Christmas during the Great Depression was meager by our overblown standards but as Mom says, they never knew they were poor because so was everyone else. What they did get was a fresh orange every Christmas as a special treat, so when Mom smells oranges it still reminds her of Christmas.
When I was growing up, Mom always put a fresh orange in our Christmas stocking so even today, around holiday time, when I smell a fresh orange I think of my childhood Christmases and Mom telling us about her Christmas oranges. She also mentioned scurvy and how important vitamin C from the oranges was because scurvy was still more common when she was a kid.
Mom points out that they had what seemed like enough of everything, and plenty of food on the table. Everyone had a big garden in the yard with veggies and chickens in a coop at the back of the property and sometimes pigeons. The men hunted (this is Western Maryland and the hunting is still good in the region) and that put more meat on the table. The women "put food by", or as we say, canned. I can still remember my maternal grandmother's pantry with its shelves lined with all manner of food stuffs. I loved staring at those simple jars with melted wax on top to seal the goods.
Mom has a rather nasty memory about the killing of a chicken and feathers flying. She must have been three or four years of age and didn't understand what was going on so it kinda freaked her out. Still does when she tells the story.
Very early, there was an outhouse in the back of the yard too. Everyone had them. I don't know what year indoor plumbing and sewer lines came to Frostburg, but Mom was still in elementary school when it did. It was very difficult to get your sleepy self to go out to the outhouse in the cold of winter! One spring, a bird decided to build a nest in the outhouse, giving all reason to spend a little extra time seated there.
During the Depression, the front or "best" room wasn't heated during the winter. A tree was set up there and the room heat turned on only for the Christmas celebration. Mom would sneak in (as all kids did and still do) to check out the inventory of presents and the name tags. And of course presents were more likely to be hidden in closet recesses or on top shelves! Mom, undaunted, loved to go on little expeditions looking for hidden treasurers. One year she found a polka-dot dress meant for her! Oh, joy!
My sister took after Mom and always loved knowing what she was getting for Christmas before the day. I never saw the fun in that scheme, but to each his own. I love a surprise:)
Mom, at a year old, with her father
Cambria Williams and her mother,
Emma Susan Whetstone Williams, 1919.
Grandpa Williams seated with pipe.