DARKE COUNTY — Before the Internet, before Amazon or eBay, generations of American kids thumbed through the Sears and J.C. Penney gift catalogs to assemble their Christmas wishlists. Or they roamed the aisles of K-Mart and Woolworth’s, tugging on a parental coat sleeve, pointing out the goods.
If you were lucky, and good, St. Nick would bring you some things you really wanted. Fun things. At some point we all got socks, but those weren’t necessarily fun, despite being useful.
Taking a short jaunt down “Memory Lane,” here are some noteworthy — and fun — gifts the staff of The Daily Advocate remembers receiving on Christmas days gone by:
Carolyn Harmon, reporter — My dad was raised in St. Joseph’s orphanage, in Dayton, Ohio, during the Depression. Since he was deprived of many things, including sugar and holidays, he went over the top to make our holidays exceptional. One Christmas, he got my sister a portable AM/FM radio cassette player — the original “boom box.” He made a tape of himself, as Santa. After everyone opened their gifts, he played that tape. We thought it was Santa.
All five of us children huddled around the recorder in disbelief. Starting with my oldest sister, he told us we each had one more gift. The gifts were hidden. One by one, we followed our siblings to find their hidden gift. Mine was a Free Spirit bicycle hidden behind one of those huge, old television sets. The bike had a banana seat and streamers coming out of the handle bars. It also came with a sew-on Free Spirit patch, which my mother sewed onto my jacket. What a magical day!
Jim Holland, sales representative — I got a bike for Christmas one year around age 10. Jumped on it and fell into the Christmas tree, knocking the tree over.
Teresa Ketring, administrative assistant — There are a few favorite items that stand out for me.
When I was a child, my parents did not have much money. I wanted a doll house (one of the two-story ones). On Christmas morning, it was there. I really did not expect it. Mom said she never seen a happier person.
When I was a teenager, I wanted roller skates. I picked up a package one day and said to myself “That is my roller skates.” When I opened the package it was a brick. I did get my skates in a different package, though.
My mom got my husband really good one year. We had been married a year. When we were unwrapping gifts, all at once my grandma asked Kody (my husband) to take a blanket off of her. He thought it was strange that of all the people there, she asked him. Under the blanket was a puppy with a bow on her. He wanted a puppy so bad. He was so happy. We named the puppy Prancer (because on that Christmas I was sick and laying down and that puppy pranced all over the bed).
My greatest gift, however, was the one I received almost three years ago — my grandson.
Mary Bevins, sales representative — Our last gift to open was always THE BIG ONE — and we had to wait a bit before we could open it. I specifically remember the year we got a record player. It was a 2-toned tan, plastic portable player with speakers you could take off the sides and set out on the a table away from the main unit (only as far as the electric cords would take it, though!). It played 45’s and 78’s and we already had a record collection started. Not having to use the console record player in the living room was a real step of independence for us. Looking back on it now, I think it was just my parents’ way of not having listen to “our music” or give up listening to theirs (Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass).
Bill Bixler, sales representative — I remember a battleship and big toy tank. I had a lot a fun with them.
Erik Martin, reporter — I received a lot of memorable Christmas gifts during my childhood, and even into my adulthood. For boys growing up in the 1970s, however, anything Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Six-Million Dollar Man or Evel Knieval was enthusiastically received, of course.
However, one gift that stands out to me is the Fort Iwo Jima playset. The Fort Iwo Jima playset was a plastic-molded green mountain about 2-feet tall. It featured two rotating artillery pieces and a working drawstring elevator in the back. It came equipped with both American and Japanese fighting men, aka “Army Guys,” as well as various water and land vehicles and aircraft. Added to my already large collection of military stuff, epic battles were waged for years.
In my humble opinion, the Fort Iwo Jima playset, or its Fort Navarone counterpart — featuring Germans versus American soldiers — is quite possibly one of the greatest gifts anyone could ever receive. Much better than a football or a fire truck. Or socks.
Christie Randall, sales manager — Mine was a Dorothy Hamill doll and the other was actually a toy my brother got (I wanted it, but he got it). It was this football player that if you hit the top of his head he would kick the football over the goal post. I was mad so I didn’t play with any of my toys that day and took that one away from him. Such a brat, I know!
Linda Moody, reporter — My favorite gift was a square camera. I think it was a Brownie. Took many a photo with it. I was probably in third grade. And just to think, that’s what I do now in addition to writing…take photographs. Never thought I’d catch on to digital either, but I did.
Lori Denniston, distribution manager — At 2 or 3 years old, I received a doll baby. Baby Dear. My favorite doll.
Diana Sleppy, administrative assistant — I remember getting an 8-millimeter film camera back in the 1960s. It was something I really wanted. I also got the bright lights that came with it. I remember it because I was able to film my grandmother before she passed away.
Christina Chalmers, editor — At Christmas time I loved baking with my Grandma Maxine so I really wanted a play kitchen set for Christmas. That year, I woke up to see a red ribbon under the Christmas tree that led down the hallway. I followed the ribbon’s trail and there was my kitchen set with a great big red bow on it. That kitchen set was in my grandma’s kitchen for a couple of years. I did a lot of “baking” with it!
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com