Friday night. I was in my '46 Packard Clipper 8, driving down Main Street in Lexington, Kentucky. The snow was coming down hard, and the radio was tuned to WVLK as the announcer told of more casualties in Viet Nam, with no letup in sight.
We wanted the war to end and our troops to come home, but it wasn't going to happen that year. Our family knew how blessed we were, for all of us to be well and able to be together that Christmas, and we were going to do our best to make it a great Christmas!
I was on the way to pick up my Dad. He managed Bakers Shoe Store on the corner of the historic Phoenix Hotel, and he and his assistant manager Sam were standing in front of the store as I pulled the Packard up to the corner. Dad said something to Sam as he opened the car door and got in. As we drove away, I asked him what he had said, and he told me that when they saw the stately old Packard drive up he had asked Sam, "I wonder who that limousine is for? It must be someone at the hotel." He waved at Sam as we pulled out.
The Packard had two heaters, and it took them both to keep us warm until we finally drove into our driveway. My Mother, three brothers and two sisters were all there, and had a roaring fire going in the fireplace next to the tree. I remember my brother had found an original Bing Crosby recording of the song Holiday Inn from the 1942 movie of the same name in which they introduced White Christmas and it was playing as we came in.
We all enjoyed turkey, ham and all the trimmings before heading out to the Candlelight Service. It took two cars to hold us all: My brothers and sisters in the Packard with me, and my Mom and Dad in their '64 Chevy 283 Station Wagon. When we returned home, we ate, played Christmas carols, and shared stories about Christmas past. In those days, there were no VCRs or cable TV; all we had were the three network channels, and maybe one or two channels from Louisville or Cincinnati. We are all old movie buffs in our family, and that night TV 12 in Cincinnati had the 1951 Alastair Sims version of "Scrooge!" With the antenna turned the right way, we got to see an extra-snowy telecast that night.
The next morning, we got up early (about 6:45) and opened our presents. We didn't want to see the day end, so to preserve a little of it, we wrote down how we felt about being together that Christmas.
Mother: The family all together, everyone was well and happy, a wonderful Christmas!
Dad: This year Christmas came on Saturday. Bill picked me up at the store at 5:30 on Christmas Eve in the Packard. Bill gave me a grog of Christmas cheer. We had a wonderful time!
Now 35 years have passed and we are preparing to celebrate another Christmas. Some things have changed: Some of our loved ones are no longer with us, and there are some new members that have been added to the family. Some things haven't changed: We are still fighting a war and praying for our troops to return safely. I know that there are service men and women who will read this on our internet magazine www.southernwheels.com. It is our prayer that you will be home soon, and that no matter where we are, we will all come together to make this a very special and Merry Christmas! God bless us every one.