Christmas has always been a special time in our family, starting with my early memories of riding in Old Betsy (our '46 Ford coupe) with my Mom and Dad down Market Street in Chattanooga, looking at all of the stores decorated for Christmas. In the '50s, all of the stores would trim their windows with Santas, sleighs, Christmas trees and toys of the season. Some had Lionel trains that would circle through the windows, leading you around to see all of the displays of toys. I remember the pedal cars. Cowboy shows were big in the '50s, and there were lots of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry toys, and football gear, and I especially liked the army equipment: outfits, guns and tents, all inspired by TVs army show (remember the Big Picture?) Usually, in the center of the window was a Christmas tree decorated with icicles, candy canes and bubble lights. They really made the tree come alive!
There was always one store display that stood out above the rest. In Chattanooga, it was Miller Brothers Department Store. Their windows had decorations so detailed and real that people drove in from neighboring towns just to see them. Downtown Chattanooga got involved with decorating as well, with evergreen garlands draped high across the streets with white lights intertwined and a lighted star in the center, several to each block, from the beginning of Market Street to the bridge.
Music was also an important part of Christmas in the '50s. We listened to Bing Crosby, Gene Autry and Nat King Cole. Until about 1954, the recordings were released on 78 rpms, and the new 45s. Of course, I associated the 78 label designs with car badges: Brunswick reminded me of the 1940s Buick hood crest; Deccas blue label was Chevrolet; Columbias red label was Ford, and so on. (You definitely have to be a little on the car-crazy side for this one!) I remember getting a red fire engine pedal car for Christmas in 1951. I was 2 ½ years old, and thought it was great to be behind the wheel of my own car! My mother told me years later, that she had put the car in layaway back during the summer and had been making payments on it, when the department store manager called her and asked if he could sell it to someone who had cash in his hand, since it was the last one in the store--he knew she would understand. After a brief and to-the-point discussion, a few weeks later that car was under our tree! Thanks, Mom!
Now we have another Christmas upon us. We plan to get one of the cars out and make some new memories, riding around on Christmas Eve to see the decorations, taking friends out to dinner, or just making pictures around the Packard. I hope youll do the same, and we at Southern Wheels Magazine wish you and your family a safe and merry Christmas season. Family, friends and old cars--it doesn't get any better than that! Merry Christmas!