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Christmas Memories

“The Voice” would like to thank all who shared their heartwarming Christmas memories. We’ve enjoyed getting glimpses from “Christmas past!” We know our readers will enjoy this sentimental, holiday trip down memory lane. Merry Christmas!


Photos by Eugenia Jones
Santa, Mrs. Claus, and two merry elves managed to spread a little Christmas cheer as they waved to good boys and girls from a distance. This year’s Santa event was a “drive-by” event only due to COVID-19 restrictions.




Tree Lighting Ceremony

Santa and Mrs. Claus posed in front of the McCreary County Christmas tree following a tree lighting ceremony at the Courthouse. The tree lighting was conducted virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.


“One of my favorite Christmas memories comes from thirty years ago; long before I moved to McCreary County. I had traveled from Chicago with a truckload of gifts for some families in the Sawyer area. On a rather cold and dark evening, we gathered in the gloomy old firehouse to celebrate, sitting and standing among the firetrucks. The room was quite chilly and very dimly lit by only a few low-wattage bulbs, adding to the mystique. The conversations were light-hearted but a strange silence had slowly fallen over the assembly. From somewhere in the back of the chilly firehouse a single voice began singing “Silent Night”; not a crisp and clear rendition of the song, but rather like the sound of bagpipes softly groaning. Amazingly, not a single person added to the almost ghostly tune. We all seemed to sit in awe of the notion that The Savior of the world would come to be with us… and was even now, Present!”
– Jim Cmolik

“One Christmas when my siblings and I were very young (I was four, my sister was five, and my brothers were three and one.), my father and mother thought we would never get out of bed on Christmas Eve. My mom distracted us and tried very hard to convince us if we didn’t get to bed pronto, Santa would come and go without leaving gifts! While she was doing this, my dad sneaked outside into the cold winter night. He stomped around on the front porch and jingled some bells. Upon hearing these noises, of course we squealed, screamed, jumped into bed, and covered our heads while squeezing our eyes tightly shut. We really believed it was Santa and didn’t want to get caught staying up too late on Christmas Eve. He really came that night and brought all kinds of toys and goodies-walking dolls for us girls, a bulldozer and train set for the boys, plus alphabet blocks! What a fun memory! Merry Christmas to all!”
– Cindy Rogers

“One year, my dad bought mom a ring she really, REALLY wanted. When we brought it home, Dad took a huge box (like freezer size), and we laid towels in the bottom. We stacked it with fire wood, and of course put the ring box on top. Took me and Dad forever to wrap the thing because we couldn’t move it. It did the trick! Mom didn’t have a clue, and on Christmas Day was blown away! Ever since then, I’ve always liked wrapping smaller gifts in larger or multiple boxes!”
– Allan Bradley Kidd

“Christmas Day is my baby brother, Ronald Wall’s, birthday. He passed away on March 31, 2014. He was born in San Bernardino, California on December 25, 1969. He would always stress the point that he got birthday and Christmas presents. Oh, how I miss him!” —Wanda Duncan
“We were kids, and Rita wrote a letter to Santa at WBNT. While we were home alone as mom and dad went out to get our meager Christmas, a pickup truck pulled up and unloaded a tricycle and other toys and countless bags of groceries. This memory caused me to set up Kids Letters to Santa. The letters are heartwarming.”
– Judy Trammell Brown

“As much as there are dozens of classic Christmas songs, and as much of a tradition as it is to watch (and probably sing) “White Christmas” or Meet Me In St Louis, it was “Christmas in Dixie” that called in the holidays…that would and does call me home. The line “it’s snowing in the pines” always did remind me of this place, my humble abode, in my own little corner of my own family’s farm, tucked away in the rolling hills of the South. Without realizing it, it’s one of those places that gives you strength, for me and many, in that way that Tara is to Scarlett. The farm where we presently live, and where a few generations of my family have lived, had a big pine thicket in the back fields, and they were always called, unsurprisingly, “the pines.” So, every winter, we could always say “it’s snowing in the pines.” Those pines were there until a couple decades ago, when my grandfather, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, had them cut down on a whim. That really was just like him to live on a whim. All that remains today is a display of some sparse regrowth, which does not exactly constitute “the pines.” It’s sad to me that the generation after mine will not have the thrill of running through that thicket of tall Southern pines, the potential of snow falling from the skies and from the branches. That piece of earth will always be “the pines.”
– Shane Gilreath

“Being one of the youngest in a family with six children, I don’t ever remember believing in Santa Claus. Our parents struggled to give us the necessities in life. We never asked for anything because we knew it wasn’t going to happen. We all felt fortunate to have one present under the tree. My most memorable Christmas was the year my oldest sister had gotten married and was working full time. That Christmas, she showed up with many beautifully wrapped presents for everyone, and we were all shocked because we’d never seen anything like it. We were so excited and couldn’t wait to see what each of us had gotten. I hated to rip the packages open because they looked so amazing. Each year afterwards, she did this for us. I didn’t realize at the time, but later looked back and thought of how much she must have loved each of us to take it upon herself at such a young age. So, in case I never told her, Jean, thank you so much for making each remaining childhood Christmas so special.”
– Pat Cash

(Note from “The Voice””- Jean saw her sister’s memory posted on Facebook and responded to sister Pat’s post! We are glad the sisters got a chance to share this Christmas memory!)

“Yes, I still love all my siblings. This made me cry-remembering the past. I didn’t realize how happy I was making all of you. Made me happy to do that!”
– Jean Slone

“When my daughters were very young, their dad, who was a school teacher, decided to give them a special treat! He was playing Santa in the school Christmas play. So, while I was shopping, he dressed as Santa, climbed out the bedroom window and rang the doorbell! The girls opened the door and started screaming for their dad! They were frightened! Dear old dad/Santa ran as fast as he could, climbed back through the window, dressed, and went to comfort his frightened daughters! We had to use reverse psychology after that stunt! We told them if they were not good, Santa WOULD come and visit them!”
– Kathy Maxwell Grimes

“I’m not sure why exactly, but one of my favorite Christmas memories was when my mom, my brother, and I were leaving a church service where the kids sang Christmas carols. It was snowy and dark out on an old Michigan back road when our car broke down. Thinking back on it, I’m sure Mom was stressed, but it was an adventure for the kids. We walked up to a nearby home where a sweet, elderly couple lived. They were so very nice and had a lovely, warm house where we waited while Mom called for help. It’s a simple memory, but a fond one of kind, gentle humanity and charity.”
– Krystie Lynn

“When my sister and I were very young, my older brother lived in Ohio. Every Christmas, he came home, and we always tried to stay up and wait for him. I remember, one Christmas Eve, there was a snow on the ground, and I fell asleep on the couch while waiting for him. When he finally got home, he picked me up off the couch while I slept and took me outside and laid me in the snow to wake me up! Laugh out loud! I sure do love my brother!”
– Gail Corder Wilson

“Ah, Christmas Time at Cal Hill School! Christmas time-what a great time! All students would string popcorn and make roping out of “crepe paper” for the Christmas tree.
Before the Christmas play, the bigger students would go to the creek and get the biggest tree they could find. On one such trip, the creek was frozen. I was going to cross the creek on the ice. Naturally, the ice wasn’t very thick (running water) so there I was in knee deep freezing water! Thank goodness, we had already cut the tree and were just “goofing off!” We had to drag the large spruce tree back to the school. With all of the excitement, the teacher didn’t notice that my clothes were wet and frozen. (Thank goodness for a large pot-bellied stove!) I got as close to the stove as possible and let the teacher and students decorate the tree. She didn’t notice I wasn’t helping. As soon as the tree was decorated, the room had to be fixed for “THE” Christmas play. The teacher and the older boys would “string” sheets on a wire that crossed the large room. (Obviously, the teacher furnished the sheets.) I’m sure everyone knew their parts. Students were so proud to be chosen for a part. (Many of the children were shy.) I’m not sure of the name of the play, but that year, my cousin Paul Murphy and I were elves working in Santa’s workshop (as cobblers, I think.) I’m not sure about costumes, but surely our parents came up with something.
Following the play, Santa Claus would just appear “out of nowhere!” Living in the country before TV, this was the only time children saw the “Jolly Ole Man.” Each child was given a small bag of goodies-usually candy and mixed nuts. Some parents would attend, but not many. There was too much work to do at home, or they had small children. (Babysitting was unheard of.) There were homemade Christmas cards (very few “store-bought.”) All children drew names out of a decorated box the teacher brought from home. Naturally, everyone got a present. (My best friend and neighbor, Cletus Duncan, had drawn my name, and I was so excited!) His mom got me a “candy-bar.” Naturally, I wanted to cry but pretended to be happy. Not sure what I was expecting!
There was no Christmas break. I don’t know how many days the children got to stay at home. It probably depended on whatever day Christmas was on. Those days are gone, but some memories live on. I still remember getting that “candy-bar!”
– Peggy Murphy Wilson

“In McCreary County everyone always talks about the exciting time going to Stearns on Christmas morning. I did that too, because my Dad worked for the company but we lived in Whitley. I haven’t heard many talk about Christmas in Whitley, but for me it was just as great. John Patton owned the theater and appliance store on Main Street, both used to build the McCreary County Public Library. I believe it was in the week before Christmas but not sure, could have been longer, Santa would be on the upstairs level of the appliance store. A very jovial Santa sat in a big chair at the top of the stairs. Kids could sit on his lap and tell him what you wanted for Christmas. He then gave all the kids a gift. Here’s where my memory fades, I remember getting a doll from a store Santa, just not sure if it was that one. He also gave candy. Stearns or Whitley, both traditions were something to look forward to in our small communities. Another tradition took place on Christmas morning at our house. My sister and I talked about this one a couple of weeks ago. We rarely got the joy and surprise of opening gifts on Christmas morning because our older brother would wake early, before anyone else and open everything under the tree! We still got the gifts just didn’t get to open. It’s funny now but upsetting when you’re 7 years old. Merry Christmas to all!”
– Peggy Perkins

“Our first Christmas as new parents we were heading back to Kentucky from Indiana. We were in such a rush to get home that we were going way over the speed-limit going through Harrodsburg in our little blue Volkwagen Beetle. Out of nowhere came a trooper and on came the blue lights. He pulled us over and shined his lights in the back seat and there was our baby daughter, Gwen. He asked where we were going in such a hurry and we told him home for Christmas. He told us to “Slow that bug down and be careful and have a Merry Christmas.” He let us go and didn’t give us a ticket. If he had of checked the back seat we had several of Boyd’s guns in the car because we were afraid someone would go in our home and steal them. If he had found the guns he probably would have thought we stole them and we would probably would have been hauled off to jail!”
– Sharon Patrick Rowe

“Every Christmas morning my Mammaw and Pappaw Martin would come to our house and my Aunt’s to watch us kids open our presents. My Mom and Dad continued this tradition. When my boys got out of bed we would call them and here they would come, then they would go to my sister and brother’s houses. Now Schyler and I do the same with the three grandchildren that live in McCreary County. We have added eating breakfast together.”
– Pat Jones

“Growing up, Christmas was never about what you had materially, but a religious holiday. Several years ago, my family volunteered for Banquet of Blessings and was assigned the job of delivering meals. This included Jenna, Kaitlyn, and Bailie, all of whom were under age ten. As we went house to house, door to door, it became clear that the true blessings we were delivering was not so much to others, but to ourselves. It was a Christmas Eve where Proverbs 19:17 came to fruition: as we gave, the blessings came back tenfold. Through this act of volunteerism, the youngest among us began to see their fortune and find gratitude. The adults were blessed to see it, and to sow the seeds of giving and the blessings of community, as the gratitude of others grew more and more abundant, and their willingness to open their doors, invite us in, and share the gifts of Christmas provided a Christmas memory I’ll never forget. We started the day to serve others, but they in turn blessed us.”
– Katy Jones Gilreath

“When my daughter, Summer, was three years old, we asked her several times what she wanted for Christmas. Each time in the sweetest voice, she would simply say, “A muffin.” Needless to say, she definitely got a muffin that year.”
– Dawn Kidd

“So, oranges are a staple fruit and smell for me and my brothers during Christmas. If you were a coal miners’ kid in the ‘70s, it was a wonderful tradition that Blue Diamond and Stearns Lumber and Coal Company would give oranges, apples, peppermint candy canes, and nut boxes out to their workers for Christmas. Usually Christmas Eve, Dad would place it under our tree, and that’s when my brothers and I would know it was officially Christmas. We knew Santa would come that evening. It is also our dad’s birthday. He loved the Christmas holiday and would have been 78 this Christmas.”
– Jennifer West

“When my siblings and I were very young, our Dad and Mother would drive from Ohio or Michigan to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our grandparents who all lived on Hwy 92 just across the road from each other! Every time one of us would ask “Are we there yet?”; mother would say look around out outside and we’d just settle back down for the long haul because we ALL KNEW THAT WE WERE NOT IN “Tuckey” yet until we turned onto East Hwy 92, past the old Pine Knot High School or newer Pine Knot Elementary School!”
– Karen Lenore

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