A Christmas Story

By Logan Ewell

Logan Ewell, a charter member of the Laurel County Historical Society, lived from 1884 - 1975. Starting in 1958 he wrote a column for The Sentinel - Echo for almost a decade. It was entitled "75 Years of Living." These columns were memories and reflections of seven decades of life plus stories others had told him of prior events. His columns contained historical information written in a witty style. Here is a column from December 22, 1960.

Up and down the streets of town are garlands of evergreens, laurel, and spruce, they hang from all the light poles they stretch from one side of the street to the other side. The vivid green of the swinging garlands is enhanced by the gay red of the light poles. Truly the colors of the red and green make a Christmas happy and gay. The store windows contain a variety of Christmas splendor, wonderful things, useful things, things of beauty.

​Christmas belongs to the Children. A little Boy inspired it nearly two thousand years ago. His birth was announced by a multitude of Heavenly Hosts, praising God and unto Shepherds in the fields of the plains of Bethlehem, an angel told the birth of Jesus.

And in his name for 20 centuries the world has been made joyous and we greet His birthday with love, praise and thanksgiving for on this day of the year the people of a troubled world lay aside cares, cease their worry while homage is extended to the Savior of Mankind.

I have seen many Christmas days and in some ways as the world rolls on, they become more wonderful to see. So many things were not even dreamed of in the Christmas 70 years and more ago. The beautiful lights of all the colors of the rainbow were not possible when we used candles and coal oil lamps in our homes, or when we followed the Old Lamp Lighter on his rounds. Song says: "He Made the World a Little Brighter." The splendor of Christmas today needs no comment. It would be difficult to describe it.

​In days gone by, (without all that is taken as a matter of course now) we had Christmases as delightful and quite likely with more understanding of what the day stood for than do the people and children of the present time.

We emphasized this day in our churches and Sunday Schools with celebrations and observances appropriate to the day. For the most part, we depended upon our own ability and our own talent for our entertainment. Our Christmas trees were things of shining beauty our Christmas plays performed by our children were enjoyed to the fullest extent by every inhabitant of the town, save for a few physically unable to be present.

We did not have such a great assortment of things to give of course, we had apples, and oranges, stick candies, gum drops etc. Many were the hours that were spent by the matrons, the young women and girls who cut out and sewed sacks for the fruits and candies. Decorating the tree was no small job training those who took part in the entertainment was a heroic task to say the least.

We had in those days the time to enjoy the program, to enjoy our Christmas meal, to enjoy the company of family, the relatives and guests who came by for the day - and many for the night and other days.

Our meals were bountiful and delicious, prepared by those skilled in cookery and were not too much different than what we have today, except that each and every item was prepared by capable hands for a certain meal.

As for cranberries, celery, oysters and some seasonal things, advance notice and orders were given to the grocery men since they did not stock these articles generally. As for the turkeys, sometime in the month of October, farmers would bring loads of live turkeys to town for sale. They could be purchased at .75 to $1.50 each, according to size and not weight. These birds were suppose to be kept and confined in coops and fed heavily that they might be plump and fat on Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were range raised birds they resented confinement usually losing their appetite. This was overcome by putting two or more turkeys together, or if only one was being fattened a chicken hen was placed with the turkey to overcome the difficulty.
From October to January 1, the constant gobbling of the penned turkeys was heard. We kept account of the houses having no turkey in the coop.

Nuts were in the shell they had to be cracked and nut meats picked out, a job for the small ones. Currants, citrons, raisins, and glazed fruits required cutting into small pieces - citron came in pound pieces. It required days of advance work to get Christmas dinner for twenty to fifty people including the children.

The young housekeeper of today cannot spare the time from the many activities of the present day to undertake a Christmas of 50 [110] years ago. Then her household was usually all together and never more than a few miles away. A hundred mile journey was a days journey. Now it is nothing. We are scattered all over the known world. Is it too much to say that our children may, our grand children shall, stroll along the face of the moon.

Photo By: Annie Spratt
Transcriptions By: Renee Beets and Janet F. Auman