Paul spent the 1950s living in a suburb of Milwaukee and also on a small dairy farm in southeastern Wisconsin.
Memories of Past Christmas
The older I get, the more I reflect on memories of past Christmas.
Christmas meant a lot more when I was younger living in the United States. As a very young boy, I religiously believed that Santa Claus not only brought Christmas presents but also trimmed the Christmas tree. When in high school, I played Santa and delivered gifts to my three younger siblings.
After leaving home, I have memories of Christmas first while I was in the Navy and then coming back home to celebrate Christmas while working in Maryland.
Now that I am much older, retired, and living in Thailand, Christmas, unfortunately, has come to mean just another day.
In this article, I relive memories of past Christmas from childhood up until the present.
Memories of Christmas as a Young Boy: 1950-1951
My first memories of Christmas date to when I was six or seven years old. At that time, my mom, dad, and younger sister, Beatrice, lived in a small apartment in West Allis, Wisconsin.
During the few weeks before Christmas in December, I would listen to Billie the Brownie Christmas program on the radio after school every day. Billie was one of Santa's elves and he helped Santa Claus prepare presents for Christmas. On one part of the program, Billie would read letters of what children wanted for Christmas. I wrote Billie a letter and on one program, he read my letter over the air.
Up until the age of seven, I strongly believed that Santa visited the homes of children when they were sleeping on Christmas Eve. He would not only deliver presents but also trim the Christmas tree. For this reason, I never let mom and dad trim our tree.
Memories of Christmas on Our Rented Farm: 1954–1956
I will always remember the Christmas of 1954. It was the end of our first year renting a small farm near Mukwonago, Wisconsin. For Christmas, Santa brought me a nice Brownie camera and football shoulder pads. My aunts Helen and Florence also gave me a baseball autographed by the 1954 members of the Milwaukee Braves.
I immediately put the Brownie to work taking many pictures between Christmas and New Year. After Christmas vacation, I remember wearing my shoulder pads to school one day! Not realizing the future value of the autographed baseball, I played with it during the following summer and the ball was eventually ruined.
It was either the Christmas of 1954 or 1955 when I served Midnight Mass at Saint James Catholic Church in Mukwonago. The neighboring farmer's wife noted how nice I looked wearing a red cassock and surplice while serving at the Mass.
Christmas During My High School Years 1958–1961
Having long stopped believing in Santa Claus, I still really enjoyed celebrating Christmas when I was in high school. Oh, how I remember mom baking Christmas cookies, receiving Christmas cards every day, and helping to trim the Christmas tree!
Mom and dad didn't have much money during my high school years, but I still cherished the presents which I received. For Christmas of 1958, I received a small record player and some Elvis Presley 45 rpm records. My best gift was in 1959 when I got a portable typewriter. My parents knew that I was struggling with typing class in school. Practicing on the new typewriter at home helped me to get a "C" in my typing class.
The most memorable Christmas, however, was that of 1960. It was either mom or dad who thought it would be a great idea for me to dress up as Santa and carry a bag of gifts for my younger siblings who included Beatrice age 13, Patty 6, Philip 3, and Connie 1.
On Christmas Eve, dad showed me the presents that were hidden above the horse barn where we stored hay. One of the gifts was a sled but I cannot remember what the others were.
As I made noise with sleigh bells and shouted "ho-ho-ho" when I entered the dining room where everyone was sitting, I could see the look of surprise, joy, and excitement on the faces of my younger brother and sisters. It was a great experience which I will never forget.
Christmas During College and Navy Years
As I grew older, Christmas did not hold the same magic as it did when I was younger. I vividly remember, however, these Christmases during the period 1962-1972.
Christmas of 1963
The Christmas of 1963 was probably one of my saddest. After I arrived home from college on a break a few days before Christmas, I learned that mom and dad had scheduled a farm auction. This auction of dad and mom's cattle was a few days before Christmas. Since dad had lost his job off of the farm and mom wasn't working, it was necessary to sell the cows to pay bills and make the farm mortgage payment. I don't even remember having a tree or anyone receiving presents for this Christmas.
Christmas of 1967
I was now in the Navy and had just taken a train from San Francisco to Milwaukee to be home for Christmas. While home, I can remember watching the Green Bay Packers defeat the Dallas Cowboys on TV on the coldest day of the year. I cannot remember a tree or any gifts.
Christmas of 1969
During the Christmas of 1969, I was still in the Navy and stationed in Southern Japan. What made my Christmas joyous that year was receiving a box filled with gifts and a cassette tape from mom and dad. All of my siblings had recorded Christmas greetings and I could hear my youngest sister Connie play the trombone.
Christmas of 1971
I was out of the Navy now and living at home after ending my active duty in January 1971. While waiting to back to college in January of 1972, I was still in the Navy Reserve and earning a little money. I used some of my savings to buy mom and dad a slide projector for Christmas. There were so many color slides from Taiwan and Japan that I wanted to share with everyone in the family.
Christmas During the Period 1973–Present
After I left home for good in 1973, I got married in Taiwan and lived there from 1973 until July 1979. I have no recollections of celebrating Christmas during these years.
Important Christmas years from 1979 until the present include the following.
Chrismas of 1979
Although my wife was in Taiwan during Christmas, I drove with my son from Toledo, Ohio, to Honey Creek north of Burlington, Wisconsin, to celebrate Christmas with my folks, On Christmas Eve, I remember dressing up as Santa and going with dad to wish our next-door neighbor Gordie Lewis a Merry Christmas. I also can remember bringing gifts to my oldest sister Beatrice and her family who were now living in Milwaukee.
Christmas of 1980
My family and I were now living in a small townhouse in Severn, Maryland. We had just moved there from Toledo after I had accepted a job with the federal government. What I remember the most is cutting down a small tree in a wooded area near our home and using it as our Christmas tree.
Christmas of 1987
My favorite uncle Augie had just died a few days before Christmas. To attend his funeral, I drove with my family from Maryland to Wisconsin. After the funeral, I spent a few days with mom and dad celebrating Christmas. My oldest sister Beatrice and her family came out to the farm to help us celebrate this joyous occasion.
Christmas of 1992
I was still living in Maryland and earlier in the year had divorced my Taiwanese wife. My boss and best friend Jim helped brighten my Christmas. He invited me to his home where a Christmas Eve party was being celebrated.
Christmas of 2010
This is the last Christmas that had any meaning for me. At this time, I was living in Bangkok, Thailand, and teaching at an all-girls Catholic School. The school had a Christmas Fair a few days before Christmas. I dressed up as Santa again and helped the school raise money by having my picture as Santa taken with students and their parents.
Christmas of 1979
Christmas of 1987
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Paul Richard Kuehn