The Allied Volunteers of Allied Services held its annual “Breakfast With Santa” in the Graff Community Room in the Luger Center at Allied Services on Dec. 2. Santa and Mrs. Claus greeted each child with a Santa gift and an opportunity to have a picture with him.
Pictured seated from left are: Mark McMasters, Mrs. Claus (Penny Commons), Volunteers’ President Traci Adomiak and Santa Claus (Bob Commons).
Standing, same order: Shirley Lepthien, Nancy Connolly, Bob Zelno, Bob McDonough, Phyllis Sileo, Barbara Smith, Sue Edstrom, Betty Anderson, Scherry Gregg and Bill Tonti. Absent is publicity officer Mark McDade.
It was the Christmas season of 2003 and this scribe interviewed eight prominent Dunmore residents asking each to reflect on a favorite Christmas memory.
Three of the eight interviewed have since past away, but their life experiences and memories live on.
Here is a sample of those eight reflections of Christmas past.
“That’s easy,” said late former Dunmore council president Leonard Verrastro. “My daughter Carmel Ann was born Christmas Day at 10:30 a.m. We brought my wife to the hospital and she delivered. I celebrated Christmas in the hospital with my wife and newborn baby. I celebrated later at home with my first daughter Vita Grace.
“Vita Grace was named after my mom. Carmel Ann was named after my mother-in-law.”
Late Dunmore community activist Addie Michalek, a founder of the Dunmore Senior Center and Dunmore 50-plus club, was busy doing good deeds in the borough until she was 90. She also had a special Christmas memory.
“As a child,” she said, “all holidays are memorable when the family is together. You see Christmas in a different light.
“I was one of five children who came from a poor family, but my parents made sure we had enough food on the table and even extra special for Christmas. We would each receive one gift and we would be satisfied.
“We would go to Christmas Eve mass and on Christmas there would be music and singing.
“I will never forget a little Teddy Bear I received as a child. I mentioned it once to my grown children and then four years ago (1999) my grandchild had a special gift for me, a Teddy Bear. It’s very special to me.
“Gifts are more expensive today than my little Teddy Bear. In today’s society we put too much emphasis on how many gifts we receive. The simple things in life are the best. You don’t need riches. You need health and family.”
Late former Dunmore School Director Al Frioni, Sr., reflected on a special Christmas memory after returning home from heart surgery in late 2003. “I used to dress up and play Santa Claus in a few different places,” he said. “I came into this one Dunmore house dressed as Santa and my grandchild was there. He then went to a friend’s house. The friend was Jeffrey Jason. I went over, knocked on the door and shouted, Ho, Ho, Ho!
“About three minutes later, little Jeffrey looked at his dad and said, ‘I know who that is. He’s not Santa. He is Mr. Frioni. He has wing tip shoes.’
“Well, I always wore wing tip shoes. That made me get a pair of boots the next time I played Santa.
“Today, the Jason boy is owner and chef of the Old Brook Inn on Route 307 in Moscow. He will never forget my wing tip shoes. When I go there today, he reminds me.”
Former Dunmore School Director James McHale, Jr., had special memories of Santa. “I had many good ones and never went without,” he said. “My parents always made sure Santa was good to us. I remember thinking Santa was at my bedroom door looking at me. I thought I better get to sleep. I remember thinking I heard him.
“I have two boys , Jim and William, who still believe in Santa.
“I wish I still believed.”
Dunmore Mayor Patrick “Nibs” Loughney remembered a special Christmas tree. “A few years ago,” he said, “my wife, the kids and I went for a Christmas tree. My wife picked it and I cut it down. When we put it up, we noticed a bird’s nest in it. We kept it up and put an ornament in it.
“As a kid, I remember my dad putting a train together. My brother and I took the icicles from the tree and watched them make sparks on the train. That was a lot of fun.
“And remember those rock em, sock em robots? We all wanted them for Christmas.
“Visiting Santa at the Globe Store was the biggest thing. Remember the little lapel pin you would get? Getting the lapel pin was a badge of honor. And then lunch at the Charlmont.
And remember when everyone would drive around looking at all the Christmas lights? Those were memories.”
Former Dunmore Police Chief Sal Mecca said his finest Christmas memory came in a pack of five. “The birth of my five children and their first Christmas experience were my best Christmas memories,” he said.
“It was extra special when they believed in Santa Claus. I remember their expectations of waking up and seeing Santa come down the chimney. The look in their eyes on Christmas is my fondest memory.”
Former Dunmore councilman Paul Nardozzi will never forget the Christmas of 2000. “I come from a large family, so many were special. However, the Christmas of 2000 stands out. It was the last Christmas with my dad. He died in August of 2001.
“We all knew he was ill in 2000. The odds were stacked against him. You would never know it by watching him. He was a pillar of strength for the whole family.
“He made sure no one was down. He helped my mom cook and made sure everyone had a good time. It’s a very special memory for me.”
Dunmore Attorney Melanie Naro remembered the Christmas of 2002 the best. “It was the blizzard that made it so special,” she said. “My sister Liz and I went to the 10 a.m. mass at Christ the King church. It was a beautiful mass and then it started snowing. The snow kept coming and coming.
“We spent Christmas Eve at my sister Eve’s house on Naphan Hill. It was real tough to get up the hill, but we made it.
“The blizzard kept us in. We stayed in together all day instead of the usual going house to house. My brother, two sisters, brother-in-law, the kids in our family and nieces and nephews were all there.
“We were all snowed in and it was a great family day. We were all together. I will always remember it fondly.”
Just a small sample of some great Christmas memories in Bucktown.
It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and I am in the process of putting up our Christmas tree. It always puts me in a nostalgic mood as I take out the ornaments collected throughout the years. Our living room tree has a gold theme. When I married John over nine years ago, he had plain gold balls on this tree.
Being an ornament aficionado, that wasn’t good enough for me, so I sorted through all of my other ornaments to find anything with gold or brass. Surprisingly, there were quite a few, and then I began adding (any excuse to buy more holiday ornaments).
Many of them are quite meaningful—official White House ornaments from our friend Michael; brass ornaments from the Union League of Philadelphia; a gold cannon from Gettysburg; an enamel pineapple from our honeymoon in Newport; a Lenox tiered cake with gold script saying “Our First Christmas Together”; and ones my daughter Rebecca has bought on her travels, keeping in mind our theme (the latest just in from her trip to Thailand!).
Upstairs in our library, I put together a tree tribute to the British Isles – leprechauns, Scots guards, Beefeaters, Big Ben, Shakespeare, tea cups, Buckingham Palace, and a tartan ribbon bow on top. Our library has a British atmosphere – we call it the Churchill Room, so the tree fits the theme.
We used to have a pencil tree in the den, filled with family ornaments. I turned that tree over to John’s son Johnny, who lives next door to us and was starting from scratch ornament-wise. He has the Hart mementos from Disney World, Radio City Music Hall, Rehobeth Beach, Hilton Head, and some handmade items from grade school, not to mention examples of their passion for cars, trains, and golf.
My penchant for tree decorating is nothing new. I was enthusiastic from childhood—we had one of those old-fashioned real pine trees with shiny ornaments and lots of what we called icicles, better known as tinsel. I thought it was really magical lit up with those larger multi-colored light bulbs. By the way, I just read an article saying that the icicles had a lead component and went out of favor in the Sixties. You can still buy them, of course, but they are made of some kind of plastic. I stopped using them years ago when we had a dog who thought they were lots of fun to drag around the house and also enjoy as a snack!
My own first tree is one that makes me cringe in remembrance. I had a studio apartment in Wilkes-Barre after college and I had to buy an artificial tree because I lived in a high rise and there were safety regulations. (Ironically, it was not fire but flood waters from Tropical Storm Agnes that later caused me to flee the building!). Anyway, in keeping with the period (the Seventies), I used blue twinkle lights and blue, green and white satin ornaments. In retrospect, it was not my finest Yule project.
Later, when I got married, we always had a real tree, complete with debate about how tall it should be. (Somehow trees look smaller in a field than they do in the house.)
I began my collection of ornaments from our travels—a dried floral creation from Hawaii, little straw donkey from Mexico, a royal coach from London, and an Eiffel Tower from Paris. I also used one of my daughter’s tiny white Mary Jane shoes as an ornament, along with her baby rattle. Adding vintage glass Italian ornaments which belonged to Jorge’s aunt, along with some silver balls with hand-painted pink roses that came from my grandmother, I came up with a Victorian themed tree accented with silk pink, white and burgundy roses, and dried baby breath. I really thought it was breath-taking, and I rather miss it. I really do like using silk flowers, baby breath, and ribbon on my trees..
While that formal creation stood in our living room, I used an artificial tree in our TV Room with a children’s theme—rocking horses, metal bicycles, stuffed animals, nutcrackers, tiny dolls, candy canes and more. In the kitchen, I put up a 3-foot tree using cinnamon sticks, cookie cutters, gingerbread ornaments and fruit.
I put 2-foot trees in our bedrooms (Rebecca’s was blue and white in tribute to our Nittany Lions), and another small tree on our sun porch with an animal theme –cats, puppies, giraffe, hippo, lions, elephant, and moose. The tree in my bedroom was in burgundy and gold, to match the decor of the room.
I pretty much love any kind of Christmas tree—formal and fancy, primitive or plain. I enjoy the decorating and the collecting. Most of all, I enjoy the reminiscing about the provenance of the decorations and the wonderful times we have spent together in the light of those trees.
I’ve seen some favorite trees over the years that were not my own. One friend used all shiny silver ornaments tied with tartan bows and then added cinnamon sticks. Another used Charlie Brown and Snoopy ornaments to reflect their favorites.
I really think trees should reflect the taste and passions and history of the owner. It can be an old-fashioned tree with cranberry and popcorn and Grandma’s ornaments, or a Penn State or Notre Dame tree, or a very fashionable tree in mauve and purple or turquoise and red. It’s a great thing if it reflects who you are as an individual or a family.
And, of course, if you just want to throw up a little table top version with a couple of ornaments that’s fine, too. Whatever you do, I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. And for my Jewish friends, a very Happy Hanukkah as well! (I won’t even get into the many designs possible for your menorah!)
And, since we won’t publish again until after New Year’s, have a safe and joyous celebration to see in 2017!