This time of year always has me thinking back to Christmas when I was a kid growing up in Old Mission. My parents, Walter and Mary Johnson, built our house in Old Mission in 1959. In 1960, the year I was born, they moved from the farmhouse across from our barn north of Mapleton to the new house in Old Mission.
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I’ve said it before (and will again), but I really hit the jackpot with the family and life I was born into. Growing up on a farm on the Old Mission Peninsula was the best thing ever, and Christmases were no exception. I loved everything about it – gifts carefully bought and hidden, wrapped in a flurry of excitement and placed under the tree, a bounteous turkey dinner on Christmas Day…
I could never sleep on Christmas Eve. Too worked up anticipating the excitement of getting up early the next morning to rip open the presents and see what everyone received. On Christmas morning, I’m sure I was probably the first one up, no doubt around 5 a.m. In our new house, there were two bedrooms in the back of the hallway – one for my brothers, Ward and Dean, and one for my sister Carol and me.
On Christmas morning, we’d have to wait impatiently at the end of the hallway until we got the go-ahead from Mom to head to the living room and open presents placed under a tree that my dad had cut on the farm and hauled home. He was big on Douglas Fir, even though they were prickly as all get out. Still, that didn’t stop us from hanging every last ornament on the tree – beautiful ones sent every year from our Aunt Booie in Virginia, ones we made (we were big on crafts in our household), a Star Trek Enterprise ornament that played Capt. Kirk’s voice…
The photos in this story were taken in 1966, so I would have been six years old. Our family friend, Ken Miller, was staying with us at the time. He had moved here from Ohio to serve in the Coast Guard, where my dad was Lt. Commander at the Traverse City station. Having nowhere to stay, of course my parents invited him to stay with us. That’s how they rolled. Ken also worked on the farm and later worked as a mechanic at the Volkswagen dealership in town.
Below is a photo of Ken Miller, left, with me, my sister Carol Lewis, brothers Ward and Dean, and dad in the back (with his flat-top haircut). Carol got one of those nifty stocking hats (oh, I’d love to have one now! I did get one for Christmas a year or two later) and it looks like a camera in her hand. I appear to have a stuffed animal (I had a lot of those in my childhood years), Ward has a G.I. Joe, and Dean appears to be holding a transistor radio. He also had an entire library of Popular Mechanics magazines and Doc Savage books. Oh the good old days.
In this next photo, I can just barely make out that Dean is holding a game of “Racko.” We always got a board game or two at Christmas, and loved playing them throughout the year.
I’m not sure what’s in Carol’s hands (a book maybe?), but it looks like her new camera is next to her on the floor, along with an album of some sort. I can’t tell which band it is. The Monkees? Paul Revere and the Raiders? The Beatles?
In the photo below, I’m front and center with my new stuffed animal. Ken is on the left holding up something with “Good Will Toward Men” on it. Probably something my mom made for him. Ken was a wonderful Christian and also had a beautiful voice, which he put to use in the church choir at Ogdensburg United Methodist Church (now Old Mission Peninsula United Methodist Church). He was a lovely addition to our family.
So many of the things in these photos are now in my own house – many of the ornaments on the tree, the end table next to the tree, the “Magic Eight Ball” on the table in the top photo, the child’s wicker rocking chair (my dad’s when he was a kid)… While I tend to get nostalgic around Christmas every year, I’m also very blessed and happy to have grown up in such a great family in Old Mission.
Merry Christmas, All!