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It is the time of year when I seem to get restless and start thinking about Christmas and all of the festivities. This was always my Mother’s favorite time of year and I still get that kid-like feeling whenever I hear the old standby Christmas carols being played in stores and over the radio. I really believe that the Christmas season brings out the kid in a lot of us.

As a kid I used to love walking along Broadway and seeing all the store windows nicely decorated for the season. You always knew it was that magical time of the year when the talking mechanical Santa would appear in the window of the Skinner-Chamberlain Department Store. Santa could be many places at once because there was another one that sat above the door at the Queen Stoves factory. You can actually see that same Santa today if you drive on Front Street because he is above the door of Lou-Rich waving just like he has done for years.

All the shopping was done Downtown and there were many stores to visit. Not only were JC Penney, Montgomery Wards and Sears located there but there were many clothing stores plus Gambles, Coast-to-Coast and of course the Skinner Chamberlain Department store. I can remember what an occasion it was when Skinner’s got that escalator put in. My friend Kenny asked his mom and dad if I could ride along with them to town to see the escalator. What a marvel that was and what a state of the art store it was for our little town. Not only did it have an elevator with an operator but now it had that escalator – just like the big cities. Us kids couldn’t get enough of that thing on that Friday night.

The stores were usually open late on Friday nights and before Christmas they would be also stay open late on Thursdays. Driving down Broadway at night during the Christmas season was always special because the colorful Christmas lights were crisscrossed across the intersections on Broadway and even on the Northside for a few years. It seems that like so many old traditions Christmas is more about “Black Friday” and the deals you can get than the celebration itself. Years ago you could drive around town and most houses had some sort of Christmas lights now it almost seems like Halloween has more lights than Christmas. I was lucky enough to attend country school (Hammer) where each year we had a Christmas program that I always looked forward to.

As a kid, the season, to me was about the music, the yummy goodies that you never got the rest of the year and of course the presents. I can remember my mother setting up the ironing board to use for wrapping presents and I always got that certain tingling of excitement whenever she would ask me to leave the room because I knew that she was wrapping a present for me.

Christmas isn’t all about presents but to a young child it is the more than likely the best part. The Sunday School Christmas program was our chance to celebrate the reason that we have this season in the first place. It was a big event and we would spend the Saturdays before the big day rehearsing our parts. Our little church would be filled to the point of overflowing and after the program we always got that brown paper sack of goodies which contained hard candy, cream chocolate drops, peanuts and an apple.

 I don’t believe that there is a better experience than hearing the laughter and the excitement in the voices of little children at Christmas. As a parent I always wanted to give the boys things that I would have wanted to get when I was a child. It’s never foolproof however especially with my oldest son Brian because it never seemed to fail that the present that he wanted most in the whole world would be discarded a day or two before the magical night and be replaced by something totally different. Unfortunately Santa already had the first gift in the bag so the new one would have to wait for the next year. Speaking of Santa, we had a visit from him one Christmas Eve at my Grandpa and Grandma Herfindahl’s. He came busting through the front door handing out goody bags of candy and apples to us kids all the while laughing a jolly laugh that reminded me a lot of Uncle Ben’s. Come to think of it, where was Uncle Ben?

Each year at about this time I start scouting the grocery stores looking to see who has my favorite delicacy, the cherished dish that we Norwegians call lutefisk. Yes I will be trolling the grocery aisles in search of that tasty morsel so that we can eat our fill on Christmas Eve.

I have told the story many times of my coming of age in the eyes of my elders by being permitted to sit at the “adult table” and partake of that tasty dish. My cousin Bill on my mother’s side liked to eat lutefisk but his wife Cleo would not let him fix it in their house because of the smell. I guess that I have become immune to any kind of odor that it may or may not give off while being boiled because it all smells like Christmas to me.

Until next time, be careful when venturing out on the thin ice and remember it’s always time well spent when you spend it in our great Minnesota outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers; especially during this holiday season. They are the reason that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we enjoy today.

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