Memorable Christmases

These are memorable Christmases submitted by relatives near and far to both Karol and Ted.

Karol Armstrong

Vineland, NJ

Christmas Memories:

I can’t think of one Christmas that stands out but a collection of memories through the years.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent at Grandmom’s house.  The whole family was there.  I don’t know whether I remember “the boys” coming home from the e War or if it was my mother and grandmother talking about it.  Either way, when I hear the song “Home for the Holiday’s”, I think of my uncles, Vernon, Cook, and Bill in their uniforms and being home for Christmas.  I can picture Grandmom’s house with a tall tree by the stairway.  I remember putting decorations and tinsel on the top by standing on the stairway.  I remember helping Grandmom cut out and decorate the sugar cookies and the gingerbread men.  I remember the home made pumpkin pie and her beating the whip cream.  Boy was that good.  I remember the year she tried “Ready Whip”  and Uncle Billy squirted it all over the kitchen.  I remember Uncle Bud making home made ice cream.  Grandmom also made Oyster Stuffing one of her specialties.  Let’s not forget Uncle Bud’s famous compliment, “Mom, This is the best meal I ever tasted.”

One year, the adults were playing scrabble and the word OMIT was on the board and Uncle Billy put a V in front of it.  Everyone howled with laughter.  

When I was 6 years old, I got a big baby doll for Christmas and I named her Carol for Christmas Carol.  I brought her to Grandmom’s and Uncle Bud said, “That’s a Plump doll; what’s her name?”

When I told him her name was Carol he called her Carol Plump and the name stuck.  From then on, my doll’s name was Carol Plump.

Each year on Black Friday, we would take the Trolley Car into Philadelphia to see Santa Claus in Strawbridge’s.  The line was horrendous but the kids all patiently waited their turn to sit on Santa’s lap and give him their list.  We would visit all the stores; Litt Bros, Gimbels, Snelllenburg’s and Wanamaker’s.  All had spectacular displays.  The Carolers would be in City Hall and the Organ would play in Wanamaker’s.  Ricky and Don would pick out the train they wanted from Santa Claus.

Trains were always a part of Christmas.  From the time I was very young, I helped my brother, Rick put up the trains.  We would be up late on Christmas Eve trimming the tree and getting the trains set ready.  Momma would read “Twas the Night Before Christmas and then Don would hurry up and go to bed so that Santa Claus would come quicker.  Momma would make Toll House Cookies and Dad would make Egg Nog.  Momma’s friend Frances would visit with her husband, John.   Momma would order me to bed when it got late and she was tired.  I would lay on my bed upside down watching out the window for Santa and the reindeer to come flying through the cold winter sky.  I was terrified he would come down our chimney and land in the furnace.  I hoped he knew to come out of the register in the living room before getting to the furnace.  One year, we bought a cardboard fireplace for him.

When I was a little older, I would sit at the card table at Grandmom’s with my younger cousins and help them with their dinner.  After dinner, of course was gift time.  We always looked forward to Uncle Vernon’s gift.  He picked out a toy or game that was just great.  One year, I got a Sorry game.  Don and I played with Jan and Alan.  Alan was only about 3 years old.  He was winning until he got near the end and landed on the long chute and went all the way to the bottom.  We all laughed and he looked like he wanted to cry but was too proud to do so.  I think he hated that game ever since.

Bud would sing “Hark the HAROLD Angels Singing” and “Is the turkey burning, Vernon”.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

- Karol Armstrong



Bob Orrell - Karol's Second Cousin

Daytona Beach, FL


     My most memorable Christmas will always be Christmas 1966. I had been in Qui Nhon, Vietnam for 11 months and wasn't sure if I would ever see my family again. My mom sent me a small metal Christmas tree that folds up to about a foot high. With no ornaments to be found, we made them out of Hamm's beer cans! Of course, everyone had their "goody boxes" from home to share that Christmas. One of the guys played guitar, so we did our best

with some Christmas carols and goodies from home. It turned out to be a very special Christmas.

- Bob Orrell



Kathy Swift - Ted's Sister

Lowell, MI


     I don't have one certain Christmas that stands out, just memories of how Christmas was special when we lived on the farm. 


     I still can't believe that I honestly believed in Santa's reindeer for as long as I did.  All because my dad went outside when it was dark (I was out in the barn with everyone else) and came down the driveway with his red handkerchief over a flashlight & jingling bells along the way.  I was sure that it was Rudolf, for the longest time. 


     Then we always had to leave a plate of cookies for Santa.  Of course, Santa's favorites were chocolate stars, and he always had to have a big glass of milk.


     It always seemed like an eternity to have to wait until everyone was done out in the barn.  Then we would open gifts on Christmas Eve.  They were always fond memories.

- Kathy Swift



Suzanne Cook - Ted's Niece



     One Christmas, before going to church, my dad put a turkey in the oven for dinner.  Then we left for church.  As we did, we passed through the kitchen on our way out.


     When we came home, we noticed the oven door was wide open. It could not open easily, especially by itself. If we had left it open before leaving, we would have noticed, when we passed by on our way out the door. We also found that our bathroom and basement doors were shut.  We never shut these doors because that's where the cats' litter boxes were kept.


     Wondering if someone had broken into our house for some strange prank, we looked out the window. A fresh coating of snow had fallen the night before, so if someone had broken into our house, we would have seen foot prints. But there were no foot prints and all our exterior doors were still locked.


     Needless to say, the turkey took a lot longer to cook.  We never did find a good reason for everything that occurred!

- Suzanne Cook



Bill McConnell - Karol's Uncle

Merit Island, FL

     My most memorable Christmas was in 1943. I was an eighteen-year-old Marine in a weapons company preparing to go into the war in the Pacific. Our base was Camp Pendleton, California and most of the men in my company had gone on liberty, mostly to Los Angeles. This was my first Christmas away from home and all it took was a Christmas carol on the radio to make me homesick.

     A few of us were in the barracks on Christmas eve and my friend "Red" Malok must have noticed that we were a pretty sad group. Later that evening, Red appeared and asked for a hand to bring some things in from his jeep. Red had arranged for the Mess Sergeant to prepare a special Christmas party for us. We had a complete turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and I don't recall what else. We celebrated Christmas that night right there in the barracks. Red had malaria from his time on Guadalcanal with the First Marine Division. Though a member of our machine gun platoon, he was temporarily given light duty as a jeep driver. He was always doing things for the troops in his platoon. He died at my side on Tinian on the first day of the battle.

- Bill McConnell


Donna Branca - Karol's Cousin

Wynnwood , PA

     One of my fondest memories, when we were growing up, was Christmas Eve. We would put the tree up every Christmas Eve (trees were a lot cheaper on Christmas Eve - and with six kids, that's important!).  We would move the dining room table into the living room and eat dinner in front of the fireplace with the Christmas tree lit. It was just my parents and us six kids.  It is a tradition that leaves very fond memories for me.

     Speaking of trees, although my brother Scott probably wouldn't want me to tell this story, I love it. One year, Mom gave Scott some money to go get us a Christmas tree and he came back with the most beautiful tree we ever had.  It turns out that he cut it down in the woods across the street from my parent's house. He kept the money and bought Mom a real nice Christmas present that year! Scott was a little mischievous, but always well intended!

- Donna Branca


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