Northern Colorado 1940’S
This last Sunday, part of a sermon by Craig Fanning, about chopping down a tree for Christmas, was reminder of how we used to get our trees before the “artificial trees” that our Dads so hated. It took a long time before Mom convinced Dad that the “fake tree” – his words – were just as nice or nicer, without the hard work of going to get one “up in the hills.” and maybe one that was not to much like a Christmas tree should look. AND Mom would add – it will not make a mess loosing its needles and YOU would not have to take the time to go find one, chop it down and haul it home.
Christmas trees did not grow around our area in northern Colorado – just big old ugly cottonwood trees. Dad had to go “up the mountains” to find one. We had to travel about 30 miles one way. He usually went up Poudre Canyon. The Canyon is just that, a canyon – with up and down mountains, not easy to climb and not so pretty pine trees. By the time Dad struggled with the hacksaw and the ax, drug it down the mountain – shoved it in the trunk or tied it to the top of the car it is a wonder that any limbs and needles were left on it!!
After getting it home and take it off the car top or pull it out of the big trunk of the big black Chevey car, laying it on its side and pounding nails into a make-shift – wooden-type tree stand it had suffered more loss of needles.
Then Dad hauled into the house, it had to be readjusted several times to make it stand right. More needles fell. The big Hoover vacuum cleaner ( that was like pushing a bus around..) stood in the corner the whole time the tree was up. Mom was so particular and knew when to tell “John” to stop messing with it – it was perfect. She also knew when Dad was at the end of his rope. He finally got to go out to the barn with a look of relief on his face. Mom would take over and adjust and push and shoved the branches around until she was satisfied. THEN we could put the ornaments on. AND after we were in bed, Mom would adjust the ornaments to her liking and push the red and green rope here and there. Then we would hear the vacuum cleaner one more time.
Christmas was so exciting at our house. In early years,the family had Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, with the little tree decorated with fake birds with missing feathers and gold candle holders with white bent and old candles in each one and a few ornaments here and there. Dad and Mom with the help of Grandpa built a bigger house and everyone gathered at our house Christmas eve from then on.
Mom made chili, with old fashion brick chili, oyster stew from fresh oysters she bought in pint jars from Steel’s Market. She made this especially for Grandpa. Christmas is when I learned to love oyster stew. Loved it with a big spoon of butter floating in it with the little oyster crackers sprinkles on top. Grandpa loved it more!
Dad like both soups, so he would have chili made with the pinto beans out of his field and canned tomatoes Mom had canned in the fall, beef from the butchered cow out of the pasture. Then he would have a bowl of oyster stew in the same bowl with a rim of red around the bowl. He said it tasted better that way.
Dessert was apple, cherry and mince meat pie. A ton of cookies were piled high on plates, put in different places around the table. Mom made the mincemeat from venison that Dad and brothers shot “up in the mountains” that fall. Uncle Guy was in on some of those hunts. The mincemeat had NO citron in it. It cooked and bubbled away on the stove all day – then she would can it. To make the pies, she added lots of apples mixed in the mincemeat before she put it in her homemade pie shells. Dad had a “midnight snack” at 9 o’clock before he went to bed. He warmed up a big slice of mincemeat in the oven (no microwaves) and topped it with a big scoop of Poudre Valley French Vanilla Ice Cream . I learned to love mincemeat pie from sharing bites with my Dad.
Now back to the tree in the corner……Mom came home with a big box that had a Christmas tree picture on the side of it. Dad carried it in. Mom let us open it. Dad dragged it out and put it in its stand. Mom started readjusting the wire and plastic limbs. The “fake” tree was really very ugly – they have improved through the years. At the time we thought that it was so pretty and by the time we had all the ornaments on it – who cared how ugly it was!! Mom also bought silver rope, silver glass ornaments and told us absolutely we could not throw the tinsel on this year! WHAT? The tree without tinsel!! That was the most fun! Mom insisted that it was messy and we could put the pretty new blue glass balls in with the new silver ones. I must say it was very pretty. I still like the blue and silver on a Christmas tree. She did relent a little and she picked out some of the old ornaments so we hide in different places, like back in the branches and under the limbs.
Christmas eve supper was over and we could open the presents that were packed around the tree. Grandpa and Grandma made most of the presents. One year Grandma made me a lot of flour sack doll clothes for the new doll I was going to get from Santa. Grandpa took a orange crate and made a closet for them to hang in. He also made tiny clothes hangers out of larger hangers to hang the dolly clothes on. I was so pleased. We got to open presents on Christmas eve from family members. On Christmas morning Santa had come and we would open presents from Santa. We still do that.
We looked forward to the BIG day. I remember skipping around and singing in my “Dad-voice” – monotone, “Away In a Manger “, “Silent Night, Holy Night” and “Deck the Halls.” I learned them in school and Sunday School. Sunday school was important in our family. I learned most of the hymns in Sunday School and yes, we sang hymns, Christmas Carols and Easter songs in school! How sadly things have changed.
Have a happy day putting up your tree. I recommend “fake trees!”
The series is written by a 44 year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook.
She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.
Grannie Annie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The “Grannie Annie” Cook Book Series includes: “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ on the Woodstove”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ Fish from Cold Alaskan Waters”; and “Grannie Annie’s Eat Dessert First.” They are available at M & M Market in Nikiski.