Christmas Holiday Memories

      Comments Off on Christmas Holiday Memories


Christmases Past

by Kim Cole and Emmie Mayer (Stories of Madeline T. Lembke)

(This is one of a series of local histories complied andwritten by Arrowhead High School students under the direct of their teacherDavid Waltry. The Backroads series is the title of three books publishedby the students over between 1986 – 1989. Their project received an award fromthe Wisconsin State Historical Society in 1988. The story

Sitting in her living room, surrounded bythe scent of freshly baked cinnamon rolls, Mrs. Madeline Lembke told us storiesof her many Christmases. We considered her an expert since she experienced 73Christmases (Editor’s Note: Madeline, nee Tempero, was born March 15, 1912),many of them at her grandmother’s house in Lisbon. She began telling us abouther festive holiday activities at Lisbon  Plank School District No. 1. Sheremembered:

Every Christmas our teacher would present aprogram the night before our Christmas vacation. An elevated, speciallyconstructed stage would be built in the front of the school room with kerosenelamps for illumination. There were three bracket lamps on each side of theschool room and one in the front. The children would give their usual Christmasrecitations, dialogues, sometimes a shot version of Dickens’ “ChristmasCarol”, and sing familiar Christmas songs.

A Christmas tree stood in the cornerdecorated with ornaments brought from home. I remember a dozen or so of myschoolmates and I formed a living Christmas tree. We wore crepe paper gowns andtinsel around our necks. It was scratchy! We all stood on chairs of variousheights to form the tree. My mother always played the organ for the schoolprograms. At the conclusion, Santa would come in through one of the entries withhis bulging pack of gifts, candy and sometimes a popcorn ball for each child. Iremember waiting patiently for his arrival.

I remember one Christmas Eve when I wasabout seven years old. The Lisbon United Presbyterian Church always had aChristmas program on Christmas Eve. Cluster kerosene lamps furnished the lightin the church building. There was a large decorated tree standing in the frontof the church with gifts for everyone piled beneath it. They were passed outafter the children had given their recitations (or spoke the piece, as somepeople used to say) and had sung their Christmas songs.

That year my father took my two sisters, acousin and me to the program. At that time, sleighs and horses were the mode oftransportation during the winter months. Before we left for the program, myfather buckled a string of sleigh bells on each of our driving horses, King andPrince, to make our ride more enjoyable. He also put a layer of clean straw intothe bottom of the sleigh box and covered us with blankets so we were cozy andwarm. As King and Prince trotted over the snowy road, the merry jingle of thesleigh bells was the only sound to be heard “All was calm, all wasbright” as a gorgeous full moon and the twinkling stars shown down upon us.It truly was a ‘Silent Night!’

Later, I spent Christmas Eve at St. AlbansEpiscopal Church in Sussex. First, we would have a pageant given in the churchunder the direction of Mrs. James O’Connell with many of the parishioners takingpart in it. I usually portrayed Mary. Mrs. Connell followed the Christmas storyaccording to St. Luke from the King James Bible. The beautiful Christmashymns and carols were sung by the choir in proper sequence during the pageant.After the pageant was concluded, everyone would go to the Guild Hall next doorfor the children’s program. There was always a decorated tree on the platformand again after the children had concluded their program, a jovial Santa Clausappeared.

Later that evening, we would return to thechurch which had been beautifully decorated with poinsettias and other flowersfor the midnight service. Special Christmas music concluded a meaning ChristmasEve.

At home after the program, we hung up ourstockings and always left a note and something for Santa to eat. We hurried offto bed so we would be sure to be asleep when Santa Claus came to fill ourstockings. Long before daylight, Mother would come upstairs to awaken us. Wedressed hurriedly and took our positions prior to descending the stairs. As Iwas the youngest, I was first in line followed by my sisters, Ruth and Marion,our cousin Howard, and then our mother carrying a hand lamp to light our way.Our father would be waiting for us in the living room as he always liked to seeour excitement when we emptied our stockings. One year I found a gold locketwith my initial engraved upon it. I still have that locket with my grandparents’pictures in it.

On Christmas Day, after we had finishedbreakfast, our father would bring in several large flat stones and put them in theoven to heat and Mother dressed us in our Christmas outfits. We often wore plaiddresses or something special.

After midmorning chores, Father would driveup to the house with the sleigh. While he wrapped the stones in newspaper to putin the bottom of the sleigh to keep us warm, we would put on our warm coats,caps, mittens, scarves and overshoes so that we were all ready to go to Grandpaand Grandma Weaver’s home for the day. Soon after we were there, Grandpa andGrandma Tempero and Aunt Marnie would arrive in their light bob sleigh anddriving horse. When they came into the house, Grandpa Weaver would always say,” Merry Christmas, John!” and Grandpa Tempero would always reply,” The same to you, Fred!” We had such a small family that all the holidayswere spent together, which was nice.

While waiting for dinner, my sisters, mycousin and I spent our time looking at the closed parlor door, wishing it wereopen. Grandma kept the door shut until dinner to hide the surprise. For dinner,she would pull out her extension table the length of the room. Since I was theyoungest, I had to sit under the wall phone. I was the only one to fit under it.

The table was always laden with a bountifulChristmas dinner; a fowl of some kind, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy.For dessert, there was a fruit cake made from our Great Grandmother HarrietHoward’s recipe. We also had an English plum pudding which was served with aspecial sweet gravy. I learned how to make it from my Great GrandmotherElizabeth Weaver’s recipe brought from England. We boiled it in a cloth bag foreight hours several weeks before Christmas and then steamed it several hoursprior to Christmas.

After our scrumptious dinner the doubledoors into the parlor were opened. There was the beautiful tree in the corner ofthe room. Grandma has decorated it with tinsel, ornaments and cornucopias. Manycolored candles clipped to the branches were burning brightly.

Then there were the gifts! Two gifts Iremembered especially, a tinker toy and construction set; and when I was four,we got a wagon. Grandma Tempero always crocheted things for us. I remember theround dollies she made for my sisters and me. Mine was blue, one sister’s waspink and the other’s yellow with flowers inside.

I really remember the Christmas that wereceived the large Flexible Flyer sled. My sisters and I spent many happy hours coastingdown our neighbor’s hills and the hill on Richmond Road, which didn’t have muchtraffic so it was safe. It didn’t take long to fly down those hills, but it suretook a long time to walk back up! Not only did we enjoy the Flexible Flyer formany years, but when we were older, we used to take one of the neighbor’schildren coasting, too. My children, and now my grandchildren had fun with thatsame sturdy sled which is 65 years old and still in running order.

After all the gifts were distributed andopened, we played with our new games and toys and the grown folks visited.

Every year we went home thinking Christmascouldn’t be any more special…but it always was!

Sussex had a community Christmas tree in1927, a large evergreen from the lawn of Chester Lingelbach. A program was heldon the evening of December 22ns to begin the week long celebration. The programbegan with an invocation followed by an address by the Rev. Charles Mann,followed by the singing of Christmas carols. The tree was lit each evening forthe next week. (Waukesha Freeman, December 22, 1927)

The girls of the 7th and 8th grades, and the Girl Reserves ofSussex School went out singing Christmas carols at several homes  on Fridaybefore Christmas. After enjoying several treats to eat, they went back to schooland enjoyed some moving pictures. (Waukesha Freeman December 25, 1940, page 6)