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Christmas 1961
Written December 17, 2007

 

When I was almost 15 years old, my Christmas present was a reel-to-reel
Webcor audio tape recorder.  Naturally, I wanted to try it out right away, so I taped some of our Christmas Day family activities.

You can hear excerpts from those recordings here on the Internet.  I've posted more than 15 minutes in the form of seven segments, each consisting of an MP3 file under 5 megabytes.

To start each one, I suggest that you right-click on an "Audio Link" button below and choose Open Link in New Tab.  Then you can continue reading this page while the audio plays.

My family normally consisted of just my parents and me, seen in this photo taken a few months later.  We lived on Hoskins Pike outside Richwood, Ohio.

However, this year we had a fourth person, my grandmother Emma Buckingham.  Widowed in 1955, she lived 120 miles away at Cambridge, Ohio.

She spent the 1961 holidays with us in Richwood.  In this photo, she's dressed to go out.

 
We set the tree up in the living room, between the organ and the television set.


1960 photo (click image for details)

We arose early on Monday morning, December 25, to open our presents.  When I found a tape recorder with my name on it, it wasn't long before I was making a test recording and playing it back — my voice plus sounds from our Zenith radio (click here for that).

 

Audio Link

0:47

Then my father took the microphone.  It seemed to bring out the ham in him.

"Is everybody happy?" was the catch phrase of a bandleader from Circleville, Ohio, named Ted Lewis (right).  Later we would see him perform his act, including "Me and My Shadow," at Vets Memorial in Columbus.

 

Audio Link

2:04

I placed the microphone on the floor near the organ speakers.  Grandma asked me, "Did you set this down here to step on?"  No, I answered, it was to record my rendition of "The First Noel."

I'm using a Baldwin electronic organ that we had purchased in the spring of 1960, about a year after I had learned to play the pipe organ at church.  This Baldwin didn't merely play steady tones; it also included an optional "percussion section" that could imitate instruments like banjos or bells.

 

Audio Link

3:12

By early afternoon, having cleaned up the wrapping paper from the living room, we gathered in the dining room for our Christmas dinner.  My father went back into "announcer" mode.  With my usual concern for precise documentation, I corrected him on the time.  (By the way, "RD3" was our postal address, Rural Delivery route number 3.)

The main dish was turkey and dressing.  You may know the latter side dish as "stuffing."

As my father started to distribute the white meat and dark meat, my mother went to the kitchen to get him a proper carving knife.  When she returned, she sat down to put gravy on her bread-crumb dressing, but instead she poured on some sweetened-vinegar salad dressing.  Realizing her mistake, she gasped "Ooh!  Aww."

(She told a friend about this episode the next day; click here for the transcript.)

Later we played back the tape.  The hum of the tape recorder and the clattering of dishes were louder than our voices.  Grandma didn't understand why.

 

Audio Link

3:24

Sitting around the living room several hours later, we discussed the Sunday-morning service that we had attended the day before at the First Methodist Church.  My mother, a member of the choir, asked how the anthem had sounded.

The scripture on that December 24th had been the Christmas story, of course.  The layman who read it had been our landlord, Jesse Roberts.  As was often the practice, he read not from the huge large-print Bible on the pulpit but from his own Bible.

We wondered whether a church service could be taped using my recorder.  Would I have to hold the microphone up to Rev. John Wagner's mouth?  No, the church had used a different technique to record the recent consecration service for its new office and educational wing.

At 7:30, we turned on the TV for our usual game show with Bud Collyer.

 

Audio Link

1:46

An hour later, we turned off the TV, and my father took the mic again to recap the day's activities.

 

Audio Link

1:26

He gave his own interpretation to the classic "White Christmas."

 

Audio Link

2:32

And finally I played one of my mother's favorites, "Silver Bells."