Christmas Day 2005 has arrived, bringing with it family celebrations all over Columbia County - and creating the stuff of future memories.
At the beginning of the Christmas season, News-Times staffers fanned out across the county asking a variety of officials and residents to offer a story of their favorite Christmas memory of years past.
Those stories are published today, on Christmas. May all your celebrations today be memorable.
Jennifer Randolph-Ellis senior, Greenbrier High School, Evans
December of 1998 was probably no different to the accustomed residents of Evans, but to me, an enthusiastic 10-year-old, that December held a special meaning.
Christmas was the most important holiday in my family for years. It was also my favorite. Growing up in a military family, we constantly moved, usually living on the military base, which many know does not happen to have the best of living conditions.
My mom made Christmas great anyway. We always had a tree, usually artificial, our usual Christmas meal and something to unwrap under the tree. We usually hung our stockings on our dining room chairs for a lack of a fireplace, which was the biggest disappointment to me. I always wanted a fireplace to hang my stocking at. I mean, how could Santa Claus get down the heater? It just didn't quite fulfill my holiday needs.
Moving to Evans meant new things. When we moved here in July, my parents bought a quaint little house, which offered a cozy, homey atmosphere. I was psyched. We had barely even moved all of the furniture in and still had mounds of boxes in the garage when the Christmas season sprang upon us.
We bought a tree, a real one this time, and pulled our decorations out of the moving mess. We hung lights in the windows and on one of the trees outside. It was magnificent.
But, in the end, my favorite part of all the Christmas cheer was being able to hang my stocking at a true fireplace.
Looking back now, eight years later, as I get ready to graduate in the spring and move onto college, I realize how lucky I have been, and how I finally got the perfect Christmas.
William Scholly, Retired broadcaster, Evans
For Christmas of 1950, the Army sent me orders to Korea. I got as far as Pusan, where I was redirected to Okinawa. Returning in the late summer of 1952, I visited my wife, Helen, and two children (Billy, 5, Elaine, 2) in Clinton, Iowa, for two weeks. I enjoyed seeing the family and the new house Helen had built while I was gone.
Then, it was off to a school at Fort Benning, Ga. While there, I was assigned to the Infantry School staff. Quarters were to be available in January. Helen rented the house in Iowa and, the week before Christmas, went to my folks' in Washington, D.C., where I joined them, arriving on a Saturday.
Early Monday morning, Dec. 22, the phone rang. It was Helen's brother, Joe. Her father, who had just passed an insurance examination on Saturday, had died of a heart attack at his office desk about 7:30. Because of us, the funeral would be scheduled for Friday, the day after Christmas.
Due to an unfortunate war-time experience, Helen hadn't flown since. So, leaving the children in D.C., we took the train, arriving in Clinton on the 24th. After a somber Christmas, the funeral Mass was held on Friday. Because of snow and extreme cold, the burial had to be delayed and we took the train back to Washington a day or two later.
Pam Tucker, Columbia County Emergency Services director, Evans
My most memorable Christmas occurred on Christmas Day in 1957. I had been in University Hospital for a few weeks leading up to Christmas after being diagnosed with leukemia.
My parents were told that nothing could be done, but more tests showed that it wasn't leukemia after all. After a blood transfusion and other treatments, I was sent home just a couple of days before Christmas. I couldn't get hurt, so the doctors told my parents that I could not have the wagon, tricycle and other fun things that Santa had planned to bring me.
On Christmas morning, my older sister, Sharon, and I snuck out of bed at 4 a.m. to go see what Santa had left us under the tree.
We groped in the dark and found a couple of dolls Santa left us, and ran into the bathroom to take a look. We turned on the light and I quickly noted that my new Angela Cartwright doll had "frinkles." My sister started laughing at that comment, and the doll, which started me laughing. The harder she laughed, the harder I laughed.
That went on until my mom finally entered to tell us to go back to bed.
Sharon and I both still remember that like it was yesterday. She later told me that much of her laughter was just happiness that I was well and back home. To me, it was a special moment with my big sister. That was better than a wagon or tricycle any day.
Capt. Steve Morris, Columbia County, Sheriff's Office, Appling
Until my parents passed away, I always spent Christmas at their home in Harlem, where I was born and raised Our home was full of comfort, warmth, and happiness.
At Christmas, I have always been able to escape the daily grind of the real world, allowing me to truly enjoy several peaceful moments in time. These memories from my childhood make Christmas a holiday that is special to me and my family.
It is a time for my family to get together, share stories, laugh, and even cry.
Robin Root, Harlem Mayor Pro Tem, Harlem
One night my parents had gone to a Christmas party, so as the oldest of four children and, of course, wanting to satisfy our curiosity of what was under the Christmas tree ...
My plan was simple. The neighbor boy was willing to give us insight to what our presents were - for a price. The coast was clear, the parents were gone and he came over. He shook and sized up the gifts as we anxiously waited for his answer. After carefully agonizing each gift, he gave his response. "These are ice-skates." Oh, how excited we would get! "This is an Atari game." More excitement.
Upon finalizing our deal, he left and the parents came home. It was only two days until Christmas; we made plans for these fantastic gifts in secret. Christmas morning came, only to bring an ounce of disappointment because everything the neighbor boy said was not true. We got some great presents, just not the ones we thought we were getting.
Needless to say, we did not ask for his assistance again.
Todd Baldwin, Grovetown Water and Sewer director, Harlem
I can't remember my age, 10-13 years old. My mother and stepfather had gotten me a trampoline. Well, the mat was too small and there were not enough springs to go on it, so I had to wait about a week before I was able to play on it. To make matters worse, that was the year it got extremely cold on Christmas Eve and my parents had hidden all my other gifts in the trunk of the car, and the lock on the trunk froze. So, I didn't get any of my other gifts until the next day when the trunk lock thawed.
Worse things have happened on Christmas to me, but that is the one that sticks out in my mind.
Roxanne Whitaker, Columbia County School Board member, Harlem
I love Christmas - the lights, the music, the shopping, the atmosphere and the family gatherings. I think my memories come in stages based on certain times of my life.
As a child, I loved the excitement of what Christmas morning would bring - the anticipation of what Santa brought me and what he brought my sister and my cousins. Every Christmas morning, my aunt and her family gathered with us at my mom's for breakfast and opening presents.
Christmas night, we would travel to Appling and have Christmas with my daddy's family. We would eat and then open more presents. The adults would sit around talking and the children would be trying out their new toys.
I cherish all the little traditions we have started since I have had my children, such as picking out the "big" tree on Saturday following Thanksgiving, each child decorating the big tree with "their" ornaments, putting up six or seven other "little" trees throughout our house, sitting on Santa's lap with my children, making Christmas cookies and candies, shopping till we dropped, the Christmas Eve "slumber party" and, of course, our Christmas morning gathering at my mom's.
Every Christmas morning, Raven, Jordan and Liza would run into our bedroom and wake Mark and me up at 4 a.m., and together we would go downstairs to see what Santa had left. Christmas night, we traveled to Appling but we had to make a stop along Columbia Road to have Christmas with Mark's family before we ventured on up to Dozier Road to my daddy's old home place.
Now that I have "matured" and have a grandchild, I cannot wait to see her excitement this Christmas morning. Even though she is 13 months old, this will be her first "real" Christmas
This year at my mom's, we will have two new babies - Ragen and Gracyn, my sister's daughter who will be a year old on Dec. 29. This is going to be an exciting morning to watch these two discover Christmas at Shirl's and June's, as my parents are affectionately called.
Over the years, the dynamics of my family have changed - my Grandmother and Grandfather Tankersley, Uncle Hamy and my MaMa have all passed away, we have added some new faces and removed a few others. But the importance of sharing Christmas with my family still lingers on each year.
Bridget Gorta, Junior, Greenbrier High School, Evans
It was Christmas 1996, and I was 7 years old. Our family went to celebrate the holiday at my Grandma Viv's house to see our cousins, aunts and uncles as we always did when we lived up in New York.
Like any other Christmas, we opened presents and ate another delicious meal cooked by Grandma. After the festivities ended, a majority of my family cleared out, and my intermediate family, Grandma Viv, Aunt Kathleen and Aunt Patricia were the only ones left.
All of a sudden, Aunt Kathleen turned on the record player and "bah, buh, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bada, buh," resounded in the dining room. It was the beginning of the song I Think I Love You by The Partridge Family.
Immediately, everybody, including Grandma, joined in to sing and dance and sang especially loud to the phrase, "I think I love you." I stood up on the dining room chairs and waved my hands and sang and danced with my aunts.
Mom rocked happily back and forth with my little brother Garrett in her arms. If anybody were to walk into the room, they would easily decipher that it was completely filled with pure jubilance.
As I look back on this moment with nostalgia, I see it as a reflection of the whole-hearted Christmas spirit and love for one another that we share in the Gorta family, regardless of how chaotic it can be at times.
Scott Dean, Mayor, Harlem
When I was 8 or 9, I got my first bike for Christmas. I got up at 5 a.m. and opened all of my presents, and no bike.
My mom said she thought she remembered sounds coming from the bathroom the night before. So, I walked down and checked the hall to the bathroom and it was dark. I slowly walked down the hall and peeked into the bathroom. There was nothing there.
She sent me back to look into the shower. The curtain was pulled so I could not see into the stall. I peeked into the stall and all I saw was the tire, and it looked like a monster to me. I ran out of there and refused to go back. Finally, my dad dragged me into the bathroom and pulled back the curtain to show the new, jet-black Huffy bike.
Charles Nagle, Columbia County Associate School, Superintendent, Martinez
If I were to choose one special year, it would be a recent Christmas that all of my immediate family vacationed at Keystone, Colo.
It was also my granddaughter's first Christmas.
We had all our gifts shipped so everything would be ready for our arrival. We had a corner condo on the second floor overlooking a 5-acre frozen lake, better known as the village ice-skating rink.
From our balcony and windows we could watch all the festivities of the season, including the snow-covered mountains that surrounded us.
On Christmas Eve, we braved the wintery weather and walked to a nearby church to continue our tradition of attending church services. This year, though, being away from home and having my family with me that evening in this setting made it even more spiritual and, of course, memorable.
Amanda Wicklum, Evans
When I was about 5 years old - and an only child - I was "helping" my mom and dad decorate the family Christmas tree. After helping with many ornaments, and waiting until the end to add the tree topper, I was told many, many times not to touch the tree topper.
"It is very delicate," my mother said. "It will break."
Of course, I had to touch it. Well I did - and I broke it. I quickly left our living room, telling mom and dad that I was not feeling well. I went to my bedroom and got into bed. A few minutes later, my mom and dad came in, with the tree topper in hand. My dad asked, "Are you still not feeling well?" I started to cry and said I was sorry.
Each year, for 32 years, I am reminded of the story of the little girl who kept wanting to help and ended up breaking the topper - and then became mysteriously sick.
Thanks, mom and dad, for all those memories.
David Daughtry, Mayor Pro Tem, Grovetown
One Christmas that brings back some fond memories was the Christmas of 1995.
My son, "Little" David, was 6 at the time and he was so excited about all the gifts, like most children his age are. When it came his turn to open his gifts, he was just bubbling over. He opened the first gift and loudly exclaimed 'Oh, boy, socks! I got new socks!" then it was on to the next: "Wow, underwear! I got new underwear!"
You see, my mom always wanted to make sure that we all had new, clean underwear in case we were ever in an accident. I tried to tell her if I was ever in an accident that would send me to the hospital I would probably mess them up anyway!
David continued opening his gifts with the same excitement in his voice until the last one was opened.
The reason the Christmas of 1995 stands out so much is the excitement of opening the gifts. In February, my mom got to go spend eternity with the greatest gift ever given: the Father sending his Son so we could spend eternity with him in heaven. It is my prayer that all of you that read this will open the gift of Jesus Christ. And if you do, at Christmastime in heaven my mom will give you new underwear!
Michael Wolff, Martinez
My most memorable Christmas will always be Christmas of 1968. My family and I lived at the time in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. We certainly did not have a lot of luxuries back then, but my parents always managed to make the holidays special for me and my sister.
The fondest memory of that time was helping my mother make Christmas tree ornaments. Made from plaster of Paris and poured into molds, the ornaments had all sorts of unique shapes and designs, including a Santa, snowman, and even a gingerbread man.
Although only a few of those ornaments have survived through the years, the remainder have been passed onto me and still hold a special place on my Christmas tree - and in my heart.
Inez Wylds, Former Augusta Council member, Appling
Despite being a child of the Depression and money being tight, Christmas was still a special time, Wylds said.
"We always got at least one thing we really wished for," she said.
When her children were nearing their teenage years, Wylds said, she and her husband purchased their first color TV as a surprise gift for the family.
For years, the Wylds put a small Christmas tree on top of a table, draped in cloth with presents all around, she said.
"(That particular year) we put the color television in (the living room) and put the tree on it," she said. "Color televisions at that time were very expensive.
"When they came out ... there wasn't a whole lot under the Christmas tree."
Wylds said her children's faces dropped.
"Just (the sight of ) the dejection on their faces," Wylds recalled, "they were sitting around and they couldn't figure it out. So finally we said 'look under the Christmas tree.'"
Immediately her children's spirits lifted.
"That was an exciting time," she said. "It would be nothing to somebody today. It was just the dejection on their faces and at that certain point, pointing out to them and it just changed the whole atmosphere."
The Rev. Dan White, Pastor, Shiloh United Methodist Church, Winfield
I had been serving a new church near Wilkes-Barre, Pa. My (first) marriage came apart at the first part of 1983. I came back home to North Augusta and I met Joyce, who would become my wife, at First Baptist Church of Augusta. That Christmas of 1983, I had lost my two children (to divorce), my job, my career, pretty much everything. I was trying to rebuild my life and start over again. I was broke as well. The neat thing I remember that Joyce got me that Christmas was a new pair of shoes and a new suit. She invited me over and she had a 5-year-old daughter named Kelly and just helped me get my self-image back and made me feel very special.
It's a Christmas that I will never forget. Eventually, in June 1984 we married. We've been together for 22 years this Christmas.
Leeann Fleischauer, Columbia County Teacher of the Year, Appling
I suppose my favorite part of all the Christmas seasons I had growing up were the times spent with my family and my sisters.
Christmas was always an exciting time for me as a child, because I knew that I would be opening presents on that day. I remember the uncontainable excitement I felt because I was getting something new.
I grew up a sharecropper's daughter in the delta of Arkansas. Most things I received were either handed down from my older sister or made by my mother, and although money was scarce back then, my parents made sure that our Christmases were filled with much love, joy and a feeling of togetherness.
I remember getting ready for bed early on Christmas Eve because my sisters and I knew that Santa would be arriving soon. I especially remember my younger sister, Pam, and me running to my parent's bedroom window looking into the night sky for Santa's sled. Sure enough, each year we would see a flashing red light in the distance. We just knew it was Rudolph. So, we would hurry off to bed, but not for long, because in the wee hours of the morning, I would quietly sneak down the hall to Pam's bedroom and whisper, "Pam are you up?" Then she and I would go into the living room and explode with excitement in awe of the things that Santa had brought us.
There we would sit under the tree in the still of the morning, laughing and playing with our new things until we made enough noise to awaken our parents.
Those toys have been lost through the years and my sister is with the angels, but this memory of simplicity, peace and love will stay with me always.
Carla Allen, Appling
The Christmas that stands out most, aside from each one I have had with my children, is the Christmas when I was 8 or 9 years old. We had only been in our house about a year. My mom was a single mother, so my uncle often spent the night on Christmas Eve. This particular year both my Uncle Tere and my mother's cousin, Benji, stayed over to "wait on Santa" with my mom.
My sister Amanda was always the one who woke up first. It was the rule that we all had to see our gifts together. So, she usually came in my room around 3 or 4 in the morning with our baby sister, Jennifer, tagging along behind. I got up and followed her in the living room.
Santa must have brought some sort of tennis or badminton set, I'm not sure which now, and in our living room at 3 in the morning there was our Uncle Tere and Benji playing badminton across the fold-out sofa. We had the most fun that morning (in the middle of the night). I don't remember what else we got that year. I just remember how much fun we had waking up to find grown men playing with our toys and then playing with us till dawn, much to my mother's dismay.
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