University of Nevada, Reno




The best Christmases ever

By Richard 



The Christmas of 1966 was one of the most memorable for Joy and I and even the children. To this day they mention it at Christmas time. Probably because it was the first Christmas we were together after my spending a year in Thailand without the family.

We were in Ipswich England, living in temporary quarters at the Burstall Hotel. We bought a small tree and, since none of our household goods had arrived from the States, we had to make our own decorations. A fun family project, cutting out strips of colored paper, making circles, pasting a string of them together. Stringing cranberries, drawing pictures to hang instead of bulbs. It was a scene straight out of the story books.


When it was all done, the children were very proud of their handiwork and so were Joy and I. For the first time I felt like I was finally home and we were a family once again.

San Diego

My Dad was a maintenance man at a school camp in the mountains near San Diego. On this Christmas, he volunteered to stay in camp as watchman. Our entire extended family decided we would go up on Christmas Eve. Joy and I brought along a couple of GIs from the base. They drove their own car. That made it eighteen in all.


With all the packages and three kids crammed in the pick-up camper, we continued to San Diego. Arriving late, we picked up Mom with her car, my brother Larry and his family as well as Joy’s sister-in-law and her two. We made a convoy and headed up to camp. We stopped in El Cajon and obtained a tree. It was nearing midnight and the tree lots were closed. On the way up the mountain, Mom’s car overheated and we had to leave it and come back for it in the morning.


We did get the tree and all the packages out of her car and loaded them into the other vehicles. The tree was huge and everyone gathered around to help decorate. That’s eighteen decorators. Well I guess a couple of us abstained. Someone had to supervise. Most of the decorations were made on the spot by the children.


There is a magic about Christmas and that magic is magnified when the family gathers and makes their own decorations. We strung popcorn and made a chain out of colored paper glued into rings. That tree would not make the Good Housekeeping Magazine, but to us it was beautiful.


The presents placed around the tree extended for about twelve feet in all directions. It was early in the morning when that task was finished and the women and girls were assigned to one dorm and the boys another. These dorms were open bay. All were exhausted and sleep came quickly.


In the morning it was chaos. Wrapping paper everywhere. Expressions of joy and squeals of delight from the children. Smiles on everyone’s faces.


The ladies cooked a great Christmas Dinner and while that was going on the men kept an eye on the children. You see the nearby pond had a monkey bridge and all the children regardless of age had to walk across it. They considered it a rite of passage.


Sleep did not come so easily that second night. It was a real slumber party with the children talking and giggling, running around in their dorms. Tomorrow we would be leaving that magic place and return to our usual routines.

We would also spend Easter weekends at that camp. Lots of eggs to hide and lots of room to hide them. The children hunting the eggs and candy with a little help from the dog. Another feast provided by the ladies and again that obligatory walk across the monkey bridge.


Today there is a strong tie between our children and their cousins. I believe it is because of that Monkey Bridge. I am absolutely certain it held some kind of magic.


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