Oh Christmas Tree …

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Happy December to you! Maybe it is because Thanksgiving was so late this year, but it is hard to believe that we are less than a month from Christmas! The reality of that sunk in this weekend as I did a couple shifts at Cars 108 and we are playing all Christmas music.

One song always really sticks out to me each Christmas, mainly because it really isn’t a Christmas song – Linus & Lucy (AKA the Charlie Brown theme) from the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun song that immediately makes be think of Charlie Brown and the gang, but it is a song that is used in basically every Charlie Brown special. Personally, the soundtrack to the Charlie Brown Christmas special is one of my favorites.

O Tannenbaum is the instrumental that kicks off the album. Many know the song as simply “Oh Christmas Tree”. (In case you were wondering, a tannenbaum is a fir tree). It’s one of my favorite versions of the song. I had the chance to hear it over the weekend and it got me to thinking about the Christmas Tree. I recently had the chance to go through a bunch of family pictures and I was surprised at how many of them included the Christmas tree. This blog is sort of a “pictorial” blog featuring some of those pictures.

As I looked through the pictures, it was fun to see the various decorations and the toys under the tree. Bear with me, as some of the years I am guessing on …

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The above picture is of my dad in 1951. He would be 5 here. As I look at this picture, I see a little of me, my brother, and my oldest son in my dad.

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The above picture is my mom. Just a guess, but this is probably from 1953 or 1954, as she looks 5-6 years old here. Tinsel seemed to be really big in the 50’s! Wonder what that “Little Painter” set is worth today….

On Leave

The above picture is my dad, home on leave from Vietnam. The date is 1967. I really have no idea what that tree is made of. Eventually, my grandma had a ceramic tree that my mom made that stood about that high that she put there in the window. This one looks … fluffy. There are pictures of my dad with both his mom and his dad next to this tree too.

My folks told me that the local paper used to put names and addresses of servicemen who were overseas in the paper for people to send letters. Both of my parents were from the same city and my mom sent my dad letters. With letters, occasional pictures were sent back and forth, too.

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I think the above picture is one my mom sent to my dad. I am not sure. I am not sure because I don’t know where this was taken. It would seem to me that this would be a picture that she would send to my dad overseas. At any rate, some things stand out, though. Note the “sunbust” clock on the wall – I know my grandma had one of those. Also, note the cool Hi-Fi with the ceramic cat on it. This was a record player and radio. It probably also played 8 track tapes and stored records. I know my dad, and my grandpa had one of them, so again, not sure when this is.

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I know for a fact that this was taken at my grandma’s house. I know this because of the fireplace and the huge wooden fork and spoon on the wall behind the TV. In my lifetime, I don’t recall my grandparents ever putting a tree on the TV, so I am guessing this is before I came around.

I was born in May of 1970. I was 7 months old for my first Christmas. I am thankful that my folks took lots of pictures. A few of my favorites all come from 1970, all for different reasons.

Great Grandpa Becker 1970 (2)

The above picture is my and my great-grandpa. He passed away shortly after this. It is the only picture I have of him and I.

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I am not 100%, but I believe this picture was taken in my mom and dad’s apartment. My dad can correct me if I am wrong. I remember that stuffed Bugs Bunny to my right very well.

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I am pretty sure that this is at my grandma and grandpa’s house. What I love about this picture is a little foreshadowing. One of my favorite sports to participate in is bowling. I love that I am propped up next to a balling ball bag in this picture.

7 mos with Mom (2)

This is absolutely one of my favorite pictures of my mom and me. It was taken at my grandparents house, probably Christmas Eve. I love this picture so much, because it reminds me of another … which I will share in a few pictures.

pam keith sam christmas 1970

The above is obviously from the same year. This time, I am with mom and dad. My grandma always kept her house hot, so mom took off her vest. Dad, who is ALWAYS hot, must not have felt it was too warm, because his is still on here.

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One more from the same year (and you won’t have to look at that brown bowling ball bag anymore!), here is my and my grandpa. I always loved this picture of us. I was his first grandchild, and you can see just how happy he is here.

Grandpa and Grandma Davidson Christmas 1970 (2)

These are my mom’s parents – Grandma and Grandpa D. The date on the picture says 1970, but another scan from my brother says 1967. Not really sure. It could easily be 1970, though. It is one of my favorites of them. The tree is in the corner where my grandpa’s recliner used to always be.

Jodi and Keith Christmas 1972

The date on the above picture is October of 72, which means I am 1 here. This is at Grandma D’s house. That is my Aunt Jodi holding the bear. Note in the background, another Hi-Fi. My grandpa used to have big band records I used to listen to on it.

1975

The above picture was taken at our old house on Brandywine. I am about 4 here and my brother is probably just 2. The thing that stands out in this picture is the ornaments on the tree. See those diamond crocheted things? Yeah, my mom made them. She had many hobbies (I have an entire blog ready about her various hobbies through the years) and this particular year, she was crocheting everything! I remember a maroon vest that she made for me! At any rate, those ornaments were two squares, with a piece of an egg carton in the middle, and a tail hanging down. I am sure she made these for many people. I remember seeing them on other family members Christmas trees, too.

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A year later, same house, and same ornaments! You can see them a little better in this picture! I am probably 5 here, while my brother is 3. This would be the last Christmas at this house, as we moved the following year. A couple things (besides the ornaments) stand out in the picture. First, there is the organ I used to play, and mentioned in the blog about my music lessons. Next, I remember the Ernie and Big Bird stuffed animals! Then there is that picture above the organ – it’s two horses. I think everyone in my family had that picture!! Finally, and this should get my wife’s OCD going, note that I am wearing the pants from one pair of PJs and the shirt from another in this picture! Good Lord!!!

Mom, Chris, & Keith Xmas 79

The picture above has to be from 1977. My grandma bought us each a set of Star Wars figures that year. I think there were like 20 issued the first year. I remember my grandma having trouble finding the Jawa figures! This picture would have been Christmas morning, and we had gotten the figures the night before at grandma’s. If I remember right, we had the big Han Solo and Jawa dolls (pictured here) and Boba Fett and Princess Leia, too. What I love most about this picture is that my mom is in it wearing this yellow robe. I have written about her yellow robe in previous blogs. She wore this thing SO much that it was stained and had tears and holes in it. She loved this robe. Eventually we bought her a new one for Christmas one year and she wore that. We assumed that she threw this one away, but after she passed away, we found it in the back of the closet! I have a “memory bear” made out of this robe.

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The above has to be from 1978. If you can look past my brother’s golf pants and my wacky shirt, you will see a Tie Fighter and X-Wing Fighter. You can see the tree set up on the TV, but cannot really see the amazing display on my grandma’s mantel. Every year, she put up angels, Santa, reindeer, trees, snow and more. There was one piece that always stood out – a little mouse that was in a flower arrangement that I sent her when she was in the hospital. She put that up every year!

Keith Doctor Doctor game

It obviously took my folks awhile to develop film! This is from Christmas of 78, and was not developed until August of 79! First, I love how skinny I am in this picture! Second, I remember having the sliding wooden doors that covered the doorwall. I also remember the bad paneling in the living room! I can see the Polaroid camera on the TV, the candy jar, and the glass candle sticks that my mom had. I wish I could make out more of the presents under the tree, but I remember really wanting this game. I also remember that star on the tree. It was made of hard plastic and the ends were very sharp! It could probably be used as a weapon!!

Grandma and Grandpa Xmas 79

The above picture is of my dad’s folks, my Grandma and Grandpa P. This was in 1979 – I remember that was the year that everyone was taking Polaroids! At family gatherings, everyone took pictures and wrote their last name on the bottom, so they knew what pictures belonged to what family! A couple things I notice right away: The tree topper, I never understood just what the hell it was! It wasn’t a star, it was just this spaceship shaped thing that lit up! I remember the musical angels on the wall. They moved from room to room as I recall. Grandma’s beehive hair! She wore it this way for SO long!! I also notice the pack of cigarettes in my grandpa’s pocket – you could bet they were either Lucky Strikes or Pall Malls. It looks like he is wearing a bracelet in this picture. I don’t remember him wearing one, but he did here. Just love this picture!!

cousins

The above is from 1980. This is my brother and me, with my cousins Arin and Melissa. This is at my Grandma and Grandpa D’s. A couple thoughts on this one – I am holding the very cool Coleco Head to Head Baseball game which I loved! I do not remember that bear I am holding! This is probably the year that my grandpa bought me my cribbage board, too! What is sad about this picture, is knowing that my grandpa would pass away in less than a year after this picture was taken.

mom dante

Jumping many years ahead now for the above picture. Remember the picture of my mom and me by the tree? It reminds me of this picture. Here is my mom and Dante’. This may not have been her last Christmas, I think Dante is 2 here. She loved him so much and I see the same joy in her smile here as I do in the picture of her holding me.

boys at trailer

The above picture is about a year or so before my divorce. I just love this picture because these two guys (no matter how much they may fight) really love each other. This was such a spontaneous picture and it remains one of my favorites of the boys!

boys last year

The above picture is from last Christmas Eve morning. Christmas Eve was always bigger than Christmas on my dad’s side of the family. The fact that I get the boys every Christmas Eve Morning to open up gifts is so special to me. I cannot wait until they can celebrate it with their sister. They are going to be such great brothers to her.

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The above picture is from 2018 (on the right) and 2017 (on the left). When we first got Moe (left) he got up in the tree! When Maizey came along last year, the fact that she was almost in the same exact spot as Moe the year before made me laugh. So I put together this comparison picture. It still makes me laugh!!

sam at tree

This picture (along with the song I mentioned earlier) was the reason for this blog. As I mentioned, so many favorite pictures involve the Christmas tree. I took this picture of Sam just the other night. It was her idea. The silhouette of her baby bump against the lights of the Christmas tree is just beautiful!! I posted it on Facebook (she did, too) and mention how I cannot stop looking at it!

The reason is that it brings about so many feelings: Feelings of love for my beautiful wife. Feelings of joy and nostalgia – because it is Christmastime and the Christmas Tree. Feelings of excitement and anticipation – because the baby will be here soon. Feelings of happiness – because the picture brings a smile to my face every time I see it.

In the years ahead, I hope that more and more wonderful pictures will be captured near the Christmas tree … so I can reflect on them, too!

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Child’s Play

I follow a lot of nostalgia pages on Facebook.  On one of the “Kids of the 1970’s” pages, they posted a picture of a toy that took me back to when I was 6!  I can still remember the Christmas morning I received it.  “Santa” had taken it out of the box and it was there on the floor in front of the tree. It was the Fisher Price Adventure People Daredevil Sport Van.  I remember seeing it in the “wish book” and wanting it because it had a guy with a motorcycle.

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I didn’t know that was what it was called, and it was only after searching for it on Google did I find out.  What I found when I searched for it was numerous other Fisher Price Adventure People sets that I had as a kid, as well as many other toys from my childhood I had long forgotten.

The Wish Book

Every year, before Christmas, JC Penney, Sears, and Montgomery Ward would put out their “Wish Book”.  My brother and I were told that this was “Santa’s catalog” and that he and his elves could get us whatever we saw in the book.  We would take magic markers and circle hundreds of toys that we had hoped to get.  We’d often number them in order of importance so that mom and dad knew which toys were a “top priority” for us! It was an annual tradition for us and I remember my brother and I spending many hours trying to pick out exactly what we wanted.

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Star Wars Figures

In 1977, Star Wars hit theaters and was a HUGE hit.  As kids we had to have every figure!  My grandmother came through for us and made sure we not only had every one, but both my brother and I each had a set! There were SO many great toys to go along with those figures.  My brother had the Death Star Space Station pictured above, while I had the ultimate space ship, the Millennium Falcon!

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I remember it being huge and I used to fly it around in the front yard when we were playing outside.  We spent countless hours playing with those Star Wars toys!!!

Jaws

One toy I found while searching was the Jaws Game.  It came with junk like a wagon wheel, fish bones, a tire, and other stuff that you put in the shark’s mouth, specifically on his lower jaw.  The jaw was connected to a rubber band.  You had to one by one remove a piece of junk without the jaw snapping up on you.

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Rockem Sockem Robots

Another great one from my childhood, this game can still be bought in stores today.  It was one of my favorites growing up.  Why robots?  I don’t really know, other than the fact that when you got the right punch, the loser’s head popped up.  I

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Stretch Armstrong

This was the TOP toy on my list one year.  It was the coolest thing!  Here’s a wrestler that you could bend and stretch like nobody’s business!  He was awesome!  We had a lot of fun with Stretch.  It was a sad day when he sprung a leak.  It was also cool to see what made him stretch.  I don’t remember how it happened, but something must have punctured the skin of poor Stretch.  Inside was this red jelly-like substance.  It almost looked like he was bleeding.  We tried to tape him up, but that was the end of Stretch.

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Evil Knievel Stunt Cycle

When I posted the picture that has wound up being the inspiration for this blog on Facebook, other friends chimed in with their favorite toys.  My friend, Allyson, mentioned The Evil Knievel Stunt Cycle.  Evil was quite the entertainer and was always doing stunts.  This cycle sat on some platform and you cranked this handle and then pushed a button to let the cycle go and do its thing.  Personally, I never really got it to do the spectacular stunts in the TV commercial, but it was still cool.

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Weebles and Little People

Two of the toys I remembered as soon as I saw pictures were the Weebles and Little People.  The Weebles were basically eggs.  They were plastic and had people on them.  They had a commercial that said “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down!”

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The Little People were/are made by Fisher Price.  When I was a kid, these things were made out of wood.  They had no legs or no arms. There were round figures with no feet or hands.  I think everyone I know had the Little People Farmhouse.  The one figure I remember most is the dog.

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Outside Vehicles

I had one of the coolest bikes.  It had curly handle bars and I had the coolest thing on it.  It was called Rrraw Power.  It was an attachment you put on your bike handlebar grip.  You twisted the handle and it made it sound like a motorcycle! A kid tried to steal my bike once cause he wanted it!

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Before my bike, I had two of the most coveted modes of transportation for kids.  The first one, the Big Wheel.  The name said it all.  It was basically a tricycle, but the front wheel was huge!  It had a cheap hand break that was worthless and if you skidded enough, you would flatten the wheel.

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The Big Wheel was cool, but the Green Machine was cooler! It was really a Big Wheel with the steering done by two handles that controlled the back wheels.  The seat was a bit more comfortable, too.  I loved my Green Machine and loved doing spin outs on it!

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Sit and Spin

This was probably one of the stupidest toys we owned, and probably the reason I still get vertigo on occasion.  The name says it all.  You sit and you spin.  You control how fast or how slow.  It was basically your own personal merry-go-round.  The name actually sounded more like an insult than a toy.

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“We can rebuild him…”

Those words were spoken in the intro to the TV show The Six Million Dollar Man.  He was an astronaut who is injured when his spaceship crashes.  He is then rebuilt with machine parts.  He’s kind of like a cyborg.  He has bionic hearing, sight, and strength.  I had the Six Million Dollar Man Doll.  The coolest thing about him was you could look through the back of his head and “see through his bionic eye”.  This meant looking through a red piece of plastic and seeing things through it.

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Colorforms and Shrinky Dinks

I had TOTALLY forgotten about Colorforms!  I remember having a Batman set, a Scooby Doo set and the Charlie Brown set pictured below.  It came with a background scene and plastic pieces with characters and accessories that you could stick and peel on and off.

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Shrinky Dinks were something we had, but I don’t ever recall them working right.  You had this hard plastic things that you colored with a marker or something and then you put them in an oven.  The idea was that they shrunk into a harder plastic that you could use for a key ring or something.  I never really liked them….but I am sure we had them.

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Doctor Doctor

One of my favorite games growing up was Doctor Doctor.  It was kind of like Clue in that you had to, through process of elimination, figure out a problem.  In this case, find the diagnosis for what was wrong with the patient.

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Electronics from my youth

Before X-Boxes, Nintendo Switches, and even Gameboys, we had some primitive hand-held gadgets and games.  It was so fun to see some of these things as they came up in searches for toys of the 70’s.

The Little Professor

Not a game.  Not even a gadget.  It was a calculator!  I guess the school of thought was “if we made a calculator that looked like a character, kids will dig math.” For what it is worth, I think it let you play math games on it, too.

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Speak & Spell

I can still hear its “hello” in the computer voice that greet you when you powered it up.  Today we have “Spell Check” on every computer and word processing program, but believe it or not, back in the day, you had to know how to spell.  This little gadget helped you to do just that.  It would say the word you needed to spell and then you had to spell it.  One downfall was the computer voice.  Sometimes you couldn’t understand what word it was asking you to spell.

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The Sound Gizmo

This was a MUST have for me as a kid.  It was one of my favorite toys!  The cool think about this toy was it made noises.  With the push of a button, you could have made a gunshot, an explosion, a helicopter, a train, a phaser, a siren, a motor, and more!  You could have the sound be constant, looped, or have it fade out.  There was a way to pitch the sound up and down, or control the speed of the sound.  As a kid who played outside and had a wild imagination, this toy was the best!  If we were pretending to crack open a safe with dynamite – we had an explosion.  If we were playing cops and robbers – we had a gunshot and sirens.  If we were in a spaceship, there were numerous sounds we could make!  It took our imaginations to a new level!  I remember my old boss at Honey Radio, Richard D, used this on the air often for sounds, too!

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Quiz Wiz

Trivia has always been a love of mine.  I am full of useless facts.  I love shows like Jeopardy or shows that are trivia based.  Trivial Pursuit was a very popular game in our house.  Trivia was also something that I used on a daily basis for contesting when I worked on the radio.  My love of trivia may have stemmed from the Quiz Wiz Game.  It had cartridges with questions.  I spent many hours learning trivia tidbits from this game.

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Electronic Sports Games

Again, before the fancy graphics of Madden Football, we had hand-held games.  They were primitive with red dots representing base runners, quarterbacks, and hockey pucks, but we loved them.  Coleco was the company that put out most of these games.  They were very popular!  A few years ago, I couldn’t believe it when I went to Walmart and saw that they had re-released the Coleco Football game.  I know there was also a hockey, basketball, and baseball game.  Most of these were one player games.  I had them all.  The one I loved the most was Head to Head Baseball which allowed two players to play.  One could pitch and one could hit.  I remember it because it was shaped very much like a baseball stadium.

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It was one of my favorite games until ……

Atari 2600

This was the game changer!  Yeah, we had Pong.  This could do SO much more.  You could play Pac-Man on it (it was a very crappy version)!  It was a big year for my brother and I when this arrived.  We loved Maze Craze, Pitfall, Megamania, Kaboom, River Raid,  Sea Hunt, and so many other games.  The original games still remain popular today and can be found on systems that are now preloaded with many of the ones from the past.  You don’t even need the game cartridge today!

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Oh, the many hours of fun I had growing up.

Final Thoughts

Kids today look at the toys from the past and laugh.  Many of them will never know what it means to go out and “write your own adventure.”  They will never conjure up an amazing scenario by simply using their imagination.  That is sad.  The memories that were brought about by seeing all of these toys during a simple Google search have made me smile so much that my jaw hurts.

Relive a bit of your childhood with me.  Share your favorite toy from when you were a kid!  I’d love to hear about it!