Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson

For those of us with multiple decades behind us as we continue our personal journeys toward some inevitable end, it seems the compulsion increases to reminisce about the time known as the Holiday Season. Or maybe it is just me.

How the marked days at the end of the calendar year, being Halloween, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, were observed and celebrated have evolved over the decades, but one constant when growing up in Greenfield remained. I think I speak here for many of my contemporaries when I say we primarily viewed Thanksgiving and Christmas as time away from school. We left a half day on Wednesday not to return until Monday, this short Turkey Day break leading up to the two glorious weeks of Christmas Vacation, its importance noted by the capitalization of the word vacation. 

And though no days free from the classroom came with Halloween, it nonetheless was a greatly anticipated night with enough buzz about costumes and what houses gave the best “treats” to divert from the normal campus atmosphere. After scurrying around the streets dressed in costumes, as often as not homemade over purchased, we would be loaded with treats made in the home, such as candied apples, popcorn balls, cookies, brownies, rice crispy squares and other delectables; these were later included in school lunch sacks.

Today, the big change is no one makes homemade goodies to be handed out on doorsteps after some devilish altering of treats, including lacing with lysergic diethylamide (LSD) and in some cases razor blades. And now many towns have gatherings, such as Trunk or Treat, where parents bring kiddies to the treats all in one location.

Thanksgiving break in Greenfield back in the ’60s always meant at least one big football game played on the school grounds (that would, of course, be the only campus in town at the time) where the ages varied from 6 and 7 years to teens, some already in high school. More often than not the large playfield, now covered with cement, asphalt and buildings, was wet enough to make the grounds soft, slippery and, when tackled, quite muddy. And it was tackle football, but care was taken by those older to “go easy” on younger players; we were an inclusive group of boys back then.

During school only flag football was allowed, so to find a way around this restriction a game evolved, which was a sort of football-soccer-rugby amalgam of players dubbed “smear.” (This got to be such a rowdy and frankly dangerous game one of the playground monitors had it outlawed; the campus is now named for that fine lady but, I assure you, not for just that one act. But I digress.)

The Christmas and New Year combo was one of the Big Three school breaks, along with the week-long Easter Vacation and the granddaddy Summer Vacation filling a full three months, which we looked forward to with building anticipation. Both a secular and religious time, Christmas meant equal amounts of mixed blessings.

In the old church where my family, sans my father (who never expressed any views on any religion in all the time I knew him) we had a special service, like most all churches in town did. It was during one of these services I first donned a costume and appeared in front of an audience. My mother was the Sunday School teacher and cast me in the role of a silent shepherd (the speaking roles of Joseph and the Magi she gave to others; I think to not show favoritism) and that little role was the beginning of a long stretch of costumes and roles in venues small and large, with one committed role to go.

I should explain my reference to “the old church” above. I mean the building, not the church affiliation (Methodist) but the actual building. I cannot remember how many years ago, at least 15 for sure, that I attended its 100th anniversary as an active church; and is still an active church. It really is a jewel in the heart of Greenfield and should be declared an historic building … but I digress. 

Most Christmas believing faiths in town had special programs or outreaches; one had a Singing Christmas Tree in their parking lot and others sent carolers into the community. The singing tree was a wooden A-frame, with three levels above the ground, each level with room for a descending number of singers, and each fronted by thin plywood painted to resemble a tree. If 10 singers were at ground level, then there were maybe seven above them, then four then two singers at the top level. It was a great addition to the season and I recall attending a couple of the presentations. 

My church did not have roving carolers, but for a couple Christmases I sat on bales of hay atop a flatbed trailer pulled through the main town area (which was mostly Fifth to 11th streets, Walnut to Elm avenues) with the 4-H Club carolers. Such activity today would never pass any safety requirement put forth by any authority, but we had fun and no one died. As for that, neither would one of those activities we engaged in during Halloween parties: bobbing for apples. The idea of one person after another repeatedly putting their noses and open mouths in the same water would make any medical person’s head explode.

I’m nearing my word allotment so only one quick look back at New Year’s Eve activities. I’ll skip egg and tomato fights, some epic. But I will include the run of years when a neighbor armed us with a couple shotguns and shells with shot removed and replaced with flour. We youngsters got to blast off one shot at midnight. Other guns could be heard across the town. Not fireworks. Shotguns. Try that now and see what happens.

Have a safe New Year.

Take care. Peace.

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].


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