Though I now live in a city, I grew up in a small town in Kentucky surrounded by acres of farmland and forest. There was no skating at Rockefeller Center or hopping over to the movie theater on Christmas day. Why? Because there was no ice rink or movie theater in town. We did have a drive-in for awhile, and I remember it was $5 per carload in the summers and we'd see how many people we could stuff in a car. :) Even though the town was small (about 3,000 people in an up year) and wasn't exactly awash in economic prosperity, it did provide its own set of Christmas memories.
Like most towns in America, it had the annual Christmas parade down Main Street. It didn't have big floats like the Macy's parade, but it did have horses, the Shriners on little motor scooters, floats mainly made by clubs and teams at the high school, the Job Corps drill team, our small high school marching band in which my two best friends played, and Santa.
Here's Main Street, including one of the two stop lights in town -- in the entire county, for that matter.
Though in recent years, there has only been one of those plastic, light-up Nativity scenes on the courthouse lawn, I can still remember when there was a live Nativity there. Community members dressed as Mary, Joseph and the wise men would brave the December cold and stand in that open shed for hours. I think there might have even been live animals.
Here's the courthouse sans Nativities. You can, however, see the Christmas tree decoration on the utility pole at the left.
Back in those early childhood days, I can still remember my dad bringing his mom to town (she didn't drive) to do her Christmas shopping. At that time, there was a Western Auto store still on the square. I can still remember all the shiny bikes in the front window. In a town that didn't have a Wal-Mart or anything similar beyond a Dollar General Store, the Western Auto was the best place to buy toys, and buy them she did because my sister and I were her only grandkids. The Western Auto is gone now, gone the way of the live Nativity.
Christmas Day when I was young involved short trips to see the two grandmas. Lunch was always with my mom's parents, who lived in town. Mamaw and Papaw had 15 grandchildren, so we each got one small gift. But it was nice to be in that house stuffed to the rafters with cousins, aunts and uncles. Dinner was always with my dad's parents in the next county until they passed (Grandpa when I was 5 and Grandma when I was 10). Grandma always made way too much food, and we always took some home with us. The things I remember most were her homemade chicken and dumplings, slow-cooked green beans and yummy banana pudding. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Christmas night would round out with whatever Christmas movie was on one of the three channels we got via our antenna out in the country. It was usually one of the black-and-white classics.
So, were Christmases simpler when you were young? Do you have small-town Christmas memories?