Depression Era: Christmas Lights With No Electricity

Kansan recalls his neighbors stringing extension cords to light a Christmas tree in his living room.

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One Christmas I'll never forget was during the depression era, in 1936. 1 was 8 years old and my brother was eighteen months older. My dad was sick and in the hospital at Norton, Kansas. The doctors thought he had tuberculosis. We had moved to a little house on the edge of Axtell, Kansas, a little town of about 500. The house had no electricity. The City of Axtell had given us a Christmas gift and one evening my mother, brother and 1 walked uptown to Gaylord's store to get our gifts. One of the items was long underwear. I stood there eyeing the bulk cookie display while Mother visited with the store owner. He saw me looking at the chocolate stick cookies and asked me if I liked them. I said I did – a lot. He filled a sack with cookies for me. This was a real treat because we barely had money enough for food, let alone fancy cookies. Our shopping completed, we walked back to our house. As we stepped on our front porch a lighted Christmas tree suddenly appeared in our living room. Our neighbors across the road, the Alexanders, had talked to Mother and arranged to put up the tree while we were uptown. They strung extension cords across the road to their house so they could light the lights on the tree. There were even presents under the tree. I got the book "Black Beauty." The Alexanders really made a lifetime memory for two little boys. It turned out Dad was only suffering the effects of breathing grain dust at the elevator where he worked, and he was able to come home. I'll never forget our kind neighbors and the chocolate cookies. Once in awhile I buy myself a package of them and I make sure my grandchildren hear this story and get their share.

Gale Polson
Marysville, Kansas

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.