Christmas, in addition to its religious significance, can be a time for memories. Lots of us have recollections of things past at this time of year – some pleasant and others not so pleasant. I hope yours are happy reminiscences.
As I thought about some of my Christmases past, a host of recollections surfaced. Many of us have lost loved ones over the years, and we can’t help wondering what it might be like if they were still with us to celebrate the holidays. So Christmas can be a time of melancholy.
On the other hand, as I think back, my most vivid Christmas memory is receiving an electric train set as a child.
It was just after World War II, and my parents gave me an American Flyer from the A.C. Gilbert Company. It was slightly more realistic than the Lionel trains that were more popular at that time because it operated on two tracks just like real trains, instead of Lionel’s three rails. As I recall, the American Flyer trains featured more detail than the competitor. My train consisted of a locomotive and caboose with a boxcar, tanker car and a flat car with a searchlight on it. We’d turn out all the lights while the train moved over the oval tracks with the searchlight shining around the room.
My engine also blew smoke – I used a little container of a strange-smelling oily substance to squeeze into the tender, and in short order, little wafts of smoke puffed out of the locomotive. Lionel trains didn’t have that feature.
As I grew into my teen years, the train stopped coming out of storage each Christmas, as other gifts took up the space beneath the Christmas tree. But while in college and working at Schuster’s department store in Milwaukee, I picked up another American Flyer train set the day after Christmas at a greatly reduced price. Now I had two trains – the new set featured a diesel engine, additional cars and more tracks.