Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 17th

December 17th…“WHAT CHRISTMAS EVENT IN YOUR MINNESOTA HOMETOWN STOOD OUT TO YOU IN YOUR CHILDHOOD?”

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A hot movie during a cold Winter….for FREE!

“Tarzan”, icicles and John Deere tractors seem to be an incongruous teaming that brings Christmas memories, and yet to me, they go hand in glove to induce me to smiles and travels back into the sweetness of childhood.

In my boyhood days on our farm, my weekly bank account (alias spending allowance) grew by a mere 25 cents.  One quarter of a dollar, and that rotund (speaking “tongue in cheek”) sum was usually expended each and every Saturday evening when our family drove into Kiester for the Lucky Bucks Drawing and general family shopping.  Needless to say, I was NOT in possession of monetary means to be able to afford to see a movie on my limited income of just 25 pennies lined up in a row.

#977 Arnold Baumann
Our much loved “KEE Theater” owner, Mr. Arnold Bauman

To my Christmas financial rescue, and that of hundreds of other children in our village, came a very well-liked man, by the name of Mr. Arnold Bauman, who owned and operated the movie theater in our sweet hamlet.  Arnold teamed up with the Sime family, who ran the local John Deere tractor dealership, to bring a FREE Christmas movie and treats to local children every year in our fine rural community.

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Children line up for the FREE Christmas movie in days before Elliott enjoyed them.

The venue for this wondrous event was the one and only KEE Movie Theater located at the north end of our small town’s Main Street.  Opening in 1940, this magic arena for imagination and entertainment brought countless thousands the opportunity to step into its elegant chambers and be transported to whatever world of adventure one chose to enjoy.

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Tickets were FREE that day!

From the second you stepped into the lobby, you were greeted with the heady fragrance of scrumptious popcorn being brought to perfection as it called to your senses. Your happy eyes saw each kernel jumping for joy at your presence as it ricocheted from popper to glass wall and back into the golden-lamped bin awaiting the scoop to fill your bag.

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Elliott felt like a king with his FREE movie and a bag of popcorn.  Bring on the Christmas FUN!

Thanks to Mr. Bauman and the Sime family, this dollar-challenged farm boy is now perusing the aisles, in my “kalumping” Winter boots, as I sought the best seat to settle in to and prepare for our kids Christmas movie (with cartoons, too) to begin.  As was the norm, for Minnesota Christmas times, there was usually a snowstorm blowing outside of these cozy walls with frigid temperatures down in the 20’s or colder.

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Projectors ready to roll film.

The lights of the auditorium gently begin to fade as we kids notice the tall, elegant red velvet curtains make their swishing sound as they pleat themselves into the fully open position.  Above our heads, Mr. Bauman’s giant film projectors fire up to life and flickering images become clear on the massive movie screen as John Deere tractor commercials begin to parlay the advantages of owning this fine farming implement for your very own.

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Even though the Noorluns used Farmall tractors on their farm, Elliott LOVED the putt, putt sound of a John Deere tractor.   John Deeres were sometimes called a Johnny Popper.

The John Deere advertisement is now over and on comes the cartoons for everyone’s giggle muscles to be exercised!!   With the sound of happy popcorn munching all around me, it was now time for the main feature film to begin.  BOY OH BOY!!

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Steaming jungle movies for Christmas versus freezing blizzard outside the theater 😉

I, for one, was intrigued by the various choices of film subjects each year.  The Tarzan movies were my favorites because here we were, bundled up against the frozen temperatures that awaited us outside of the theater, and there, on the screen were actors in a hot, humid jungle getting all sweaty in the sunshine of far away Africa.

#978 Lawrence Haase
Dear Mr. Lawrence Haase

Having enjoyed every single minute of our FREE Christmas movie, it was now time to file out of the KEE Theater and out the front doors to meet the cold snap of Winter once again.  About to take place was the treasured time of “dessert” after the “meal” of the movie in the form of a FREE bag of ribbon candies and peanuts handed out by none other than Santa, himself.  Kind-hearted men of our town would volunteer, each year, to put on the Santa suit and be waiting outside the theater for us kids.  True to form, “Santa” had in front of him a big, dark red velvet bag of gifts for each boy and girl in attendance.  Inside its velvety redness, Santa’s bag contained small paper bags that had been stuffed with goodies and taped shut.  Inside those little paper bags were beautiful ribbon candy, jelly-filled candy and other assorted confections that were intermingled with loose, roasted peanuts in their shells.  Each bag was tightly taped shut and then Santa handed one to each little darling that passed him on their way to parents waiting outside the theater.  One year, the ill-fitting Santa suit easily revealed the features of dear local farmer, Mr. Lawrence Haase.  Sweet Mr. Haase, that dear soul, was a thin-framed man, so he was “swimming” in the over-sized Santa suit.  Besides, with his glasses on, and his snow white forehead above a sun-tanned face, it was easy to recognize him from the traditional “man from the North Pole”.  With grateful heart, I gladly received his greeting of, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” as he handed me my little bag of Christmas treats in the frosty air of this beloved hometown of a happy little Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

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Elliott will always be grateful to the Sime family for helping fund this wonderful Christmas memory of his childhood days in Minnesota.

 

 

 

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Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 14th

December 14th…“WERE THERE POPULAR CHRISTMAS CARTOONS YOU ENJOYED AS A CHILD?”

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A classic Christmas cartoon!

Nestled within the chambers of a child’s imagination are sparkling embers of fantasy.  When an artist like Charles Schulz comes along, those happy embers are fanned into a joyous blaze of wonder as music, gentle animation, voices and storylines combine to create a sweet moment that makes an indelible mark on the lives of every child who treasured the television premier of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” back in 1965.   Granted, I was a whole 11 years old that year, but hey, I was still a kid in the majority of ways and this delightful cartoon story made me smile and even caused me to become introspective of what Charlie Brown’s quest was all about.

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SUCH a touching moment during the story!

What a deeply poignant moment it was when little Linus called for the house lights to be dimmed and a spotlight was brought to focus on his place there on the school stage while he shared the beauty of Holy Scriptures.  He told the Christmas Story from the book of Luke in the New Testament.  I am moved, even to this very day, with that touching moment.  Cartoon? Yes, but powerful?….. a resounding YES!!

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Excellent “Grinchy” fun!! 😉

In the following year of 1966, another team of creative artists brought to life a cartoon version of the Dr. Seuss book, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”.  The cartoon genius of Mr. Chuck Jones, and fellow artists, created a delightful moving animation that made all us kids cringe and giggle at the same time.  And, who, but the “master of malice”, Boris Karloff, could create the narrative voice that was synonymous with evil as the Grinch spoke of the terrible things he’d do to the Who’s of Whoville!  The masterful singing voice of Thurl Ravenscroft rendered the deep bass and growling sound to that classic song, “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”.   That unique Christmas time melody is happily stuck in the psyche of many a Baby Boomer Kid (those of us born between 1946 and 1964) to this present day.

The combination of these classics, and other fine Christmas entertainment, still hold a happy place in the HO HO heart of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

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In 1964, when Elliott was 10 years old, this was another Holiday favorite to watch.

 

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 13th

December 13th…“HOW DID YOU DECORATE YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE AND HOME DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON BACK ON THE FARM?”

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Mr. Christmas Gator

There he was, peeking at me from his lair among the pine-needled branches of our Christmas tree.  “Mr. Gator” was nestled into his place of annual honor as one of our unique Christmas tree decorations.  Where he came from and why was he elevated from the swamp to a Christmas tree?, that, I’ll never know.  But there, in his red n yellow articulated plastic splendor rested “Mr. Gator” for another Christmas season within the heights of our family tree.

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Elliott still cherishes the gentleness of these old-fashioned Christmas lights.

To this very day, over half a century later, I still favor and desire the peaceful glow and deep colors of our old-fashioned string of Christmas lights that were foundational on the bare branches of what was soon to become a tower of treasures.  With every bauble brought forth from its tissued cardboard coach, the Christmas tree light bulbs were clipped in proper spiral elevations of our evergreen elegance.

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Each bulb was tenderly wrapped in tissue.

A sweetness of seasonal royalty surrounded each crafted and delicate bulb ornament.  Mother would always caution us as to the fragility of the holiday heirlooms that we were now directing our hands so as to hang them in their best position of display on our green mountain of merriment.  Mother instilled in us a sense of awe for these fragile glass baubles that were first created in Germany.  It’s possible that she and Dad had had these tiny colored Christmas treasures from their early days of marriage or were slowly acquired over the early years of our older brother and sister.  Either way, we obeyed her cautious supervision so that these moments could happen year after year for our entire family to enjoy.

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After awhile, Elliott lost patience with just one tinsel at a time going on the tree.

The last phase of this holiday decoration drama was the one that taxed the most patience of our little child minds.  Tinsel was to be gently placed in single strands on each inch of each branch so that it would hang in its regal mane like a flowing stream of icicles off of a frozen roof line.  After about ten minutes of this, I for one, was inclined to start tossing the aluminum man-made icicles in clumps onto the branches just to get the job over with.  Of course, I was aptly chastised by Mom and family for this horrific breach of the holiday decorating “laws”.

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Elliott loved the simplistic, yet effective beauty of these wreaths in their farm house windows.

America was, and still is, in love with plastic.  So, to help take our festive Christmas spirits to the outside of our home were red plastic wreaths that had a single, red-bulbed candle in the center.  We’d tap in a small nail to the wooden frame of our old Living Room window and hang the wreaths to the south and east windows.  Coming from the barn each evening, I could enjoy the glow of the red candle bulb AND the red halo that was illuminated by that bulb there in our window.

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Good ol’ plastic Santa.

Ol’ plastic Santa came out of his yearly hiding to be with us, too, on those fun occasions.  Although he could have been sent to the top of a tree, I seem to recall that he graced another one of our house windows and was then plugged in to glow out to the frozen farm yard that “Christmas was here!!”

Like any farmer boy, when decorating was completed, it was time to help Dad milk our herd of Holsteins.  When chores were completed and we got in from the barn, Mom had her usual delicious supper for us all to enjoy.  After supper, I asked permission to plug in our Christmas tree lights.  Being the little wiggle worm I was, I would lay on my back with head towards the tree and begin to wiggle my little boy body under the lowest branches of the Christmas tree so I could gaze up into the spectacular world of holiday color and lights.  I became entranced by the warm glow of primary colored strings of lights that lent a whole new spectrum of beauty to the glass Christmas bulbs, hanging Nativity scenes and gift boxes that had already begun to accumulate at the base of our Tannenbaum.  It was a dream world of color and wonderment for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 25th

December 25th…“WHAT IS A SPECIAL HIGH SCHOOL MEMORY OF CHRISTMAS?”

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This holiday carol is one of Elliott’s all-time favorites, thanks to singing it in his High School Concert Choir in Battle Ground, Washington.

Emblazoned upon the happy halls of my Christmas memories is one of my favorite yuletide carols entitled, “Carol Of The Bells”!  Even though it is nearing the half century mark, since I was in High School, when I muse upon this seasonal song, I am tenderly drawn to the honored memory of a hero of my young teenage days.

#946.1 Orrell Peru BGHS 1972 001
Our Concert Choir had great respect and love for our wonderful teacher, Mr. Orrell Peru.

Mr. Orrell Peru was one of those cherished mentors of my education that impressed me with his very existence as well as his altruistic love and passion for choral music.  Mr. Peru’s intense fervor for music poured forth to thousands of students over the many decades that he was Director of Choral Music at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, Washington.

Embroitique Valentine's Day Sweet Heart Raw Edge Applique
A holiday classic!

This dear Christmas melody was owned and loved, not only by MY generation of choir mates, but by thousands of other students, in years gone by, that had sung it before we did.  In his early days of teaching choir in our school district, our maestro began a tradition of beginning each annual Christmas concert with the “house lights” turned off to quiet the audience.  Then, upon the performance stage, a colorful, light-festooned Christmas tree came to life right next to our choir risers.   Our beloved Director would also sometimes hang a giant star above the stage for added effect for what was about to happen next.

#975 Elliott's Senior year of choir 1972 001
Elliott is top row, far right.  Battle Ground High School Concert Choir 1972.

Like us that night, choristers of each preceding generation would gather in the foyer of the now-darkened auditorium where parents and members of the community had come to celebrate Christ’s birth by listening to our collective voices.  Battery-powered candles were supplied to myself and my fellow minstrels of song and now, all that awaited was to hear the pitch pipe cue of Mr. Peru who stood in the auditorium entryway.   With circular pitch pipe to his mouth, our concert master blew the introductory note for us to follow.   With rapt attention, we all responded to the downbeat of his arm and the beginning melodists began singing…….”Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, throw cares away”.

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On/Off/On/Off went the lights on the tree.

Our troupe of singers stepped in cadence into the darkened auditorium.  Our growing numbers brought the a cappella choral sound of our voices and the warming glow of light from our candles into that darkened chamber.   As we eventually filled the double aisles with our members, we proceeded in step to transport ourselves to the stage and risers.  All this while, during the song, our beloved Mr. Peru had a hand-operated switch controlling the Christmas tree lights on the stage.  By clicking the tree lights on and off, on and off, he aided his singing assembly to stay on tempo with the first singers that stepped inside the auditorium earlier in the song’s beginnings.  Now, thanks to Mr. Peru’s light “metronome”, the last choir members entering from the foyer could be at the same cadence as the first singers.

#976 BGHS 1972 Choir Part 2 001
The remaining portion of Elliott’s Concert Choir members in 1972.

As our choir eventually occupied those old wooden risers, we finished our carol in full voice as the last members sang, “Ding, dong, ding……dong”.  One could easily see that the crowd was thoroughly pleased by not only the Christmas song itself, but also with the re-ignited memories in the hearts of many former choir members that night in the audience who had, themselves, sang this song under Mr. Peru’s direction in their High School days.  Together, my generation, and former choir members of the past, sang this special song with that delightful soul of a man (Mr. Peru) that was greatly admired by this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!

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This grand Christmas melody was originally created in 1914 by a composer from the Ukraine part of Russia.

 

 

 

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 24th

December 24th…“DID YOUR FAMILY RECEIVE CHRISTMAS GREETING CARDS IN THE MAIL?”

POEM – “Many A Year Of Christmas Cheer” by N. Elliott Noorlun

#433=Muriel n family; Christmas 1956
Our sweet mother’s cousin, Muriel (Wuerflien) Wogen, sent family photo cards, like this, for many years.  It was fun to watch her sons “grow up”.

For many a year, Christmas cheer,

Would land in our farm mail box.

#317=Virgil,Patty,Linda&Diane Bidne...Christmas
Cuteness for Christmas times four 😉

With smiles galore, And memories more,

Than could fit in fire-mantled socks.

 

#458=Marlin n Lozira Wuerflein; Christmas date unknown
Another cousin of our mother’s loved his old car.  He and his wife often would dress in period costume while driving it.  To them, it was a part of the family, so it was usually included in their yearly Christmas card photo.

We were always quite taken, And by love we were shaken,

That family and friends would remember,

To send us their love, Based on His from above,

On this holiest day in December.

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Christmas on our farm was made that much sweeter by the cards we received in our mailbox by the graveled country road. ><> 😉

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 23rd

December 23rd…“DID YOUR FAMILY GO TO A SPECIAL CHURCH WORSHIP TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?”

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Black velvet sky graced with large, white snowflakes = Christmas Magic!

Christmas took on an almost mystical aura when cloaked in the black velvet of a snow-laden sky.  From that ebony expanse above us effused a trillion flakes of snow that daintily floated down past the street lights that illuminated our Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church in Kiester, Minnesota.

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Viewed from the dark outdoors, each color was resplendent in the church’s stained glass window.

The snow-chained tires of our Chevrolet came to a crunching halt against the frozen curb of drifted snow.  As we popped open the four doors of that humble chariot, our family ventured into the near zero degree temperatures regaled in all our Christmas finery.  Tenderly watching our steps against the ice, we were rounding the sidewalk to the east side of the church entry when I was sweetly stunned by the warm, rich coloring of the enormous stained glass window that dominated that portion of our worship center.  The lighting from within the church house had set off the intricate patterns and rich colors in the leaded glass “painting” of our Lord Jesus carrying a lamb.  Other families were arriving at the same time and, as we offered “Season’s Greetings” to our friends, our breath emanating from our mouths became visual gifts as it transformed into condensed vapor upon the frigid night air around us.

#972 Dixie Ballweber EUB organist
Our organist, Dixie Ballweber.

Our talented church organist, Mrs. Dixie Ballweber, brought an elegance to each Christmas carol that was sung by the saints in attendance that evening as candles were lit upon the Communion Table to let the congregation know that our celebration of Baby Jesus’s birth was about to begin.

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See the wooden chairs behind the Communion Table?  That’s where Elliott and the rest of the children’s choir sat on that evening family celebration just before Christmas.

The wooden chairs behind the Communion Table was known as the Choir Loft where our Children’s Choir would assemble and sing praises to the Lord for His greatest gift of all…..his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ here on this holy holiday in December.  Even though our attempts at singing were shaky and munchkin-like, we strove to do the best our little voices could do on those happy nights at the church.  But, even in our immaturity, one could easily see our juvenile efforts were welcomed and visually enjoyed by many a smiling parent’s face as their little ones sang God’s Christmas praises in our local church assembly of His saints.

#967 Mike and Jessie Iverson..EUB Church..Kiester, MN
A very toothy grin was given to all who entered our church by Mike Iverson, who, along with Harold Kinder, made us all feel welcome each Lord’s Day.

A lasting imprint upon the mental tablet of my happy memories was the ever faithful and loving ushers in our church.  Mike Iverson and Harold Kinder were a team with one goal in mind, to be ambassadors for Christ as they stood by those grand entry doors every Sunday morning and especially for this special evening Christmas occasion.

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Each apple was like a ruby jewel to Elliott, and they came all the way from Washington State, too!! 😉

As the last “Wise Man” left the platform and after a serene version of “Silent Night” was sung, our pastor gave the last “amen” to the evening and our congregation began filing out of the worship center as you could hear “Merry Christmas” greetings being exchanged among God’s people.  The church’s twin entry doors were now open to the very brisk Winter’s night as our dear ushers stood next to boxes of “Snoboy” apples that were given out as gifts to all who desired their ruby red deliciousness to enjoy on the way home.   Those tender-hearted ushers, Harold and Mike, were like godly elves of Santa as they handed these apple gifts to each child walking by.  Gifts, in the sense that each apple was wrapped in lovely blue crepe paper, as if getting another Christmas gift, only THIS gift was super sweet to eat and had been shipped all the way from Washington State.  As my little boy voice said, “Thank you!!”, these kindly Christian men responded with a hearty, “Merrrry Christmas!!” as they saw their sweet-tasting apple disappear into the tummy of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

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Mike Iverson and Harold Kinder (our church ushers) took positions on either side of those handsome entry doors, on that Christmas Program Night, to hand out apple “jewels” to old and young and greet all with a hearty, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!”  😉

 

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 22nd

December 22nd…“TELL ABOUT CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS AT A RELATIVE’S HOME DURING YOUR CHILDHOOD.”

#384.1=Slettens and children in Albert Lea, MN; circa 1943
Uncle “Del” Sletten, United States Army 1943

Quiet heroes live among us all.  They gently live out their daily lives in an elegant, soft-spoken manner that befits the tender soul they are, yet each of those quiet heroes has seen and endured much for the sake of survival of their own life in combat and for the betterment of this great nation we live in called America.  One of my many heroes, in this realm of honor, was my mother’s brother, Marcus Delmaine (“Del”) Sletten.  Of course, on both maternal and paternal sides of our family, I hold other uncles who also are treasured as heroes to this little boy’s memory, but for this story, we’re going to hold up Uncle Del.  Delmaine Sletten served gallantly, during World War II, with Company A of the 351st Infantry Regiment of the 88th Division of the United States Army.  With distinction, he and his fellow warriors fought tenaciously against the entrenched German invaders in the mountainous areas of Italy.  Uncle Del, and his fellow soldiers, fought so fiercely, that their German enemies labeled this American fighting unit as “The Blue Devils”…..and the name stuck, like the badge of honor it was.  Uncle Del’s Regiment fought so courageously, that they earned a coveted “Unit Citation” for bravery from our President, at that time, The Honorable Franklin Delano Roosevelt for “fearlessness, heroic determination and aggressive fighting spirit that brings honor to the armed forces of the United States”.   So, when it came to Christmas at Uncle Del’s, little did this tiny guy realize, back then, what our gracious host had gone through to keep America free and by that sacrifice, entitled us to celebrate Jesus’s birth in a world of peace and tranquility and with an aluminum tree, even 😉

#473=Delmaine&amp;Ilena Sletten's wedding; April 12, 1953
Home from the War, Uncle Del marries Ilena.

Once home from the War, Uncle Del found love, marriage and the opportunity to build a very handsome home for his new family to be born into and grow up enjoying.  From stories my mother told us, her brother was a very talented man in many ways.  Even building a quaint cottage for his parents to comfortably spend the rest of their lives within, just down the road from him, in the city of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

#407=Russ N. at Del's home in Albert Lea, MN; Circa Dec. 1956
Our dad, Russ, could never pass up a tease or a good joke to bring laughter among us all.

At Christmas, or any other time of the year, for that matter……..whenever you put Norwegians and Germans together, add lots of coffee with sugar-laden desserts, it’s the recipe for fun and laughter.

Our father, Russell, had a vein in his body made just for teasing, tricking and causing laughter to whoever was nearest him.  Anything might pop out of his mouth (or other places) to create a moment of convivial joy and raucous laughter.  Such as, telling our prepubescent girl cousins to,  “Awww, eat that burnt toast, it’ll put hair on your chest!!” 🙂  To, passing gas at the dinner table and then swing around in his seat as he’s blaming it on the dog…..“Darn dogs, how’d they get in here??!!!”

 

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Magical, was Uncle Del’s aluminum Christmas tree and color light!

Without a doubt, one of the effervescent moments for me was to step into Uncle Del Sletten’s lovely home and behold his sparkling, modern, aluminum Christmas tree that was ablaze in an ever-changing rainbow show of color from a spotlight showing through a primary-colored plastic wheel that went round and round by the power of a little electric motor.  First, the tree would be aflame in RED, then fading to a GREEN, then fading to a BLUE and then a golden YELLOW in wonderful repetition that had me frozen in happy wonderment for what seemed hours as I saw the aluminum branches catch and reflect sparkling hues of spectacular Christmas prisms of joy.

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Elliott’s cousins had, what seemed to be, every toy ever made by man.  A virtual TOYLAND in their bedroom.

Like all happy families, we treasured our times of laughter, food, colorfully wrapped Christmas gifts, Bible story time and singing of Christmas carols.  What usually captured this boy’s attention, though, was the cornucopia of a veritable “toyland” that existed in my cousin’s bedroom.  It was a boy toy “heaven” to me.  I’d often just lose track of time itself when we’d come visit as I’d ride their spring-loaded plastic pony, or play with any myriad of toy choices within that boy’s lair.

#293.1=Gene Smith, Del Sletten&amp;Russell N.; Christmas 1956_edited
Elliott’s father, Russell, (on the right) has pulled on his great coat for the trip back to our farm.  Dear Uncle Del is center and our kindly Uncle Gene Smith is to the left.

Eventually, though, when our daddy pulled on his great coat over his handsome Christmas outfit of shirt and tie, we kids knew it was time to put away our cousin’s toys and prepare for our trip across the snowy roads and back to our dear farm.  There’d be hearty handshakes among the men and our ladies would be giving season’s greeting kisses to each other on the cheeks as we climbed into our modest, motorized chariot for the trip home.  For, as a farmer, Christmas or no Christmas, those Holstein cows back at the farm needed to be milked and were getting hungry for their Christmas “dinner”, as well.  Such is just a taste of one of the Christmas joys, in the past, for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

The Red Bull in the Winter Line
Forever grateful to Uncle Del, and his fellow warriors, for purchasing our freedoms so we could enjoy our Christmas in peace in the next generation to come.