My mom and dad both always worked hard so their three kids could have more than either of them ever had growing up. My mom worked for a Dallas insurance firm and would always take on extra jobs, while my dad not only worked security at the Ford Plant on East Grand Avenue in East Dallas, but he did part-time security work during the State Fair of Texas and at the Cotton Bowl for football games, pro and college.
Like so many of your parents, my folks did all this so we could have a good home and live in a safe neighborhood with a school only blocks away where we could safely walk to and from our daily classes.
Christmas was always a special time for our family. It was never a huge production, but there was never a time when the Tucker kids at 7715 Huttig Street ever went without Christmas wishes fulfilled.
I do remember the first time my folks brought something other than a real Christmas tree home. I used to love to go to the Christmas tree tent on the parking lot at the Pleasant Grove Shopping Center. It was fun to walk among the trees and then watch them spray those trees and make them other colors. We never opted for anything other than green.
But this particular time, when I was about 10 years old, Dad brought home our new aluminum Christmas tree and it was in a box. It was silver and rather sparse looking. Mom got us some red and blue Christmas ornaments, but it just didn’t seem like Christmas. I thought it was ugly and I missed the real tree. In my neighborhood, we would go around and get the trees after Christmas and build forts out of them.
Another time, we got our first color television. It was a brand new world to see color TV. Football became even a better sport when done in color. I remember way back in the early 1950s when Dad brought home our first TV, a console Philco which had a record player built in the bottom of it. We got to buy new records at Christmas.
Christmas memories are filled with family and that’s the way it should be. My memories include Bruton Road Baptist Church when Santa Claus would show up on a Sunday night and the kids would line up to visit with old Kris Kringle and getting a bag of fruit with peppermint sticks. We would go to East Texas and my Grandma and Granddaddy Stedry would give each grandkid a two dollar bill. Sure wish I would have saved those bills.
It was during my high school years, Christmas started to take on a whole new meaning for me. I was an active in member in a service organization known as Key Club. The W.W. Samuell High School Key Club was sponsored by the Pleasant Grove Kiwanis and was one of the largest in the state.
We started doing a canned good drive to help families in need at Christmas. As a sophomore, I learned how important this food drive was to our community and our club. Each year it grew and grew. We had to rent a storefront at the Bruton Terrace Shopping Center to hold all of our collected canned goods. Our goals would be something like 10,000 to 15,000 cans, but by my senior year we were upward to close to 25,000.
We spent time sorting and getting ready to deliver. It was when we got to deliver, my life and the meaning of Christmas took a turn. Our club was able to feed hundreds of Southeast Dallas families. I had never been in a home where there were holes in the roof, some with dirt floors and others with only a small space heater for heat.
People would cry when we showed up and me and my fellow Key Clubbers would cry before we could get out of a house. I saw little ones who were hungry and who had only a thin blanket for warmth. Those three Christmases when I was a Key Club member stand out for me as I grow older. It gave me a perspective I would never have known had it not been for those years working on the food drive.
Our Key Club was honored at the international convention one of those years for Single Service Project of the Year. It was nice to be recognized, but nothing will ever take the place of actually going into a home and getting a hug and a tearful thank you from a family who really appreciated you being there. It sure made me thankful for my family and everything my mom and dad had done for me.
Have a wonderful Christmas and maybe, just maybe, you can do something for someone less fortunate this time around. If you do, I promise it will be you on the receiving end of the gift of giving.