Bob Mitchell: How decorations were years ago

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Today’s “modern” Christmas follows the same story it has for centuries, directing more attention to the birth of Jesus Christ as outlined in the books of Matthew and Luke in the Bible.

Some of the differences are good and others we could just as well do without. That’s why it is refreshing to think back 70 or 80 years ago of Christmastime in Cassville, and some of the pleasant memories that have gone away.

At the top of the list of those least desirable of the modern Christmas existences is the commercialization of the event and at times an absolute overriding of the true meaning of Christmas.

Getting off this soap box, and on to the headed subject, let’s think about yesteryear.

A decoration recollection

Those days when fancy decorations along Main Street either were not in existence or were out of reason in cost for a small town, use of natural resources were in the picture. Street streamers across Main Street were a principal decoration for the season. New Mac crews and later Barry Electric personnel and equipment were made available to provide strings of wires going across Main Street for a considerable distance of the business area.

Before hanging the streamers, it was the volunteers who pitched in tying sprigs of cedar (which was plentiful in this area) around the wires and lights to provide a real festive appearance for this effort.

Even the World War I cannon that stood for years on the northeast corner of the Courthouse lawn, was decorated in much splendor for the holiday season.

The Christmas tree

Back in those days if there was a Christmas tree lot or an artificial one in a catalog or a street corner, neither was anywhere near our house. There were ample locations within a short distance of Cassville that were virtually covered with cedars of any size.

Like most families of those days procuring a tree was probably somewhat of an outing and even groups would gather to make a cedar-cutting run.

Family efforts usually had one individual who made the choice of which size and shape to cut at the start of the hunt. Then, close inspection would determine the first cutting just would not do, for various reasons. If this was the case, then it was move on into the field to make another selection to feel the ax or saw.

There never was a problem of cutting too many, in most locations property owners were anxious to get the trees cut.

Taking tree home

Getting the correct tree wasn’t the end of the chore … it had to be taken home, some trimming accomplished and then a stand made. There were not any metal bases in those days. Then the stump end had to be trimmed to permit a water pan provided because the natural trees dried out quickly.

With lights and decorations attached, there was somewhat of a danger of fire if all procedures were not followed.

Still, there was something about the smell of cedar in a home over the holiday season.

An outing for cedar

One activity out of my childhood days was the Sunday afternoon jaunt of First Christian Church (the old one on Seventh Street) to secure cedar boughs for decorating the church and provide whatever might be desired by congregation members and others.

Transport was provided by Nicoll Furniture’s truck, with Glen Nicoll doing the driving. Youngsters would load in the staked-back and head for the countryside.

At the scene they would virtually clear a small area in loading the bed with trees and limbs that could be used in many ways.

Today this might not be acceptable from a safety angle, but during all those trips made many years ago, not an injury occurred.

Strings of lights

Past years provided a problem for tree lights, due to one going out, which meant the whole string would not work. This provided a project of finding the bad bulb, replacing it and the string was back in operation. Today’s LED lights are directly the opposite, just one of the many improvements modernism has brought to Christmas decorating.

Greetings from the Mitchells

On a personal note, the Mitchells, now scattered from coast to coast and in-between, wish each and everyone a Merry Christmas.

Try to keep some true Christmas in this holiday, remembering the Christ child for whom the holiday was made.

At the same time, give thanks for all the blessings of life and pray for an end to the pandemic. And, don’t forget to thank God for these United States of America!

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.

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