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My buddy Spud Rimshot has always had a somewhat skewed view of Christmas, and it’s no wonder. When your best holiday memory is your old man being hauled off to the hoosegow, you probably aren’t going to hold with the traditional Yuletide attitudes.

For my contemporaries and me, Christmas was a time of blind obedience. We KNEW Santa had us under round-the-clock surveillance so there were NO shenanigans, NO horseplay, and absolutely NO monkeyshines.

This forced good behavior often resulted in this scenario: moms bustling around downtown Ironton and – since this was decades before fathers were actually involved in child-rearing – we were always in tow.

We quietly followed her into Gablers. Soundlessly accompanied her into Kresge’s. When she went into Unger’s Shoes, we trailed along in silence. All because Kris Kringle had his eye on us… ALL of us. The only oasis was “Toyland.” From the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve it was known as Toyland…the other 48 weeks of the year it was known as the third floor of J.C. Penney’s. Our mothers would turn us loose and we would rush to Toyland with its hard wood floors and all…those…toys. They had them up on these tables, which meant little folks like us had to gaze up at the toys with awe and wonder. 

After a few minutes of wordless perusal, we would begin to offer up our opinions on the shiny wonders before us. One particular holiday season at J.C. Penney’s, our moms were downstairs talking about the Dinah Shore Show or those new-fangled color television sets or the Hecla Street Burglar (a heartless brigand who had been breaking into homes on Hecla Street and stealing Christmas presents) while we were on the third floor discussing MUCH more important topics:

“Did you see that Foto Electric Football Game? It’s just like playing football…for real!”

“Chatty Cathy says ELEVEN different things! My little sister doesn’t even say eleven things.”

“They call them Creepy Crawlers! You can make your own fake bugs!!”

And of course, all of us speculated on whether or not we had been good enough for Santa to bring us what we wanted.

When it came to Santa Claus, Spud Rimshot approached things from a different perspective. Where the rest of us regarded Jolly Ole St. Nicholas with a feeling of  adoration and wonder, Spud was more paranoid.


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