Christmas is my favorite time of the year--a time with family and friends; a time for looking back to those "special" memories of all the great people and places that will always be with us and inspire us to carry on the traditions of the season. Some of my favorite times were Christmases of the '50s. My parents let us choose our presents, and I would actually get a catalog and circle the gifts that I wanted: cars, of course! For Christmas in 1953, I remember getting several cars: One was a black metal '50 Buick about 7-8" long with headlights that would light up via flashlight bulbs inside them. The batteries were loaded from an access door under the car. I pushed that Buick all over the house! In 1954, I got a large remote control car that looked like GM's Autorama "LeSabre". It was about 18" long and had a cable to a remote control to steer and a switch to make it move back and forth. Those were great toys! I wish I'd kept them!
In 1956, we had just moved from Montgomery, Alabama, back to our home town of Chattanooga. Both sets of my grandparents (to whom I was very close) were living there, and, of course, they joined us for Christmas. Christmas Eve was always a high time of excitement! We would have dinner, put on our own "Christmas Story" play for Mom and Dad, and then watch the Christmas specials on TV. There was the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night with almost every star you could think of, including dancing bears and jugglers, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, and Jackie Gleason. My grandfather Johnson looked a little like Jackie, and on occasion he would give us an "...and away we go!" That meant he had enjoyed us enough and it was time to go!
One particular Christmas special of 1956 that I remember was the "Nelson Christmas Show". Ozzie was overloaded with too many Christmas chores to do: getting the tree, playing Scrooge in the community play, learn the bass part for the neighborhood caroling, etc. Before the week was out, he had become so overwhelmed by it all, that his family and friends stepped in to help him get everything done. The show ended with everyone singing carols around the neighborhood, including Ricky with his turned-up collar and duck tails, singing tenor. (This was one year before he began his recording career.) That's what family and friends are all about: helping and working together to get through life and have some good times through it all.
Christmas day in 1956 started with my brother and me getting up about 3 am. Dad, of course gave us a "Get back to bed!" So we counted the minutes before getting up at 4. Mom and Dad finally came in, and we opened presents. That year, I got a white Corvette with the wire mesh grills over the headlights. It was plastic and about 18" long, with Red interior. I also got a set of metal trucks. I had no idea then what they would be worth one day! Later in the day, we picked my Dad's parents up, Grandmother Pat and Granddaddy Bill, in our '52 Chevy. My Mother's parents, Bobbie and Pop came over in their new '56 Chevy Pop had just bought to replace their well-worn '47 Nash. We all drove around and looked at some of the house decorations in the neighborhood--a tradition that we stilly carry on today. Those were great times, and those very special people will always be with me.
In '59, I remember living in Lexington, Kentucky, and a friend of my dad's invited us to his farm to cut down a tree. We loaded up our '52 Chevy and Mom, Dad, my three brothers and I went to cut down the tree. Cedars were plentiful, and we found one that was about 9-10' tall. Our ceiling was 8'. I was in the 5th grade, and, of course, wanted to help Dad "fell the tree". He was already at the tree site, and I ran back to the car (those were the days) to get the saw. Mom was trying to turn the Chevy around on the narrow, muddy farm road, and was having trouble, so she actually asked me to help! This was my chance! Dad was out of sight and Mom needed my help! I got behind the wheel of the old '52, sighted across the massive, multi-chrome bar dash, put it in gear and turned the car around. I had done it! I had saved the day and had driven the '52 by myself! This was to be a watershed event in my life!
This Christmas, we wanted to create some new Christmas memories, so we invited some family and friends over to cut down our tree. Our party consisted of my nephew Woody and his girlfriend Nicole, good friends Ricky Bentley and his wife Carol, our daughter Heidi, Karen and myself. Even though rain was in the forecast, we decided to take our Red and White '58 Buick 2 door hardtop with Continental kit. We put on a vintage Phil Spector Christmas tape, and, with our road crew Carol, Heidi and Karen in the Bentley's red Suburban, we headed toward the Blue Goose Christmas Tree Farm to secure the perfect tree.
The old Buick was running great, and laughter filled the air as we drove through the North Georgia countryside. It was cold, and the vacuum wipers struggled to keep up with the rain that was really coming down. The windshield fogged up, so Ricky kept it wiped off with a towel until we pulled up at the farm gates. Soon we were out among the rows and rows of trees, assessing each one until we found the perfect one. There it was! In no time we had bow-sawed it to the ground. Woody and Nicole had also found their tree and had pulled it back to the car, so we loaded both trees into the '58. We folded the Continental kit down and easily set both trees into the trunk with room to spare! When we reached the checkout area, the cashier asked us why we had the old Buick out in the rain. "Old cars are meant to be driven!" was our response. He nodded and gave us $10 off the price of the trees.
Back at the house, we unloaded the trees and enjoyed homemade chili, burgers, cider and Cokes while hanging the decorations. What a great day! Of course, it would have been easier to take the S-10, but not nearly as much fun!
This season, make your holidays special! Don't put the cars up yet. Drive around and see the decorations, get into a parade, or just take some photos with your cars, and if you do, e-mail them to us. We'd love to see them!
I hope some of our memories make you think of some of yours, and we wish you and your families a safe and happy holiday season. God bless you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to us all!