Throughout the years while I was raising my four kids (beginning in 1954), I kept a journal where I periodically made notes about holidays, school, vacations, etc. As an occasion arises where I think one of my journal entries would be pertinent, I’m going to post it just as I wrote or typed it back in the day (except for an explanatory note or correction of a typo).
The children will be known here by the nicknames their grandfather used when they were toddlers: The oldest daughter will be Newsie (because she was as good as a newspaper for finding out the latest happenings), the oldest son is Bar (because he called Grandpa’s truck Bar and Grandpa called him Bar), the youngest son is Jackson, and the youngest daughter is Shanty (as in Shanty-Boat).
In 1954, I had an 8-month-old baby girl and was looking forward to her first Christmas.
Newsie, 8 months old, 1954
One day in December, I carried Newsie on one arm, a folding Taylor Tot on the other, and boarded the bus to go to downtown Cincinnati. My mother worked in the large Shillito’s department store and I liked to meet her at lunchtime to do a little shopping. That year, for my first Christmas with a baby in the house, I really wanted what we called a manger scene – or creche or crib – with the little figures to set up on a table. We found one with a cardboard stable complete with the Holy Family, angels, shepherds, wise men, sheep, a donkey and a cow.
I fell in love with it but didn’t have the $5 to purchase it. My mother bought it for me on the spot and it has held a place of honor for all these years.
I arranged the set on a low table so that little ones could get a good view of it. I don’t recall Newsie ever touching the figures, but the two brothers who soon came along were inclined to use the stable as a parking garage for their mini cars, with the figures scattered helter-skelter.
When little sister Shanty came along in 1970, she was just as fascinated with it:
“We are just about ready for Christmas, 1972. The tree has been up for a couple of weeks now and Shanty continuously takes down ornaments, rearranges ornaments, breaks ornaments….She fools with the tree constantly and is almost as bad with the manger scene. At any time we can find the whole set down on the floor where she has been ‘playing house’ with it.
Shanty, 2 years of age, 1972
The stable has been replaced many times. Some of the figures were broken – the wisemen seemed to be particularly hard-hit – and I was lucky to find vintage replacements for them in an antique store about 20 years ago. Most of the figures are original with one headless sheep…
… and just a few chips here and there. Now, the manger scene sets as it always did, low enough for small children to get a good look at the figures and maybe even switch them around a little. I don’t mind the chips when I see little hands moving the angels forward a bit or repositioning the donkey. This year, the great-grandson arranged the figures as if they were on a stage with everyone facing the audience.