Memories of Holidays Past
Dec 03, 2018 11:18AM
● By Jason Huddle
Memories of Holidays Past
Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder
In the age of technology and electronics, one of the most popular gifts under the tree in 2018 might be virtual reality headsets. The family might pile into the SUV and head to the mall or go see the latest movie in high-definition while reclining in stadium seats.
For those who were children in the first half of 20th century Cabarrus County, of course, Christmas was much different.
Cabarrus Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with a few seniors from that era who gave us some insight into their own holidays years ago. In addition, Mike Anderson of Michael A. Anderson Photography shared some Cabarrus County Christmas photos he’s uncovered in his studio. It was previously home to the Lawson Bonds/Oxford Studio and contains a treasure trove of old images.
Bill Caudle grew up in what is now Harrisburg; he still lives on his family’s property. “We were on the county line, so actually went to downtown Charlotte on Saturdays. My mother would set four kids loose, and me and my brother would take off together to the pawn shops up and down Trade Street.
“Kress’ (S.H. Kress Company, a five-and dime-store on 17-19 North Tryon Street) was on the square; we got hot dogs without chili for 12 cents (with chili: 13 cents). That became K-Mart. Sugar Creek and Tryon Street was the last stoplight coming out of Charlotte,” he adds.
Caudle says that Christmas was the best day of the year. “My daddy started getting presents in the summertime. He was an insurance man – the weekly premiums type – and he had a route. He would meet people that made things and he would buy them for the kids.”
He remembers the family cutting down cedar trees on land nearby for use as their Christmas tree. “One year we cut one down and, after a few days, all these flies that had laid yellow eggs in the tree, hatched. There were flies everywhere.”
He also remembers getting a shotgun for Christmas when he was about 12. “I unwrapped and put it together. Then I walked up and down the street showing off my gun. I still got that shotgun…and my .22,” he says.
For the holiday, Caudle’s father made eggnog. “A dessert type,” he says. “Everybody went to Daddy’s and Mama’s house. We had ham because we’d had turkey for Thanksgiving – the only time we ate turkey.”
Later in life, Caudle became the second Santa in both Locust and Mt. Pleasant for a time. “I built a float and was in all the parades, but then it got too hot,” he recalls.
“Peanut” Caudle Lambert
Caudle’s older sister, Teresa Lambert – better known as Peanut – says, ”My mama didn’t like the needles from a live tree all over the house so we got an artificial tree. One year I got a hat and a scarf and it all matched. I thought that was the greatest thing.
“I usually got baby dolls for Christmas. Daddy wrapped them up in newspaper and big ol’ scotch tape. The Sunday funnies gave them some color.”
Mary Church Caudle
Bill Caudle has been married to Mary for 54 years. “I was born in Cabarrus County Hospital in 1948,” she says.
The youngest of three sisters and a brother, their family also went out and got a cedar out of the field.
“We made decorations for it. We strung popcorn and we colored notebook paper for decorations,” she adds. “We didn’t have much money so we didn’t get a lot. A bicycle was a big gift.
“One year Daddy got me a little lamb (Mary had a little lamb). We got hard candy and I always got a doll every year.
“We went into downtown Concord every Saturday. I remember Belk’s, Sears and Cato; Mama had a charge account at Cato and Belk’s. That’s why I remember them,” she laughs.
I don’t remember what year it was, but I was 12 or 13 and we were out of school two weeks…it was cold! One of our neighbors made a homemade sled.”
Martha Stacy, 91 years young, grew up in Russellville, SC, but has been a Concord resident since 1955.
“We had a live tree practically every year,” she remembers. “I wanted to try an artificial tree, but my children wanted a real one.
“Shopping wasn’t near like it is now; I love seeing all the cars downtown (Concord). I went to Charlotte and shopped some, and to Kannapolis. I went to Charlotte – to Sears – to get my daughter a doll. That was really something to go walking downtown to shop.”
James Lentz, 80 and a former Cabarrus Councilman, grew up on Gold Hill Road in Concord. Like so many other families at the time, his went out in the field and cut down a cedar tree for Christmas. “We had handmade ornaments and decorations,” he says.
“I’m from a family of 10 kids, and I was the third. My mother was always the most thoughtful person you could imagine. I didn’t think 10 kids was a lot at the time, until I had two.
“I would get something like a little tractor for Christmas, and BB guns. We’d shoot critters. Christmas was always big. My mother cooked turkey. My brother, drafted into the Army, was in Texas one Christmas; it was the first Christmas without him. So my mom left the Christmas tree up until he came home. Today, we still leave our tree up all the time.”
These folks get together at the Cabarrus County Senior Center each Wednesday to enjoy lunch, Bingo, friendship and laughs. We thank them for taking the time to reminisce. Merry Christmas!
Article By: Kim Cassell
Photos Courtesy: Bill Caudle and Mike Anderson