The Christmas of 1981 was another one of the really, really good ones. I was inching my way out of childhood and toward adolescence. But whether I wanted to admit it or not, I was still a kid susceptible to the magic and allure of Christmas. Still full of excitement and anticipation of the moment that the gun would signal the opening of the gifts. This was a very pleasant time in my life. As a fourth grader, I was kept very active by my Mom, participating in several extra-curricular activities. December was a busy month, as it yielded the fruits of these many clubs.
Denise and I were both singing in the church children’s choir and we had regular performances at the Beavercreek Church of the Brethren. The annual Family Christmas Celebrations were fun times, and typically included ornament making arts and crafts, a chili dinner, a service that usually would have a play and music incorporated into it. The one in 1981 took place on Sunday evening, December 6 – two days after Mom had put in an advance order of potato salad (from Lofino’s, I assume) for Christmas.
Denise’s desire to adapt to the climate conditions has never taken a backseat to fashion
Wearing Mom’s green coat and a Steelers cap, I show off my snowman, which isn’t half bad
We had a busy weekend the following week as well. We celebrated my cousin Susie’s birthday with a party of Friday the 11th. Since she is a Christmas Eve baby, her parents tried to keep her special event separate and special. On Saturday the 12th, we had some sort of luncheon with Santa, and on Sunday the 13th, we had the annual Eagles Christmas party. I can’t even be sure that I went along since I was now well beyond the Santa age (see the 1980 pic of me and Santa here).
Since I was in the Fairbrook Chorus, I also had to perform in that concert on Tuesday the 15th. And finally, there was another Christmas with the Gem City Classics Chevy club on Saturday the 19th. And as I departed school for the holidays, one of my assignments from my B.E.L.L. instructor was to read Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol. But do you think I was sick of Christmas by the time we reached the holiday itself? Not on your life.
In fact, I was even up to inventing a new tradition that would last the next four Christmases. Having purchased tiny plastic Presidential figures at cheap junk store Goldman’s for 15 cents apiece, I decided to utilize them under the tree. So I stacked the gifts in fort-fashion, creating hiding spots and barriers so that the Presidents could behave as army men and fight, ambush, and kill one another. It was a blast to say the least. I even created two teams so that there would be a definite winner when we came to the last President standing. One team name was ‘The Spars’.
Cute pic of Denise under the tree. Is that really yarn in her hair?
Denise got a second solo shot, and then there’s the one of the two of us seen at the top of the posting. I may have balked at a solo picture.
Christmas Eve came on Thursday in 1981. The gathering that evening was standard: my Dad’s family came over to our Winerset Drive house that evening. I had gotten to open one gift early that afternoon, the one that my Mom would buy from Great Grandma Murphy’s $5.00. I’m pretty sure that it was this year that mine was a giant joke book – an excellent present that would keep me occupied for the afternoon.
Grandma and Oscar, Arline & Carl, Harold, and Bill & Dottie along with Lora and Robby were the standard participants joining my family for the evening’s festivities – which I was now pleased to report was coming to me live, featuring ham and swiss on rye sandwiches.
Denise got a Rub-a-Dub Dolly, but I don’t recall what I got. Dad didn’t film any of Christmas Eve that year.
Rob, Denise, and I are ready to start handing out the gifts. Carl observes from the rocking chair.
Um, we’re still waiting. But could that fire look any more comforting?
Denise distributes gifts to Lora, Robby, Oscar, and Arline
I’m not sure what that gift was that I’m opening, but I look highly disappointed with it
As usual, I was up before everyone on Christmas morning. The amount of time between my arrival on the scene and the word ‘go’ to start ripping into the gifts was approximate 46 hours – or so it felt. I occupied my time by thoroughly examining every gift. There was something odd on this particular morning though. All of the wrapped gifts were sitting on top of what appeared to be a mattress covered with a blanket. My name was written on a piece of white paper and taped to the mattress.
Five-year old Denise still believed in Santa Claus and assumed that my name plate was indicating the zone on top of the mattress containing my gifts. She surmised that he might have been in a hurry and didn’t have time to put her name plate on her side of the mattress.
I played along…but I knew better. In fact, it didn’t take me long before anyone, including Denise, had gotten up that I peeked under the blanket and saw that it was a pool table. I was pretty darn excited. Now the trick was to summon the right amount of surprise when the big reveal actually occurred. I made the ‘false’ guess that it was a racetrack for my cars.
Opening the gifts – the model Corvette – that were sitting atop the special ‘mattress’. Note the Presidents figures making their holiday debut.
Denise goes to town opening her Strawberry Shortcake paint set
So as the black and white video camera grinded away, Denise and I opened up our gifts slowly, one by one, while I thought of nothing but the pool table. The theme of my gifts this year seemed to be cars, and apparently I was actually interested in them at this point. I got lots of Hot Wheels: a 40’s Woody, a ’57 Chevy, a Funny Car, and a Bugatti. I also got a larger model Corvette, and the book The Chevy Spotters Guide. Laurel and Hardy gifts were limited to a pin (which Denise got too) and the book The Films of Laurel and Hardy. Mention was made of the upcoming Sons of the Desert convention next summer. As a bonus I got a pen and pencil set and a remote for the TV in my room.
The theme of Denise’s gifts was Strawberry Shortcake…and almost nothing but. Items that contained her image included a ruler, a paint set, a wallet, bedsheets, pajamas, a nightgown, and a couple of the dolls themselves (indluding the Purple Pie Man), which finished off her collection. She also got a My First Barbie, some Barbie clothes, play perfume and lipstick (apparently she wanted something different, but said “But it’s okay I like it. I still like it.” At one point while opening gifts, she realized that Santa used the same wrapping paper that we did.
And then the time finally came to pull back the curtain and reveal my new pool table. My comment was, “I didn’t have the slightest guess that it’d be that.” I had always loved pool and wanted a real pool table, but since we had no room for one, this was a pretty good substitute for a ten-year old. We initially set it up in the dining room, then the living room, and eventually my room – where there was almost no room to play. Truth be told, we just didn’t really have the house for it, and within a couple of years, we had given it to Bev for her basement. But it brought me a lot of fun (and my cat Jet, whom we’d be getting within the next 18 months made his own fun with it too).
After the fracas, the pool table is set up and utilized
Mom and Dad each opened their gifts after we were finished. Dad had quite few more packages, but Mom had the more costly pair of camera lenses, a sailor’s coat, and shock absorbers for Dad’s car. Dad got intercoms for the garage, a Chevy book, flashlight, photo frame, a knick-knack to sit on top of a what-not, work gloves, a baseball glove, and a derby (although it didn’t ‘contour too good’…but that didn’t stop us all from trying it on). All the while I discreetly opened up the pool table box.
After we opened up the gifts and got the pool table set up, it was time to head off to the Murphy Christmas celebration. This year it was to be held at Grandma & Grandpa’s Kettering house on Kruss. At this age, I still things in terms of gifts, so the celebration there was always a bit anti-climatic. There would be the small gift from my aunt Darlene, a gift from Grandma & Grandpa, and then a gift exchange gift. I actually recall getting a couple of ‘Choose Your Own Adventures’ books from my Grandma Murphy, who had me in the gift exchange.
Melee at Grandma and Grandpa’s with (in clockwise fashion) Dad, me, Diana, Debby, Bev, Jim, Ben’s head, Karen, Susie, and Denise
Jim and Ben are on the floor, with Ed seated, Chris in standard on-the-knees position, Tom, Danny, Cathy, Darlene, and Grandma on the couch. Grandpa Murphy distributes the gifts.
Darlene glows with bow
We did a few more posed pictures this year than we had in a while, so I’ve got some nice family shots – but unfortunately the collection of photos I have appears to be incomplete.
Nice siblings portrait: Bev, Diana, Grandma, Grandpa, Darlene, Jim, and Mom
Great gathering of the cousins that existed at this point in time: Denise, me, Danny, Susie, Cathy, Ben, Debby, Chris, Lori, and Karen
Our family. I’m only as cool as my watch allowed me to be.
The Tange-clan ’81
For being stuck in my pre-teen, awkward, obnoxious years, I certainly have fond memories of these times.
We will continue in 1982…