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All decked out for Christmas

Bu Clif Knight

Downtown Hartselle is showing off its largest and most spectacular Christmas decor than ever this year.

Driving through downtown on a recent Saturday night, I was dumfounded to see how Christmassy everything looked. Everywhere I looked, holiday trappings looked back. Lampposts were decorated in their lighted Christmas characters; storefronts were decked out in colorful lighted Christmas trees and picture windows were sprinkled with look-alike wrapped gift items. No doubt, shopkeepers stayed busy throughout the day displaying merchandise for early holiday shoppers and families who were making plans to decorate their homes and grounds in keeping with the festive holiday season.

The addition of outdoor lighting fixtures made it possible to decorate the entire central business district. What a difference that made! Now it’s possible for gift buyers to patronize all of the stores within the district with parking convenience and safety.

Looking back on Christmases past, I am reminded of how much the Christmas season has changed since my family relocated to Hartselle in the early 1960s. A police officer was stationed at the intersection of Highway 31 and 36 to direct traffic. All but a handful of businesses were located downtown and all were piled high with merchandise. Many stores observed late shopping hours. It was possible to get a haircut at Lawrence Barber Shop until 7 p.m. or buy a pair of overalls at E. R. Roberts Department Store at 8 p.m.

The lifestyle of our growing farm family was about the same in January as it was in December. Since we were sharecroppers, money was always scarce. Most of the family’s income came from a two-thirds share of our cotton crop. During the Great Depression, my father supplemented our income in the winter months by chopping wood for $1 a day.

The Christmas season was downplayed as far as gifts for me, an older sister and two younger brothers were concerned. However, we wore out the pages of a Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog looking at pictures of the toys and making our own gift wish lists. The gifts we had under the Christmas tree seldom lived up to our highest expectations; however, we were always thankful for the small, inexpensive gifts we received along with a handful of fruit, nuts and candy.

The main focus of the holiday was Christmas birth of Jesus Christ. Most rural families were involved in regular worship at a community church and gave strong support to activities related to the birth of the Christ Child. Our church sponsored a Nativity play every Christmas with young members playing the roles of shepherds and wise men.