By Elaine and Carl Seliskar
We think of Christmas as a special time for children everywhere and Huntsburg was no exception. Lifelong Huntsburg resident, Mrs. Helen “Billie” Sudyk was one of five children born to Hal and Ethel Grace Clarke. Born in 1923, she and her four sisters lived in a large house surrounded by loving parent and grandparents. The following memories are of her childhood in Huntsburg at a very special time of the year:
“December was the month we all waited for. Christmas was always slow in coming but we had the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs to dream over. Not that we ever got that doll on page 112 but hope was always there. Mother started to make “cat’s pajamas” which was the answer we got when she started to make this queer looking little pajama-looking thing. Really, she was making a doll body. She got new heads to put on the bodies made with the help of Grandma Roberts and clothes for each new doll. One year she and Dad made a big doll house for all of us. Dad was the carpenter and Mom the interior decorator. They both made the furniture for each room, papered the walls and shingled the roof. It really was the best of all gifts! Every adult had their hands, fingers and needles into getting it ready for Christmas. When we came downstairs on Christmas morning you never saw such “Christmas shocked” little girls. Mother had a little doll for each of us so we could make up our own stories.
Then there was Christmas Eve church services and the pageant with the Sunday School classes participating. The little ones were singing the carols – oh, what a bunch of angels! The adult classes in their bath-robed shepherd costumes and the three wise men all robed and crowned but without their camels – all bowing over Mary, Joseph and the darling baby played by Doris’s doll. It was always Doris’s doll. The rest of us brought our best baby dolls but Doris’ doll always got chosen. Everyone sang Silent Night. Then the actors disrobed – all except the angels who wanted to keep their wings and halos on a little bit longer.
Now for the Christmas tree, the only one in the town. The men brought in buckets of water (in case of fire) then started to light the candles on the tree very carefully. When they were all lit, the “oohs” and “aahs” were loud and clear. Under the tree there were some wrapped packages which some of the parents or grandparents had brought as gifts for their children. Of course, there was Santa – and such a Santa you’ve never seen. Where he got his costume no one knows, and no one would ever admit getting it together – it was a real hoot! But the children believed that he brought those gifts and he’d bring ours when we got home. Of course, every child hoped that one of those gifts under the tree was for him or her, but they were only for the children whose family had brought them. There were a lot of unhappy kids until Santa started to hand out the little boxes of candy along with a couple of hickory nutmeats and there were always two chocolate drop candies. They were something that we only got to have to eat at the church Christmas Eve pageant. After the pageant Mom, Dad and the kids got home and hung our stockings, hoping that Santa would know which stocking belonged to which person. We watched Mom and Dad light the candle in the window. The candle was for the Christ child to know that he was welcome at our house. Then we went upstairs to bed and tried to go to sleep.
In the morning around 5:30 a.m. or so, up we got. Dad didn’t go milking until we got up and he checked the stockings to make sure Santa made no mistakes. However, he does you know. Always in the toe of our stocking was an orange! And we all got new dolls (gee Mary, these doll bodies look like “cat’s pajamas” – you don’t suppose do you….no…couldn’t be) followed by “Mom, I love my doll,” and “Hey, who ate my chocolate drop?” Needless to say, this was a childhood Christmas fondly remembered.
For the adults in Huntburg, Christmas holidays afforded the townspeople the opportunity to attend social events both in Huntsburg and surrounding towns as can be seen in the invitations shown here. Whether it was a band who played for adult dances, singers or stage performances at the Huntsburg Opera House, or school recitals and musicals, there was no shortage of some sort of entertainment for all.
These fond holiday memories take us back to an earlier, simpler Christmas enjoyed by the descendants of Huntsburg’s early pioneers.