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Memories of Christmases Past

The holidays, more than any other time of the year, are steeped in tradition and each family has their own. KSMU’s Emma Wilson sought out three older Springfield residents to share their memories of Christmas past.

Though the face of the Ozarks has changed dramatically in the past 70 years, many of our Christmas traditions have remained the same. I talked to three women who grew up in the Ozarks at a time when almost the entire region was still very rural and they shared with me these memories of their Christmases growing up.First is Edna Fayewalker. She grew up on a farm in Oregon County, Missouri.

She said, “We lived on a—it was a big 365 acre ranch that belonged to Sam Grisham from West Plains Missouri. He owned a lot of cattle and my dad took care of everything and we lived there in his house. And they’d go out and cut a cedar tree and we would decorate it on Christmas Eve. And we had a big meal. My mother was a wonderful cook. My brothers all played guitars and we all sang songs. [We would] play and sing, ‘Country Christmas.’”

Another woman tells her story, “I’m Irene Emerson from Reeds Spring, Missouri. And then, we always had a Christmas tree. Now of course, we didn’t have any money then. We were lucky to get one orange or an apple and maybe a little, tiny sack of candy in our sock. And that’s all we had for Christmas but we always had a tree and we would do our own…stringing popcorn and putting it around the tree for lights, I guess. Anyway, it was nice because my grandfather lived with us at the time and he played Santa Claus and of course all of us were real excited Christmas morning like kids always are and have been.”

“I’m Ruth Melton and I’m from Branson, originally. It was great! It was small, very small town. You could just have lots of fun in Branson, of course they didn’t have the decorations and the Adoration [Parade] and that stuff that they have now but there were always trees up, Christmas trees up. When we were young, we had hills we could slide down. [You know] that main street in Branson? We’d start at the top of the hill and we’d go clear to the lake!”

Ruth Melton says that her mother read her and her brothers the Christmas Story on Christmas morning, a tradition she and her husband of 67 years have carried on with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

For KSMU’s Sense of Place, I’m Emma Wilson.