Pioneer Potluck: About Christmas Past — On the farm

Pioneer Potluck: About Christmas Past — On the farm


1940s and 50s

It was always Dad’s job to go get the tree. We lived on a farm with cottonwood trees so that caused a dilemma — go 14 miles into town to buy a tree or go 20 or 30 miles to cut a tree down “up in the mountains,” a trip that took a lot of planning in “the olden days.”

First Dad had chores and cattle to feed, a cow to milk and in earlier years pigs to contend with. The car was checked over, tires kicked, sandwiches made by Mom. He would load my brother and me in the car and off we would go to get a “Chrisst-amus” tree for the living room. Mom would give Dad last minute instructions: “A big full tree, not too tall, but nice.” Dad’s reply would be “OK Loretta.”

Mom had a million excuses not go to: Ginger was a baby, she had cookies to bake, she had some sewing to get done before Christmas and she HAD to get supper. Actually, she enjoyed her time alone when we would go with Dad. I do not remember too much about the two or three trips to the mountains, but I do remember Dad saying, “When I get the money, we will buy us a tree.”

Dad would stuff the tree in the trunk of the old black Chevy, as the trunk was large enough to “put a cow in.” (We had a neighbor who transported her calves and pigs to town in the trunk of her old car. Thus, the saying “to put a cow in.” And if she had to sell a calf she just put the calf in the backseat of the old car.

Dad’s other job was to make a stand for the tree — two cross pieces of wood, nailed and nailed and nailed into the tree. (It was always Dad’s fault if the tree tipped over in the living room (not that someone put too many ornaments in one spot or pulled on a branch to put tinsel on).

One year Mom hit on the idea: put that tree in a bucket of sand! OK, Dad said. He shoveled sand and dirt into the big 5-gallon bucket, shoved the tree into it — and more dirt around it. He carried the whole thing into the living room.

“Now John, don’t get needles or dirt on the living room rug!”

Dad was all bent over carrying the bucket in one hand and the tree waving around covering most of him. Johnny (Butch) opened the doors so Dad could back in, holding branches so he could get through the door, with Mom wringing her hands. (Dad wanted to put the bucket of sand-dirt in the house and then put the tree in. “OH No!” said my Mom. “You will get sand-dirt all over the rug!!”).

The tree and bucket were placed on a big white sheet with a tree skirt on it. Dad got it situated just so, with the full branches in front. Mom would instruct: “Now turn it a little … OK that’s it … Thank you, John.”

Dad finally could stand up straight, get his bearings, stand back and admire his all day’s work.

As they were admiring the tree, Johnny and I were running around with ornaments in our hands. The tree slowly tipped forward. Not comprehending what was happening, Dad, Mom, Johnny and I watched it tip over! Dad rushed to push it back up. Mom said “NO! NO! John, “Take that back out and put on the wooden stands.”

I am sure there were stares, snuffs, huffs and puffs coming out of Dad, but he picked it up, bucket and all, and repeated backward, getting the tree back out the door.

With the wooden stand made and nailed in place the whole process was repeated over again, except Dad could stand up this time coming through the door.

Mom worked for a week before getting ready for Christmas Eve dinner: getting presents wrapped, cleaning the house from the very top to the very bottom. It was spotless!

Mom’s usual menu for Christmas Eve was homemade noodles for chicken noodle soup. And there was oyster stew and chili also. Homemade parkerhouse rolls, a big salad, home-canned pickles, dill, bread and butter and sweet, sweet pickles.

Then she baked the dessert! That took all day. Apple, cherry, chocolate, lemon meringue and peach pie canned from the peaches my Uncle Guy brought to her from the western slope of Colorado. BUT, most of all, mincemeat pie for Dad and Grandpa Cogswell.

In later years we all learned to like mincemeat pie — only the way Mom made it. She canned the mincemeat from the venison Dad got during deer season. It took all day in the fall to cook it down, and then the great spices with vinegar and sugar were added along with raisins. Then she canned it in quart jars. The smell was wonderful!

When she made the pies she added sliced apples and baked it in her homemade pie crust. My uncle Marvin loved that pie also. At the insistence of my Dad, every Christmas he would invite us to try it. We all learned to eat warm mincemeat pie with vanilla ice cream piled high on top.

After the china and silverware was washed, dried and put away, we all gathered around the Christmas tree to exchange gifts. One year grandma made me feed-sack doll clothes and Grandpa made me a closet out of a wooden orange crate, complete with rod and little tiny hangers to hand those little doll clothes on.

Today, many years later, I can still remember how delighted I was and how many years I played with it. I have NO idea what happened to it. That is one thing I wish I had hung on to! Grandma sewed all those clothes either by hand or by her old treadle machine. They had lace and ric-rack on then. And a very pretty doll to go with it.

Everyone enjoyed their Christmas Eve, but no one enjoyed it more than Dad. He laughed and joked, stole other people gifts, put Mom’s new pajamas on his head, teased little kids and hugged them all good night as they hurried out the door to get in bed before Santa Clause came to their house to bring them gifts on Christmas morning.

Today is our Mother, Loretta Cogswell McClures, heavenly birthday. Born 1915 to 1999. She loved to get birthday presents, but we could not wrap them in Christmas paper. She would just put them under the tree. Fond memories abound!

Thank you for your support. Don’t forget to invite an orphan to dinner! Say Prayers for the less fortunate and remember to thank God Our America is still FREE.

Merry Christmas to all! Grannie Annie and Bobtoo


1 cup soft butter

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cups finely chipped red and green candied cherries

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

3/4 cups shredded or flaked coconut

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in milk and vanilla. Stir in flour 1/4 at a time. Mix well. Mix in cherries and pecans. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a cylinder about 10 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter. Roll in coconut, wrap in saran wrap and chill for 2 hours. Slice dough in 1/4-inch slices and place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees oven for 10 to 12 minutes until browned. Cool on rack.


1/4 cup melted butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 lb chopped fine dates

2 cups Rice Krispies

1 cup shredded coconut

Mix butter, egg sugar and dates. Cook until thoroughly blended and sugar is melted. Remove from heat and stir in cereal and coconut. Butter hand. Roll in powder sugar. Will keep in a cool place for weeks.


2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon sugar

Cream shortening and sugar. Add flour and baking powder, soda, egg, vanilla and crushed pineapple. Mix well. Drop by teaspoonful on the cookie sheet. Mix nutmeg and sugar and sprinkle on top of cookies. Bake 375 degrees for 12 minutes.


3 cups ground fine vanilla wafers

2 tablespoons white Karo syrup

1/2 cup finely ground nuts (walnuts or pecans)

9 tablespoons rum

Pinch of salt

• By Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg, Pioneer Potluck

More in Life

Several pages from David Brame's "After the Rain," adapted from Nnedi Okorafor’s short story “On the Road.” (Photo courtesy David Brame)
New Homer creator brings Afrofuturism to town

David Brame’s new graphic novel will be published in January

Friends of Elmer Gaede effect repairs to the doctor’s Maule Rocket airplane, which crashed a short distance from Forest Lane between Soldotna and Sterling on Aug. 2, 1967. The airplane was eventually made “fly-able” again and was sold in the early 1970s. (Photo courtesy of the Gaede Collection)
Dr. Gaede drops in, Part 2

By Clark Fair For the Peninsula Clarion Author’s note: This is Part… Continue reading

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: A guide to the seasons

Figuring out the signs of seasonal change is easy, right?

Essential ingredients for my family’s lemon cake recipe, photographed on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Great-grandma’s lemon cake

It’s not much, but it’s also everything.

A match latte is on display on Jan. 3, 2019 at Brother’s Cafe, in Kenai, Alaska.
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Something warm please

I’m normally not a warm drink person.

A row of dyed silk wall hangings shows how common Alaska plants found on the lower Kenai Peninsula can be used to make organic dyes, as seen here Tuesday. The hangings are included in Elissa Pettibone’s exhibit, “Swatches,” showing at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer.
Michael Armstrong / Homer News
‘Swatches’ explores art of organic dyeing using native plants

Pettibone finds magic in fireweed, other common plants

Dr. Elmer Gaede relaxes at home a few weeks after his airplane crash. His facial hair and glasses hide much of his scarring. (Photo courtesy of the Gaede Collection)
Dr. Gaede drops in, Part 1

Part 1 of a three-part story of a single-engine airplane crash more than a half-century ago.

Pepperoni pizza is ready to go into the oven, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Election night pizza

It’s a time-honored tradition to have pizza in the newsroom on election night.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: The race is on

Here we are 33 weeks later wondering how we are going to celebrate the grandest time of the year.

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Keeping myself in stitches

The pandemic hit, and we all brushed off some skills we hadn’t thought about in a while.

A homemade nut mix takes on a sticky, spicy finish with a recipe from Anthony Bourdain, on Friday, Oct. 23 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion.)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: I’m going nuts

I’m enjoying the nuts while I work from home and occasionally daydream about the international travel

Nick VarneyNick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: 2020 — The Halloween Year

2020 has nixed Oct. 31 as the official observance of Halloween and hijacked the mantle as its own.