Altamont, Dec. 26, 2013

We have just gone through a holiday that has many different meanings and brings to mind many different thoughts. Jim, my husband and I were reminiscing about past years at Christmas time and came up with a wide range of remembrances starting with junior high school and working up from there.

When you are thirteen or fourteen there are not too many jobs available. However, if you had your working papers, you could work in the grocery stores or deliver newspapers. Jim did both.

His first job was at a grocery store that was small but they catered to a very elite clientele. Most of the customers would call their orders ahead and then send one of the staff members to pick it up.

That is where Jim came in. When the customer arrived they would pull up at the side porch. Burnham’s was housed in an old Victorian era house with a wide, covered wrap-a-round porch. Jim would run up and down the six steps from the porch to the car with the customer’s order and usually got a very nice tip – especially when it was raining or snowing.

The exercise was not strenuous for a young boy and did not leave much of an impression compared to the visions of simple, handcrafted ornaments around the store. The aromas of handmade wreaths and fresh baked pies are among the memories that still linger.

As a member of the youth group at his church, Jim also had a very warm and funny memory about Christmas Eve. The youth group would load into several cars and drive around town, stopping at the homes of shut-ins to sing Christmas carols. Around 11 p.m. they would arrive back at the church hall and one woman in the women’s club would have a wassail bowl waiting for the young carolers. Each year she would make her famous tomato punch and serve it to everyone before they went in to sing at the Christmas Eve midnight mass. Jim said it was awful, but the sentiment was right, so they all said thank you and drank it with a smile on their faces.

One of my youthful memories was on a Christmas morning. I was still quite young and remember rushing down the stairs to see all of the presents that Santa left for us to enjoy.

There was one special present that I was hoping for and was quite disappointed when it was not under the tree. My father, chuckling to himself, because he knew I did not find what I was looking for, asked if there was anything there that was especially exciting. Then before I could answer, he went behind me and said, “maybe I should move this out of the way,” and there was my special present, a new bike.

The memories then went to our years at G. Fox & Co.  As a large department store they had to do a lot of planning to be ready for Christmas. In June and July we went on special Christmas buying trips to New York City. In the city the manufacturers and distributors would show off all of the new items that they had for the new Christmas shopping season.

My department was leather goods. We had gloves, wallets, purses, key cases, and other small pick-up items. Many times people would have special covers embossed for a favorite book or initials put on a fashionable accessory. Those were the days when gifts of delicate lace handkerchiefs were especially prized as a gift item.

Jim’s department was always lively at Christmas time. He was the buyer for the hobby department, which was part of the toy department. When they went on a buying trip they saw all of the new toys for Christmas, the television advertising and what would be promoted as well as seeing select items that were packaged especially for G. Fox & Co.

Christmas has taken quite a different turn from the carol singing, wassail bowls of cheer, and happy trips to the store to see the decorations and perhaps pick up a gift or two.

We have people scouring the newspapers to find the best bargains when they go out on Black Friday. Some people even skip Thanksgiving dinner to camp out and be first in line for the bargains. What a shame. Wouldn't it be much nicer to give a homemade gift? It certainly would be less expensive than giving one of the new electronic gadgets that cost a lot of money. They also usually need batteries or programs or game discs or something additional that costs more money.

Technology has provided us with some wonderful innovations that make life easier and more enjoyable. It has also added to people’s money problems. Instead of a pencil and pad of paper our children are using calculators or computers. Sure it is faster, more accurate and can also do more, but look at the cost.

 The food pantry at St. Lucy’s/St. Bernadette’s has more people to feed, partly because of the cost of computers, electronic games, clothes, and the list goes on. Many of the people using this and other food pantries are not just the homeless, but also the working poor. We are very fortunate to have many people who are willing to give from their wealth to help others who have none.

 Another group of men and women we should be thinking about and be very thankful for are the men and women who serve in our country’s military. In December they celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and other holidays along with the rest of the country. Some are stationed in warm climates like Florida or cold climates like Alaska. Regardless, of where they are or what they are assigned to do, they have to be always alert to protect our country.

Members of the VFW and American Legion have helped the country remember what happens when we let our guard down. December 7, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and on December 11, 1941 both Hitler and Mussolini declared war on the United States. By honoring our men and women in the military we help keep our guard up.

Perhaps the following that is part of a longer poem received from Darlene Stanton, who is with the VFW Auxiliary, expresses the military spirit better than I could:

        "Then in his eye welled a tear that held no regret, and the soldier asked us,

        “..... To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,

               To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

               For when we come home, either standing or dead,

               To know you remember we fought and we bled.

                Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,         That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or another holiday; whether you are comfortable or in distress; whether you are young, old, Caucasian or other race; whether you are gay or straight; whether you are home or away; we hope this holiday season brings you great joy and good health. May God bless you all and may you all enjoy the freedoms that our forefathers have earned for us!

Piano evaluation

    The Guilderland Central School District music department reminds all students, in kindergarten through grade 12 that the registration for NYSSMA Piano Solo evaluation is due Jan. 17.

Any student interested in attending the NYSSMA Piano Solo Evaluation Festival should download a registration form by going on line to http://www.guilderlandschools.org/district/academics/music/NYSSMA.cfm.

 The completed form with payment should be sent to Lori R. Hershenhart, District Administrator for Music, Farnsworth Middle School, 6072 State Farm Rd., Guilderland, N.Y.,  12084.

 Additional information can be obtained by going on line to  Lori Hershenhart@guilderlandchools.net.

Not to late

Persons interested in obtaining the Guilderland High School chamber Choir's DVD can do so by calling the high school at 861-8591.

School recess

Schools in the Guilderland Central District will be at recess from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3,2014.

Correction

Previously it was reported that former Guilderland residents  Doris and Albert Parshall, now of Shippensburg, Pa. were former members of Helderberg Chapter 331, Order of Eastern Star. I stand corrected; they are still members of Helderberg Chapter.

The Parshalls celebrated their 68th anniversary on Oct. 31.  Congratulations folks. 

Anniversary

Happy anniversary wishes are extended to Laura and Ted Beebe who will celebrate their special day on Dec. 31.

Birthdays

Happy Birthday wishes are extended to: 

— Jan Murray on Dec. 28; and

— Peter Cure and Cloe Adams on Jan. 2.

More Correspondents

March 31, was still winter.

Monday, March 24, was a cold 9-degree above day.

Regardless of what the weather looks like outside, it really is spring.