A glance at any social networking site reminds us of some people’s annual holiday viewings during the holidays. They seem to take us back in memory to something we saw when we were young or younger; many an annual event we celebrate with our families as a holiday viewing or reading. “A Wonderful Life” is one, normally an annual TV movie but this year shown at the Galaxy Theatre in Gig Harbor to a movie audience and it received lots of raves from the attendees. In my family “The Dead” by James Joyce, Guy du Maupassant’s “The Necklace or La Parure” and “Joyeux Noel” a true story about the truce called by the British, Germans and French for Christmas Day during WWI. Other selections include Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”; “The Gift of the Magi” O. Henry; Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story and “T’was the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. Let’s us not forget that there are some less serious movies/books in the annual custom - “How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss”, movie by Ron Howard or Jodie Foster’s “Home for the Holidays”.
But for the purpose of this holiday blog, I would like to share some memories as recorded by some of our earlier residents. I hope you enjoy these few records of the holidays specially Christmas day/s in Gig Harbor’s past.
Emmett Hunt’s Diary for December 25, 1882 (Monday) “A day of surprising beauty. Lovely Christmas! Stroll promiscuously in AM. In PM go to Mother’s get a huge dinner followed by Xmas tree, taffy pulling, a little invigorated, etc.”
But Lillian Vernhardson Fries description paints a large picture of their Christmas. We always had a Christmas tree with real candles, Mamma made “Icelandic pancake,” a flat pancake made right on top of the stove. She also made the little sweet rolled pancakes (crepes susette). The best we had was our Christmas dinner. On Christmas Eve we all went to church, where they had the Christmas program. Little Sarah had not started school but she recited “Twas the Night Before Christmas” one year. It was often raining hard. Papa would go ahead with the lantern, we would follow in the mud. It was (the) only time Papa ever went to church. Our only Gig Harbor church at the Head of the Bay was Methodist, but our family was Lutheran. Sam and Sadie later joined the Methodist church.
“The church was decorated and full of people. All the children took part and it was a gay, warm time. Each child received a stocking with candy.
“After we came home, we sang the Christmas carols that we had sung in church. Papa sang “Hily Night, Silent Night” with us off-key, but it was so good to hear him singing. Mamma said it was the only fault she could find with him was that his singing was not good. We ate our candy and opened our presents. Our presents from our folks was always needed clothes, but we got wonderful gifts from an aunt in Vancouver, B.C.
“One year it was a necklace, one year it was an exquisite little doll, about 10 inches tall, with many clothes. Aunt Ena worked as a domestic and how kind of her to think of her little nieces and nephew who would get little. She also sent c;other from the children in whose household she had worked. One was for me, a lovely cream-colored dress with a sailor collar.
“In Hoquiam, our Christmases had been different the last few years there. Papa had been a foreman at the mill and had Greeks working under him. At Christmas they came with elaborate gifts for our family. Black-eyed, black-haired mustached men, thinking perhaps of their own families back in Greece. A big basket for Mamma filled with oranges and nuts and candy. We always had that big basket afterwards. Mechanical toys for Sam and a doll for me. One year it was a marvelous jointed doll, its neck, arms, elbows, wrists, hips, knees were all jointed. It had real hair and eyes that opened and closed. I never got such a doll again.”
|Lillian Vernhardson Fries|
Then there are Clarence “Nick” Burnham’s (Dr. A. M. Burnham’s son) diary entries from 1930, 1942 and 1943. “1930: Spaded some. Took the truck out to see if the speedometer worked, it did. Bis *took Lee for groceries. Lee went to town to Don’s for dinner. … stopped & gave Bis & I a drink of whiskey. Fine day.” 1942 “Bis, Smith & I piled the mill wood that was dumped in the yard. I gave Smith lead & ladle to … a jigger to fish for Ling Cod off Pt. Defiance. I finished cultivating the … berries. Made an iron shoe for Ashford’s boat. Cold & heavy frost tonight some ice.” 1943 “Rain last night clear & warm today. Arthur & Zell came to Lee’s we had a small tree and we had a fine time. Lee had a turkey. We had a lot of funny toys among the real presents.” *Throughout the records you will find Bismark’ nickname spelled either Bis or Biz. Nick wrote it as “Bis” which I used. Since they were brothers I believe it is only appropriate.
Estella Rust wrote in her 1912 Diary on Wednesday, December 25th “A good Xmas day. We ate dinner at Etties had duck, chiken (sic) and everything good. We sent cards to Mrs. Van Der Volgen & Wm. Mrs. Thompson, Ulman, Taylor John Frank & Hal, Herb & wife, Miss Kiet Kieth, Ettie & Herbert. The (sic) all ate supper here. Rec’d card from Miss Newman.”
And lastly, Chester Edwin Dadisman wrote in his memoir “I remember well that Dad and Mom bought me my first bicycle for Christmas in 1924. Dad had assembled and hit it in Grandmother Dadisman’s vacant house. What a great surprise when I was told to go there and look around. It was a 26-inch wheel Schwinn model, without training wheels. Though anxious to ride it, I wasn’t very proficient on the gravel roads in Home so I experienced many scrapes. Neighborhood kids, especially Ada Sorenson, helped me take off on my own. Her folks operated a competing grocery store located next to the Home dock. They resided on a houseboat a short distance away.”
And our last remembrance is from Gertrude Emma Strebe, born in 1879, died in 1976. Unfortunately her memories remind us how hard life could be, especially for the children. She lived in Wisconsin until 1902. Most of this comes from the eulogy given at Gertrude’s funeral and written by her grandson and her daughter. “There was no religion in their household. August [her father] was a German Lutheran and Elmira [her mother] was Catholic, and in order to make their marriage survive, they must have had an agreement on no religion. At that point in history, in Europe, not so far removed from the Lutheran Reformation, feelings were strong for or against Catholic doctrine. The glorifying of Christmas, for one thing, was taboo in Puritan New England and so probably among the German Lutherans, as well. The little cabin she and her four brothers and one sister grew up in was of the crudest type. …
“Every winter for eighteen years, August would go up to Northern Wisconsin to log in the woods. … If he came home at Christmas time, the children got apples or oranges. For whatever reason, the little Strebe children were never allowed to have a Christmas tree. After they saw the neighbors’ pretty Christmas trees, Gertie and her brothers begged for a tree too, but only once did Elmira relent and allow a tree. It was decorated with little apples, molasses cookies and popcorn, and to the children it was the prettiest tree in the community. Maybe August wasn’t home that Christmas.” *”Our McIntyre Family In loving memory of Fredrick David McIntyre and Gertrude Emma Strebe, Rosedale, Washington Pioneers.