Tag Archives: Great Depression

Christmas Memories

Scan_20141215Back when I was a kid, Christmas wasn’t so much about the shopping. Black Friday was not a term that was used by anyone–maybe merchants, but certainly not the rest of us. No stores were open on Thanksgiving–in fact, no stores were open on Sundays. Still, we managed to get our Christmas shopping done.

As it is today, Christmas was about family. My grandfather’s birthday was Christmas Eve. That meant a huge family gathering with all my cousins. Sometimes it was just those of us who lived in the Phoenix area and we could get together at someone’s home. On special birthdays or when family members were here from out of town, we would hold it at a restaurant meeting room. My grandfather, who was a wonderful, loving man, was the center of attention. He was in a wheelchair and we took turns sitting on his lap as if he were Santa.

I remember being excited about Christmas and anxious to open my presents on Christmas morning. (I was the kid who always peeked at the presents no matter how well my mom thought they were hidden.) But there is not a single Christmas or a single Christmas gift the sticks out in my mind. I do remember the Christmas when my sister Shirley received a life-size doll that walked. It wore three-year-old clothing and was nearly as tall as Shirley.

My brother Ricky was born when I was nine. Being his big sister wasn’t my favorite role. Still, at Christmas time I was able to talk my parents into buying him toys they would never get me, being a girl. Those gifts included Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, and a chemistry set. While they might have been gender-appropriate, they weren’t really age-appropriate. That was okay because I was the one who played with them. I used the Erector set to build a robot. You should have seen the faces of my family members when it came rolling down the hall.

After all  the presents were opened and the wrappings cleaned up, I would eventually get around to looking in my stocking. There was no real hurry because I knew what was in it. There would be an apple and an orange in the bottom. There would be a mixture of nuts–not in neat little packages with the hulls removed. These were nuts that had to be cracked. My favorite were the Brazil nuts, but they were also the hardest to get the meat out of. I remember spending hours trying to pick out the pieces of nut stuck in the corners of the shells, my fingers bleeding from where I had poked them with the pick.  Of course, my stocking also held candy–this was also unwrapped. It was hard candy in the shape of fruits with a soft jelly center and colorful ribbons-shaped candies. Unfortunately, by the time I dug through my stocking, the candy was coated with a thin layer of nutshell dust.

As a child, I always puzzled over the contents of my stocking. There was usually fruit in the refrigerator. So why did my parents put it in my stocking? I never asked–mostly because it would make me seem ungrateful. As an adult, I came to consider that my parents had grown up during the Great Depression. In those days, the contents of my stocking would have been real treasures.

Christmas has changed a lot. Today kids are looking for electronics and other expensive gifts under the tree. But it will always be a magical time filled with wonder, anticipation, and love.

Vacation on the Rocks–Part 2

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After our rejuvenating soak in the mineral hot springs, we headed north on Interstate 25 toward Socorro.

 

Just before arriving there, we stopped at the Bosque del Apache IMG_0703National  Wildlife Refuge. Driving along the loop roadway lined with Cottonwoods and willows arrayed in their fall splendor, we IMG_0702stopped frequently to view water fowl of various types. We observed geese, swans, and pelicans, as well as several varieties of ducks. Walking out on the bridge over the marsh, we were fortunate to spot cranes, herons, grebes, egrets and ibis.

The next day, we said goodbye to Socorro and started out on a road that had few travelers. We were headed for a place that by design was in the middle of nowhere–the VeryIMG_0720 Large Array. It is a collection of twenty-seven gigantic dishes that span twenty-two miles to pick up radio waves. Because radio waves are so long, it requires that great distance to receive the entire wave. By using radio waves, scientists are able to observe stars and planets in the IMG_0722making, as well as black holes not visible to us in any other way.  To show how very large these dishes are, I asked my husband Craig to stand next to one. See if you can find him in the picture.

On our way back to Silver City, we drove through the Gila Wilderness. It was the first designated wilderness area in the United States, proposed by Aldo Leopold in 1924. It seemed appropriate to be there as this year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Wilderness Act which preserves the more than 100 million acres of federal public lands.

Our final destination brought us back to Arizona. On our way to  the Chiricahua National Monument, we saw signs for Fort Bowie. Figuring, we might as well see it all, we followed the signs to a hiking trail that was a mile and a half long. At the end of the trail was Fort Bowie. Not wanting to spend the time hiking, we asked the ranger for driving directions. We able to take a dirt road that brought us to the site. IMG_0751Most of the fort had fallen into ruins, but enough remained to spark the imagination. In its prime, Fort Bowie was the launching point for campaigns against the Chiricahua Apache, led by Chocise, and later by Geronimo.

Continuing on with our original plan to visit Chiricahua National Monument, we discovered there is a dirt road that joins the two parks.  Chiricahua National Monument is what is known as a sky IMG_0769island–that is an isolated mountain range that rises up above the grassland sea that surrounds it. On roads originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, the park provides a beautiful drive to the top, passing through forests of cypress, pine and fir. At the top, we were able to view what the Chiricahua call “standing up rocks.” We took a trail to a rock grotto for more great views.  ToIMG_0785 the west, we could see the rugged Dragoon Mountains where Cochise had his stronghold.  The mountains are named after the 3rd US Calvary who were called Dragoons. It was a regiment of infantryman who used a heavy carbine known as a dragon, a kind of short musket,  instead of the usual sabre and revolver.  Cochise died on a reservation, but his body was buried in the Dragoon Mountains. His men rode their horses over the spot until it was no longer visible. No one living knows where Cochise was buried.

Tired, but happy, we returned home, thankful to all those who helped preserve the geologic and historic wonders we had been so fortunate to enjoy.