Jim Langham/Paulding County Progress A group of individuals gathered at the Paulding County Senior Center last week to reminisce about old-fashioned Christmas memories. They included, front from left - Ann May, Madonna Wonderly, Richard “Bud” Cotterman and Ruth Gerber; back row - George Underwood, Leroy Bennett, Majorie Phlipot and Tom Miller.

Feature Writer

PAULDING – There weren’t a lot of gifts to remember when those who were alive during the Great Depression and World War II reflected on their perception of an “old-fashioned Christmas” recently at the Paulding County Senior Center.

One Christmas goodie that most of those attending had in common was that of an orange. For some, it was the only Christmas gift they received during the hard times surrounding the Great Depression. Others recalled dolls, homemade candy and other types of fruit. But one thing was certain, no one received more than three or four gifts on any Christmas.

“I got an orange, and we popped popcorn to put on our tree,” recalled Paulding’s Marjorie Phlipot. “We would ‘sew’ the popcorn and put it in strings so that we could hang it on the tree.

“My sister and I both got a doll one Christmas. We played with them for a good many years,” said Phlipot.

Ann May said that if local grocery stores were able to obtain bananas, sometimes they would also make it on to the Christmas table. One thing that May was certain of was that money was not an important factor in happy Christmas times.

“People spend a lot more money now,” said May. “Money wasn’t an important thing back then. We always had oranges; once in a while we would have an orange if Kroger had them.”

Most residents recalled having chicken and/or ham for Christmas dinner. Of course, all aspects of the meals were old-fashioned cooking and homemade pies. Homemade candy such as divinity, buckeyes, fudge and old-fashioned chocolate drops also came into play with many of those present.

Madonna Wonderly grew up during the Great Depression. She was born in the beginning of the stock market crash in 1929, the youngest of eight children in her family.

“We didn’t have a Christmas tree during the Depression,” said Wonderly. “There were eight of us kids. If we got a piece of candy or an orange, we thought that we were lucky. Sometimes mom would make cookies.

“The only decoration we had was hanging a bell on crepe paper hanging in the dining room,” continued Wonderly. “Dad died when I was 8 years old, so we lived off our farm during the Depression. We had chickens, pigs, cows and lots of good things to eat from our ground.”

“I had a table and four chairs. The next year I had a table and four little chairs but they were colored,” commented Ruth Gerber. “It was the same one as the year before but my Christmas gift was that mom painted it to make it more colorful.”

Florence Smith, who was born in Napoleon, said that she always wondered how Santa Claus could get to their house while the family was in church.

“When we got home, the presents were always there and we were set up for Christmas,” said Smith. “Later we found out that dad would take us to church early to practice for the Christmas play and then he would go back and put our gifts under the tree.

“When I was younger I got toys and clothes. When I was older I got jewelry,” Smith continued. “We usually had ham, sweet potatoes and all of the fixings for Christmas dinner. My mom always baked every Saturday.”

Senior center executive director Marsha Yeutter said that the memory moments were one of many special events to assist those who come to the center enjoy the meaning of Christmas. On Dec. 22 there was a gift exchange and on Dec. 24 at 10 a.m. there is a Christmas brunch.

“We are giving fruit bags to all of the seniors,” added Yeutter, who said she loves hearing the homespun tales about Christmas from those who visit there.