OLD TRAILS.......AND NEW
By Raymond Thompson
“Seventy years ago- incredible! It was Christmas Eve and what was supposed to be a sort of personal triumph for a 9 ½ year old boy, proved in fact, to be a real headache!
I was one of the principals in a Christmas play at the Almira Methodist Church. Early in the morning of December 24th, I had scored a perfect hit with a snowball aimed at my brother-in-law, ALFRED NORTHRUP. Al had retaliated by chasing me with a handful of snow, which he intended to shove inside my shirt. We collided on the icy steps of our back porch and I ended up with a “goose-egg” lump and black eye-plus a terrific headache.
But “the show must go on” applied then as now. I was in that Christmas Eve play - no doubt the most conspicuous member of the cast!
Al and my sister, GRACE, had brought a turkey from their home (formerly the SCHEIBNER Ranch) in Northrup Canyon, along with jars of “Suc-o-tash” and various canned fruits, and vegetables from their root house.
We always feasted royally when any of the Northrups came in from the Canyon, and of course, Christmas was a special occasion.
There were three churches in Almira, in 1905, the Methodist, Congregational and Baptist. Many farmers from outlying districts attended town churches regularly and I remember that the Methodist Church was blessed with a new lighting system that year, a gasoline tank pressure system that fed gas to overhead mantle lamps through tiny copper pipelines.
Christmas Tree and church decorations were mostly homemade by women and children, and the tree itself had to be shipped in by the Washington Central Railroad, or hauled in by sleigh from the Columbia River area. Clever little tin candle holders were clamped, in the carefully selected spots, to the tree branches. The tiny candles were lit at exact periods as they would last a comparatively short time.
Chain style decorations were made from colored paper, each link made with flour and water paste. I remember rolls of crinkly paper, in green, gold, and red, that were cut in long strips and twisted into multi-colored ropes for decorating walls and other strands were made by stringing popcorn (exploded) kernels.
In our church, a Santa Claus arrived to hand out bags of candy and nuts, as a finale for the festive occasion.
The year, 1905, has special significance in my memory. The new brick school building had been completed with most of the materials being supplied by the Almira Brick and Building Company, owned by my father, HENRY M. THOMPSON.
For Christmas that year, my parents gave me a Daisy Air Rifle, a lever action “pump” model with a “magazine” that held up to 500 BB shot. To load that fantastic gun, one only had to pump the lever, which simultaneously loaded one pellet into position for firing and compressed the air, which expelled the BB shot when the trigger was pulled. A few days later, Bernard and Phillip Garber, boy friends, and I were Target shooting, when Barney and Phil quarreled over whose turn it was to have the gun. Barney shot his brother in the face, barely missing an eye. My parents put the gun away for several months, teaching me a lesson. I never forgot; mainly, that any weapon can be dangerous if handled carelessly.
My allowance for Christmas, 1905, was one dollar. I paid PHIL GARBER 50 cents for a kite. Christmas Day, ignoring Phil’s advice, I tried to fly my kite in a slight breeze. I succeeded in launching it, but the kite suddenly plunged into a snow bank, damaging it beyond repair.
All of the original founders of the Methodist Church have long since “passed to their reward”. Families I remember specially were the MORROWs, MURBACH, JOHNSONs, ANDERSONs, and McDOUGALLs.
ELSIE McDOUGALL and a younger brother, RONALD, always attended Sunday School, walking into town from the farm, a mile south of Almira.
Elsie was in the Christmas Eve play, where I was conspicuous with my “Black eye”.
Such were some highlights of Christmas, 70 years ago, as I remember them.
This year, 1975, watching TV ads promoting the sale of fantastic gifts, I think back and wonder just how we can compare an Ingersoll dollar watch with the electronic timepieces of today. I wonder, too, what the next 70 years may see in man’s restless search for things not even imagined today.”
December 25, 1975 in The Wilbur Register
Submitted by: Linda M. Thank,3/21/2004, granddaughter of Raymond Thompson.
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