Tori Orr, 3, snuggles up with Santa (Charlie Beale) at the Columbia County Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Perhaps she will one day share her holiday memories such as the others this page ...
Photo by Jim Blaylock
With five children, Frances Lindley has many fond memories of Christmas' past in their Owens Road home in Columbia County. There was the annual picture of the kids Janice, Frank, Ginny, John and Laura in their pajamas on the stair landing before they would open presents.
Now, the children return home for the annual Scrooge Party where they get together to see the Christmas slides.
"It was viewing Christmases past, so we call it our Scrooge Party," Lindley said. "We decorate the tree and have wassail. They lay on the floor and view the slides rolling laughing over how crazy they looked on such and such a Christmas.
"It seems like we never bought them any decent pajamas from the way they looked on Christmas morning. They came out in the most raggedy stuff. I remember one Christmas when John had gotten boots for his birthday in November. I discovered that he had slept in his boots when he walked out Christmas morning in these boots and these rag-tailed pajamas."
Also at Christmas there was the old deer head Jack inherited from his father. Every holiday the family decorated it.
"We put socks on his antlers, mainly because he was so moth-eaten looking. He had several outfits. At Christmas he was called Rudolph because he had the red nose and the red socks on and whatever the kids decided to throw up there on him."
Since Mrs. Lindley moved to a condominium, Frank has inherited Rudolph.
Long before Mary Sanders was born, her father, a Columbia County farmer, built a modest home near the Harlem cemetery. His wife had suffered a stroke, and needed to be near her caretaker.
That first wife later died, and Will Sanders married a much younger woman, Lurelia Petette. The couple brought three children into the world: Mary and her two brothers, Rufus and Marion.
Mary, who still lives next to the house her father built, is the last of her immediate family left. Her mother, father and brothers all have long since passed away - each in the month of December.
Christmas, then, is a bittersweet holiday for Sanders, a retired principal and the only black woman ever to serve on the Columbia County Board of Education.
But she remembers a time, some 80 years ago, when the joy of Christmas morning came in the form of a little porcelain doll.
The year was about 1920. Her father already was 67 years old, and Mary was just 7. Christmas was a modest affair. The children hung stockings on the mantle above their fireplace, and usually received some oranges - a rare treat - or hosiery or handkerchiefs.
What Mary most wanted, though, was a doll. She hung her stocking the night before as always, and the next morning went sleepy-eyed into the living room. Her stocking was empty. But below it, in a box on the floor, was her very own doll.
"It was a big doll, and wouldn't fit in the stocking," Sanders says. "The body was filled with something like wood chips, and her hair was painted on."
And it was beautiful.
"I was very happy when I saw that doll," Sanders smiles. "I clutched her and wouldn't let Rufus and Marion see it. I held her a long time; I think I must have held her most of the day."
The brothers got a little wagon; one would ride while the other pulled, and then they'd switch. But Mary played alone with her doll, putting it to bed in its box.
Where the doll came from remains a mystery. Such toys weren't readily available in Harlem at the time. Sanders' aunt, who had traveled to New York, may have brought the doll.
"We were lucky children," Sanders recalls, the memory of that Christmas morning undimmed by eight decades, and untarnished by the sadness of December.
- Barry Paschal
Jeff Carney, principal of Greenbrier Middle School
Jeff Carney still gets picked on about how cheap he was, even at four or five years old.
"The first present I remember giving my mom was when I was about four or five years old," he said. "Sometime way before Thanksgiving I took her hair curlers, which she used every night, and I put them in a shoe box and hid them. Then on Christmas night, I had them wrapped, probably in newspaper."
On the big day, she unwrapped the box.
"She said, 'Oh, there are my hair curlers,"' he said. "I thought I had done something, given her a present. To this day she jokes about that, how cheap I am."
Now, Carney has children of his own - Jeffery, 7, and Emory, 4 - and memories with his kids are some his favorites.
"It's just the best time of the year," he said.
- Melissa Hall
Mickey Derrick, Greenbrier High School athletic director and head football coach
Mickey Derrick didn't hesitate when asked to recall his favorite Christmas memory.
"The best Christmas memory I have would be 1976," Derrick said. "That's when my wife and I got married. That was a very nice Christmas for me. Nothing has ever been better, except when our daughter was born."
Mickey and future-wife Corliss Grinstead both attended North Augusta High School, and they stuck together as students at Clemson University. The best friends became man and wife on Dec. 18, 1976, at First Baptist Church in North Augusta.
The newlyweds packed up for a honeymoon at Callaway Gardens, Ga., but soon repacked their bags for a return trip to North Augusta.
"It was kind of funny, because we were going to be on our honeymoon for a whole week," Mickey said. "After a couple of nights, we cut it short because we wanted to celebrate Christmas with all of our friends and relatives.
"So we came back home on Christmas Eve and put up a Christmas tree. We decided we could have our honeymoon later."
The Derrick's just marked their 25th wedding anniversary this month.
"I've got it made because I can't forget any of the main anniversaries a guy is supposed to remember," coach Derrick says. "My wife's birthday is Dec. 14, our anniversary in on the 18th, and Christmas is on the 25th."
- Mike Howell
Lee Chomskis, Evans High School athletic director and head football coach
In 1997, Lee Chomskis learned the significance of the holiday song "I'll be Home for Christmas."
That was the year when Evans High School's athletic director and head football coach awoke Dec. 25 and savored his most precious gifts: wife Candace, son Will, and daughter Jacqueline.
"There have been so many Christmas memories, and they've changed throughout the years," Chomskis said. "But I tell you what, this may sound corn-ballish as heck, but my favorite Christmas memory was probably when I had Will, Jacqueline and Candace all together at Christmas for the first time."
Before 1997, Chomskis says he and Candace traditionally traveled for Christmas visits with relatives.
"When my daughter was born we decided it was time to stay home," he said. "Our first Christmas when we woke up and Santa Claus had come to our house was a very special Christmas for me. That was special because that's my family and our house."
The Chomskis family now has a standard holiday tradition. They spend Christmas morning at their Columbia County residence and then head to a family members' home for lunch.
- Mike Howell
Steve Morris, Columbia County sheriff's Captain
For Steve Morris, Christmas is all about spending time with his family close to home.
"Probably overall, the most important thing that I can say has been a real blessing has been spending time not only with my family, my mother and father, but with my wife's family," he said, adding that his parents and his wife's parents live only 10 miles away from his family's home.
Morris said he's enjoyed the family gatherings ever since he and his wife first began dating.
"We've had a tradition the past 20 years where every Christmas Eve, we spend time with her family and every Christmas day we spend time with my family...To have both sets of parents surviving and for us to be able to do that is a blessing."
- Preston Sparks
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.