How did our family of seven celebrate the holidays in the 50's with a stay-at-home mom and a dad who worked as a clerk for the Department of Agriculture? On the cheap, of course.
It was always a challenge for mom and dad to create fun times that cost little or no money. However, they usually met, or exceeded, the challenge.
One very special holiday event was the Saturday trip to the woods to find a Christmas tree. We'd bundle up, or wear shorts and a T-shirt. (Remember, I'm from Louisiana). Dad'd get the ax, saw, clippers, rope, etc., etc. and we'd all pile into the car. The four girls stuffed into the big back seat of the black '53 Plymouth like pimentos in olives. Little brother sat in front, between mom and dad. No seat belts were needed back then 'cause the automobiles were built like Sherman tanks. And anyway, nobody had ever thought of any seat belt.
When dad'd find a good spot in the woods, he'd park, we'd pop out and scatter. It was a coup to be the one to find the "perfect" tree. "Here," one of us'd yell. "No... over here," another'd cry out. Finding the tree was important, but being in the woods, running up and down hills, playing hide n' seek, chasing each other was equally important.
The found tree would be lashed to the top of the plymouth with ropes going through all the windows and finally secured at the front and back bumpers. Car bumpers in the 50's were very substantial - made out of metal not cheap plastic - so our tree was safe.
On the ride home mom'd start singing and we'd all chime in with Deck the Hall, Jingle Bells, and an attempt at Silent Night. Soon, though, the kids'd be drifting off to sleep. Dad'd stretch his arm across the back seat, over little bro's bowed head, to fold into mom's. As I sat in back seat, dosing, I'd watch dad gently rub mom's hand.
We'd get home and, inevitably, the tree would be too tall and, often, too wide to go through the door. Dad'd end up having to make many "adjustments". These adjustments were usually accompanied by lotsa "god-damn-son-of-a-bitches", "shit-fire-and-safe-the-matches", etc.
By the time Dad'd finally get the "tannenbaum" in the house, in a stand, and watered, it'd be bed time. And, a firm, "No", would be the answer to our pleadings to stay up late and start decorating. Mom or Dad would allege that, "You're all too tired." But, truth be told, mom and dad were the exhausted ones.
Seasons Greetings, Miss Althea!