Christmases Past

The world in which I grew up included the most wonderful Christmases ever. My most precious memories are of those holidays during the 1940s, when I was just a toddler and America was still at war. Daddy was working for Mead Johnson Pharmaceuticals and making about $50 or so a week. I don’t remember having a lot of toys, but it really didn’t seem to be important as I was always outdoors playing in the neighborhood. We looked forward to Christmas all during the year; for one thing Daddy, who was a rep and always traveling, would be home and that, in itself, was a treat beyond belief. And mother, who had been canning and “putting up food” all year would bring her homemade goodies out of the pantry.

I remember three Christmases in particular – I must have been four, five and six as we moved when I was seven and these memories were already behind me. When I was four, in 1944, materials were scarce as rationings occurred being wartime. I wanted a bride doll in the worst way. In those days they had Doll Hospitals where one could go and buy a used doll. Mama purchased a cloth bodied doll with a china head and hands for me. She collected old satin slips from all of her friends and, with lace she had already gathered, hand-stitched me the most beautiful bride doll ever. As it was my only present, I was enchanted. I loved that bride doll and my Raggedy Ann doll, made for me by my grandmother the year before, for years. One of the great mistakes I made when leaving America for the Caribbean forty years later, was not taking those dolls to keep for Lauren, Hannah and Liana.

Christmas of ’45 was really special as I was given a large 3wheeled bike. I suppose Mama and Daddy bought it at the bike hospital because I remember seeing them paint it in the basement of our home on Augusta Avenue in Richmond. However, it must not have stuck in my brain because Christmas morning, when I saw it next to the tree, I truly thought that I had died and gone to heaven.

terrells 1945
augusta ave 2
augusta ave  1 richmond-'40-'47
nancy in snow

By ’46 I was much more sophisticated, having begun school and already reading a mile a minute. I loved music and would sing whenever I felt like it, so quite naturally, I wanted a phonograph. In those days the only records we had were what they called 98s. The photo here looks just like my xmas phonograph only mine was red. Everyone loved my phonograph and it really was for the entire family as it had a radio and we would listen to all of the great programs that were on then – TV had not yet been invented. The years of my childhood were especially wonderful, especially at Christmas. My one gift satisfied me entirely for the year to come – not like today when children receive so much that they feel overwhelmed by the entire ordeal.

48th ST, NW, WASHINGTON D.C. – In 1947 we moved to Washington where we lived in a “row house” and I attended public school with many of the children of diplomats. I especially remember Katherine Duckham, whose father was attached to the British Embassy, and Peter Marshall, whose father was the Chaplin of the Senate. We all walked to school together and were great friends, as were our parents. My first trip to Canada was in the summer of ’48 when I went with Katherine and her family to spend a month in the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence Seaway. From this point I started remembering summers instead of Christmases as I was out of school, which I always hated for its lack of freedom and enforced rules and discipline.

In ’48 we moved to Quesada Street in Chevy Chase, Maryland and I vividly remember my first Christmas there because both Jimmy and I received a bike from Santa. We lived in a gorgeous old Williamsburg replica in a lovely area filled with parks and a tennis court across the street. I could ride my bike everywhere and did. The pictures below are probably taken at Christmas in 1950. Daddy was making more money now so we probably received clothes, books, board games and other gifts. I think our first TV was in this home because I remember watching all of the popular 50s shows – Ed Sullivan, Howdy Doody, etc. This is also the period when I collected hundreds of trading cards in many different categories – horses, dogs, nature, designs, flowers, sports, etc. I had a small shoebox just filled with an enormous quantity of these cards and every afternoon my friends and I would gather around and trade cards. I also remember getting Pick-up Sticks for Christmas and became a real master at that as well as “Jacks”.

bethesda, md.
Washington DC 1-'47-'48
Bethesda, Md. 2