When I was a kid, the weeks before Christmas my brothers and I pored over the Sears Christmas Catalog. What a wondrous book it was, filled with photos of electric trains and wood burning sets, air rifles and books for boys. Also shoe skates (ours clamped on the shoes we had) and skis. Fancy skis with a contraption that fit around the backs of your boots so the skis did not come off.
In those days, the waning years of the Depression and World War II, my brothers and I could each pick one special thing we wanted for Christmas. Beyond that special thing, we received new socks, maybe a sweater, a new cap with ear laps, or even a new Mackinaw coat if ours had worn out.
When I was twelve I asked for a new pair of skis. I picked out the exact ones I wanted from the Sears wish book.
We did not open presents on Christmas morning until we had milked the cows, fed the chickens, carried in wood and did the other necessary farm chores. When we got to the presents there were no skis for me under the tree. Merely some new mittens, a blue flannel shirt, and a pair of wool socks. I said nothing. Disappointment visited our family often during those years.
--I have forgotten something--, Pa said, with a smile on his face. He walked out to the pump house and brought in a pair of skis. He handed them to me. --You wondering about these? --he said.
One ski was brown and one was black; apparently something had happened to the other brown one and other black one so Mr. Hotz at Hotz Hardware in Wild Rose said Pa could have them for half price. Color did not matter much to me. They did not have any fancy bindings, merely leather straps that fit over my boots. No matter. I now had a pair of store-bought skis to replace the home-made ones my Grandpa Witt had made of birch boards he had steamed and bent up on the ends.
It was a Very Merry Christmas.
THE OLD TIMER REMEMBERS WHAT HIS MOTHER OFTEN SAID: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
January 14, 9:00 AM, WTMJ 4 TV, Milwaukee. Old Farm featured.
January 19, 6:00 PM, Portage (Columbia County) Historical Society dinner, Old Farm featured. Call 608-742-1445 for further information.
January 30, Viroqua Public Schools.