I'm very grateful to Linda Maugans, my grandma, who wrote down two of her favorite Christmas memories and kindly has permitted me to share them here. These memories date to the early 1940s when she was a very young girl.
Christmas Memories: Dolls for Christmas
By Linda Maugans
Christmas always meant a new doll for my sister, Garnet, and me, and over the years we received all shapes and sizes, some with a wardrobe of clothes hand-made by Mrs. Santa Claus. One of the most memorable was a bride doll, complete with long veil. I didn't play with her much because I didn't want to spoil her beauty. I have her yet, and although she is packed away, when there has been occasion to open her box-home, she has always evoked the thrill I felt when seeing her for the first time.
Another special one was an adorable, little Madame Alexander doll, wearing her pink dress and white pinafore, and sweet little white high-top shoes. She still is quite beautiful as she sits proudly in my curio cabinet with other special treasures. Unfortunately, she is barefoot as somewhere along the line she lost her shoes, but I love her just as much unshod as shod.
During those years we also received the necessary items to care for our “children,” such as wooden highchairs, cradles — complete with music box — and a green trunk for all the doll clothes we had accumulated.
I was ecstatic when I unwrapped my first rubber “Dy-Dee” doll — a rubber doll that came with a little bottle, and drank the water (milk in my world of make-believe). She was completely outfitted with a bathinette that held water, and she must have been the cleanest baby in town. Of course, after she took her bottle it was only a few seconds before she needed her “didee” changed. That little doll took the whole world of make-believe to a new level.
I had several rubber dolls after that one. In fact, I received my last Christmas doll when I was eleven years old and although I sometimes played with her I felt that I should be doing so in secret. I felt uncomfortable and perhaps a little guilty because I knew all my friends had put away their dolls two or three years before. I like to think that they just didn't have the same kind of imagination…it seems I've always marched to a different drummer, or perhaps heard a different song than most every one else. I just seemed to think differently than a lot of people, and I haven't changed much, as most of you know.
We learned about loving and caring as we played with our make-believe babies, and it made for a much easier transition and joy when we were blessed with the real thing. Play was largely based on actual events during my childhood. Whatever the occasion we enacted it. There were many pretend church services, weddings, funerals, and school rooms, and we never seemed to tire of playing house. Play, back then, prepared us for life and I will always be grateful for it.
Christmas in Wartime: When the Lights Go On Again
By Linda Maugans
One of my earliest memories of the Christmas season is an ad that was in one of Mother's magazines. It had to have been during the period when the free world was afraid of being bombed, and the only way they had to hide was to go dark. I remember a couple years after the ad experience, when America was having black-outs and everyone was required to have dark window shades. I remember a night when there came a knock on the door. There stood an Air Raid Warden, wearing his white helmet, who advised Mother of a small hole in the shade at one of the windows which was allowing a pinhole of light to be seen, and that it must be covered immediately.
In this present time of streetlights, security lights, and neon signs it is hard to imagine that back then there was total darkness. This is all setting the stage for the ad, and I guess I should also mention that one of the popular songs on the radio was about the “dark” that was thought needed in order to survive. Each year I understand more fully how horrible it must have been living in blitz-torn England, and how blessed America was to have escaped the same fate, although we certainly paid with the blood of hundreds of thousands of our men and women in the military. Those early war years had much to do with the shaping of my life, and the basis for the way I feel as I do about many things that are happening now. But I digress!
Back to the song: “When the Lights Come On Again All Over the World.” I loved that song, and it has much to do with the ad which I can see as clearly in my mind as if it were before me. The ad was a two-page color spread, and all around the sides was a string of Christmas tree lights, shining brightly in all their different colors. In the center of the ad was the staff and musical notes to the song, and in large print, it read, “When the lights come on again, let them be Noma!” (Noma was the brand of lights.)
I hope you will add to your Christmas prayers thanks for the blessing of the wonderful light displays you will be seeing. Writing this has reminded me that they are something I should not so easily take for granted…or for the cost of our freedom to have them.
Editor's Notes: (1) The vintage ad for the Dy-Dee doll and playthings dates to the thirties or forties and was located through a Google Image Search; the image used was originally at this French website. There are many (so many) other ads available on the web but this one had the “bathinette” and was from the right timeframe. (2) The 1941 Noma Ad was found at oldchristmastreelights.com, an interesting page in its own right that is worth a visit if you're interested in vintage Christmas lights. I tried for an embarrassingly high number of hours over several months to find the ad referred to in this post but haven't been able to find it. The shortage of Christmas lights in the U.S. during the war years probably led to a shortage in ads to be preserved by collectors. In case you've never spent an ungodly amount of time googling vintage Noma Christmas light ads (and every variant thereof), it is worth doing: some of the images which crop up are outstanding. (Santa smoking a cigarette in a mid-century Chesterfield ad, for example.) (3) “When the Lights Go On Again (All Over the World)” was written in 1942 and was the number one recording in the U.S. in 1943 (Wikipedia). The image from the sheet music cover is readily available by image search from multiple sources.
And again, a very big thank you to Linda Maugans for writing this post.