Vintage Christmas Collectibles

Being born an Easterner, I grew up knowing that the holiday season officially began when Santa made his appearance Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving Day and never before! Since he has now appeared, I can safely share some of my Christmas treasures.

I love vintage holiday items because they have a quality and charm to them that is lacking in modern decorations. The first of today’s goodies is a fabulous Santa card, which my husband’s sister, Pat, gave their parents on Christmas Day 1957. The card is quite large – 8 x 10 inches – and it even came in its own gift box. Both the card and the box are in mint condition, as they remained packed away in the closet for many years afterwards.

Santa Claus Card, 1957

The inside displayed Santa in his sleigh, flying through the sky with his reindeer. Notice that there is no Rudolph!

Inside, with greetings

The back of the card includes the Hallmark symbol along with the number code that included the price. This card cost $4.99, an astronomical amount at a time when minimum wage was $1.00 an hour.

The second item I would like to share today is a display of three of my vintage Santas. Santa #1, on the left, is the oldest and dates from the 1920’s-1930’s. He is made of paper pulp. The middle Santa, #2, is a small Napco holiday planter and is dated 1961 on the bottom. Santa #3 on the right is a nodder, probably made in Germany in the 1940’s, although this one is unmarked. #3 is a small candy container and his head jiggles if he is moved.

Trio of Old Santas

If you enjoy these old decorations the way I do, check my blog this month as I will be posting a few more photos.

A Memorable Thanksgiving in 1968

Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun topic this week is, not surprisingly, about Thanksgiving memories.

Like Randy, for having celebrated as many Thanksgivings as I have, I have very, very few memories of any particular year. I do know that I have eaten Thanksgiving dinner away from home so few times that I can count them on my fingers and have most of my fingers left over.

I also know that we never, ever had anything on the table that didn’t conform to traditional Thanksgiving menus. There was always a big roasted turkey, complete with lots of yummy mashed potatoes, stuffing (my maternal Grandmother’s recipe that had no chunks of onion, which made me very happy), green beans and carrots, bread of some sort and lots of thick turkey graving, to be liberally applied to every bit of food on the plate.  There were also various salads added into the main menu.

During the day, as the turkey was cooking in the oven, the television was always on because the day began by watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Growing up in New Jersey, this was just a “must do.” However, for kids, the best part of the parade happened at the end – Santa Claus made his appearance and that signaled the start of the Christmas season.

That was pretty much Thanksgiving as I remember it, with the very notable exception of 28 November 1968. Thanksgiving was late that year and it was doubly unusual because I had been out of school for about a week AND I was in Massachusetts with my mother, staying at my grandparents’ house.

My grandmother had phoned us in early November to tell us that the doctors believed my grandfather had had a stroke. However, he had remained hospitalized afterwards and seemed to be getting weaker and more debilitated with each day. Doctors were unsure what was going on and my mother wanted to see Grandfather and be there to help Grandmother. I was sixteen at the time and a good student, so Mom decided that I should travel with her. I could easily make up any work I missed and I was plenty old enough to help my Grandmother out if more hands were needed.

I think we drove to Massachusetts the weekend before Thanksgiving as I returned to school the second week in December and I had missed about two weeks of classes.

As Thanksgiving approached, my Grandmother, who usually hosted the family holidays for relatives living close by in Massachusetts, decided for good reason that she was unable to do all the preparation that year. However, she also didn’t want to not have a Thanksgiving meal. Her solution was to eat out at a historic inn.


I tried to remember exactly where we went as I only remember driving for about an hour, walking into the inn on a dark, chilly evening to be greeted by a warm fire in the fireplace and eating a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner with all the traditional trimmings.


Thanks to the internet, I did a bit of searching and found the Publick House in Sturbridge and I am quite certain that that is the restaurant where Grandmother, Aunt Barbara, Mom and I ate dinner that night. The restaurant and especially the dining room and great fireplace match my memories of that evening.


It was quite magical and, to this day, I remember feeling like I had stepped back into time. Being in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving, I almost expected the Mayflower Pilgrims to be seated next to us.

Aside from the enjoyment of the Thanksgiving setting, the meal itself was a bit somber because of Grandfather’s illness. My immediate family was quite small – twelve of us and that was a stretch, as it included my great grand aunt and first cousin twice removed. Grandfather was to be the first family member to whom I said goodbye in my sixteen years of life.

Grandfather survived another nine days after Thanksgiving and the doctors still weren’t sure what was happening. They thought he might be having multiple small strokes, but that turned out to not be the case. Grandfather died on 7 December 1968, Pearl Harbor Day and Grandmother wanted to know what had caused such a precipitous decline in his health and well being in such a short period of time.

An autopsy provided the surprising answer – Grandfather died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. It is a degenerative, always fatal brain disease similar to what later emerged as Mad Cow Disease. In 1968, Grandfather was only the third diagnosed case of CJD in the 20th century. He was a World War I Navy veteran and Navy doctors came to interview my grandmother in the months after Grandfather passed away. So little was known about the disease and they felt she could help provide information about the onset of symptoms and his decline in a very short three months’ time.

So – my only memory of any particular Thanksgiving dinner is tinged with a lot of sadness along with a walk back into time at an old historic Massachusetts inn.

Images from the Publick House website:



Genealogical Thanks This Weekend

I hope everyone is enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend. By now, you all may well be out shopping for Black Friday deals. Not me, I’m actually all finished and have been reflecting on the thoughts in a few posts earlier this year.

Remember when the question was raised about whether genealogy was better “in the old” (pre-internet) days or whether it is better today?

My take on the situation was pretty much middle of the road, as I would love to see more people doing actual research, especially in physical locations, not online, but the availability of so much material online today is fabulous.

One of the reasons I began my blog is that I love to find distant – or not-so-distant – cousins working on various branches of the family tree. That is one way that the “empty branches” obtain new growth on them.

This month has been the best yet since Empty Branches began in January 2014. I have been contacted by two descendants of Revolutionary War soldier Moses Woosley and have shared the probate file that proves all of his children and a good smattering of his grandchildren because their parent pre-deceased them.

I have also been emailing a Sturgell cousin, who somehow found my blog and we’ve been sharing information and old family photos AND I found a new Sturgell cousin descended from one of Isaac Sturgell’s estranged daughters.

Both the Sturgell and Woosley lines are Dave’s. However, I’ve had success with my family, too.  Another distant cousin contacted me about my Kucharik family from Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia. The family there was quite small and I’m elated that a descendant found me.

Lastly, yet another cousin, this one part of my Stewart/Stuart family, found me this week. We are also in the midst of trading information about our family tree.

All of these contacts came through internet clues. Without an online search engine, it isn’t likely that any of us would have found each other, at least not without knowing who we were looking for and putting in a lot of time and effort in the search.

So. . . . this Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful for each of my newly discovered cousins. Genealogy is a fabulous hobby!