For county seniors, memories of Christmas past bring warm thoughts


Christmas is just a few days away, and as shoppers scramble to find that perfect present at the perfect price, this is also the season to reflect back on a simpler time.

For the Switzerland County seniors who meet each day at the senior mealsite, getting ready for Christmas transports them back to when they were children – and parents.

Mary Ellen McClellan remembered. “I always made the kids eat breakfast before they opened their presents. I guess I was a mean mama, wasn’t I?”

When she was a little girl, Mary Ellen McClellan lived with her parents on Drake’s Ridge. She was an only child, and – by her own admission – a “spoiled little girl”. Her parents, George and Lona Cole, lived with their daughter in a log cabin, waiting 14 years before their daughter was born.

“The houses weren’t heated then like they are now,” she recalled. “We only had one room that was heated. The living room was heated and that’s where we stayed most of the time. My father always put the Christmas tree out in the other room where it was cold.

“Christmas morning I’d get up and go down to that cold room to see what presents I got.”

And what sorts of presents did she get?

“Pretty much anything I wanted,” Mary Ellen McClellan said with a laugh. “Since I was an only child. Once we went to the store one year and there was this big red-headed doll. I pointed and said ‘Daddy I want her’. He nodded at the man to put her away, and later after I wandered around I went back and my doll was gone. I was so mad, I pouted all the way home.”

Christmas brings many different memories for Jeanette Weber.

“I have lots of Christmas memories, but when I was a little girl that was a hard time of the year,” she said. “When I was little I didn’t have a particular home, I was living with relatives in different places in Kentucky. There’s so many things that are different now.”

Through it all Jeanette Weber says that her wonderful family has carried her through, noting that she recently celebrated her 90th birthday.

“My whole family was in church on Sunday for my birthday,” she said. “I loved having the whole family there. I meant a lot to me.”

Jeanette Weber said that her mother died when Jeanette was nine, which led to her going to different members of her family while she grew up.

As painful as past Christmas memories are, Jeanette smiles when she says that this Christmas is a wonderful one, knowing that having her family is the most important part of the holiday.

Charlotte Walker remembers that she always wanted toys for Christmas.

She grew up with two older brothers, so she admits to being a bit spoiled, as well while growing up with her family on the hill in back of Florence.

“We just got toys and clothes and things we needed,” Charlotte Walker said. “We got the things we needed and maybe just a few things we wanted. The things we got needed to last us awhile.”

“We were a poor family and didn’t have anything, and usually the house burnt down sometime during the winter,” Pauline Covington remembered.

She said her best Christmas memory involved going with her family to her Uncle Charlie’s.

“We’d always go there for Christmas dinner,” she said. “I can remember it just as well as if it yesterday. I don’t know what was wrong with him, but he was always in the bed. He’d say, ‘Lizzie, fix dinner’, and she’d put the nicest dinner on. I can remember that dinner just so well.”

Pauline Covington said that the Christmas dinner featured duck, along with prunes and peaches, and oranges that were held in little wooden boxes.

She says that she’s lived in Switzerland County for 40 years, still living in the same house that she moved into way back then.

And is Christmas different now?

“Oh yes,” she said. “Christmas now doesn’t seem very special. Kids get things that they really don’t need and will probably never use after the first day. I can’t see buying stuff like they buy anymore. Everyone has too much stuff, anyway.”

Pauline Covington is also readying for a birthday, as the New Year’s baby will be 90 on January 1st.

So, as the group readies for their lunch together, they all agree that Christmas is truly a special time of the year, no matter how old you are when you celebrate it.

“It’s a wonderful time for families to be together,” Mary Ellen McClellan says. “Family. That’s the important thing.”