Kingston residents recall Christmas memories

Kingston of Sylvania residents Betty McCormick, Dick Baker, Judy Bennett and Vava Campbell share Christmas memories, including gifts, traditions and favorite foods.

Christmas is the season; a time of great joy; a time of celebration and a time to remember. Four residents of Kingston of Sylvania took time to share their joys, their celebrations, and their fondest memories…

Betty McCormick and her two siblings grew up with their grandmother and grandfather on a farm in Sterling, Mich. The grandparents had 14 children including McCormick’s mother, who died when she was 3. On Christmas Eve, she and some of her family would find the perfect tree, cut it down and bring it into the farmhouse where aunts, uncles, and cousins would all help with the decorations.

Thanks to the generosity of her husband and children, McCormick has been the recipient of many beautiful gifts over the years. “Each gift was wonderful and very special,” she recalled.

A Christmas meal was not complete without her grandmother’s poppy seed rolls that sometimes had raisins. That tradition continues today as her son has the recipe and the rolls are on the table even though she is not a fan. She also remembers Hungarian cookies with more fondness thanks to her mother’s Slavic heritage and Greek cuisine thanks to her father’s background.

Dick Baker, a product of the old South End of Toledo, graduated from the University of Toledo. He and his family created a myriad of memories in the many places they lived around the country throughout his career. Even so, he recalls a 7- or 8-year-old self wishing and hoping for an electric train for Christmas. Everyone knew how much he wanted that toy. He found his present in a large box under the tree and eagerly undid the wrappings with visions of his Lionel zipping around its track. Imagine his surprise when the top of the box was opened and a wind-up train was revealed instead. “It was all I could do to pretend how happy I was with the gift. I did not want to let my mom and dad know how disappointed I was,” he remembered.

Later memories include flying his mother and mother-in-law to join his family to celebrate Christmas wherever the Bakers lived from St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Fresno, New Orleans, and more.

One stand-out Christmas in Fresno, Baker and his good friend Dan Krazon, who often played Santa, were at a pro basketball game. “Dan happened to remember that he was due to be Santa for a children’s event in Madera, Calif. We left the game and sped down Route 99 in his Corvette, going at least 100 miles per hour. We got there just in the nick of time. With the car still running, I helped him turn into Santa, and off he went while I parked the car. Little did the kids know how close they came to missing Christmas that year!” he chuckled. “I think about that every year at this time.”

He also recalls fondly enjoying Placek, a traditional Polish bread, but noted that he likes to eat anything.

As a teenage girl, Judy Bennett remembers that she wanted a pink autograph dog. Her curiosity got the best of her and she had to check the package under the tree. She ended up tearing a hole in the wrapping but saw it was the dog she wanted. Then she had to scramble to make the repairs, so her snooping would not be discovered.

As time went on, she, her husband and children created many traditions and memories of their own. Each winter, as her children were growing up, the Bennett backyard would be transformed into an ice rink in deference to her husband’s Canadian roots, providing fun for the entire family along with those in the neighborhood.

The family found local tree farms where they would go year after year to cut down a live tree bringing Christmas to their home. “We also gave our son and daughter a new personalized ornament each year so they would have their own collection when they moved on with trees and families of their own.

Another fond memory Bennett shared was as a Cub Scout and Girl Scout leader. She would have her troops help her make Scottish shortbread each holiday season. “My grandmother was Scottish and passed the recipe to me. The kids loved doing this as they had to mix the butter, sugar, and flour mixture with their hands, a messy but great fun experience resulting in a yummy treat.”

Bennett’s traditional made-from-scratch whole cranberry sauce, a must-have on the family holiday table, continues with her son’s help.

Vava Campbell always had a fresh tree growing up complete with a lively celebration with cousins, aunts, and uncles on Christmas Eve.

She remembers the year she longed to have a typewriter and asked for it for Christmas. Lo and behold, she found a large, heavy box with her name on it under the tree. “This surely is my typewriter,” she thought. But when she opened her present, she found only a big bucket of coal thanks to one of her mischievous brothers.

Despite that practical joke, she and her immediate family always celebrated Christmas in her parent’s home with her three brothers and two sisters and their families at their father’s insistence.

For the past several years, Campbell wanted a pink coat and it was just last year her wish was realized … now she has no idea why she wanted it but she was happy to have that wish granted.

While the Christmas traditions and memories of these four Kingston residents may be very different, they all wholeheartedly agree that family has always been the cornerstone and most important part of Christmas.

On a final note, Baker received his electric train and Campbell got her typewriter (in ornament form) this Dec. 7 thanks to the staff at Kingston Residence of Sylvania.

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