Christmas Memories

Last Updated on 12/27/99 By Tom Prefling


From Phil Bramley
It was the last bender before the holidays at North West Missouri State College in Maryville, MO. Yes, the tavern was filled with newly of age drinkers and all through that house not a creature was stirring who wasn't quite soused. I was no exception and this night would prove to be the Eve of the Great "Just In Time" Travel Adventure of 1971.

I returned to my dorm room about 2:30am and set my alarm clock for 6:15 which would to get me downtown to the bus station by 7:00am. A 1 Ĺ hour bus ride to Kansas City MO followed by a 20 minute cab ride to the KCI (Kansas City International) airport would get me there in time to make the 10:15am flight to Phoenix and then the short hop to Tucson. No problem.

You guessed it. The next cause I think I will back is a ban on the operation of alarm clocks while under the influence of alcohol. AM was miss set to PM and I awakened at 6:35am.

I threw on my clothes, grabbed my pre-packed bag, called a cab, and arrived at the Maryville Bus Station "just in time" to see the taillights of the bus cresting the hill outside town. I knew there were no busses before noon, so I hiked to the Richard's Truck Stop (that is another story) and hitched a ride to KC."just in time" to watch the airplane taxi from the gate. In checking with the ticket agent, I found that I was stuck in Kansas City. Well I cashed in my ticket and took a cab to the bus station and was "just in time" for the Amarillo bus. I bought a ticket through to Tucson, and boarded the bus. On my way at last..but terror struck.., I forgot to call my folks who would be waiting for me at the airport in Tucson. I checked the schedule and saw that the bus stopped for 15 minutes in Kansas City, Kansas and I would call then.

Thirty hours and twelve bus stops later I found myself on a three hour layover in Albuquerque. As I spaced the time away I noticed the schedule board and a bus that went to Tucson through Las Cruces, NM. The trip would be several hours shorter than the Flagstaff route. I changed my tickets and jumped onto the bus "just in time" and sat back smugly in my seat, because I had beaten the schedule by 4 hours and promptly fell asleep. The bus arrived fifteen minutes late into Las Cruces and I called my folks to tell them of my fortune only to find out that I was "not just in time". Dad had "just left" five minutes earlier for Flagstaff to save me the ten hour bus ride home.

Well, I got home to Winterhaven, Dad and my brother Doug got back from Flag and two days later Christmas seemed to happen, "just as it should".

It's funny this story has not come to mind for at least twenty years. Thanks to all of the Class of 68 for the walks down memory lane, and the expectations of memories yet relived. God Bless You, One and All at Christmas.

From Larry Harnisch

For no real reason that I can discern, my thoughts have been drifting back to my Christmas in Tucson, December 1971. The Tucson Citizen, as their usual policy, ran no bad news on Page 1 Christmas Day. Instead, they featured a painting (of a cowboy I believe).

I had undergone a final split with my mom a few months before and was completely on my own. I had already wrapped up my undergraduate degree at the U of A and had begun a master's program in music history. My sole source of income was working as a part-time janitor at United Parcel Service, near Stone and Grant, which I guess must tell you something about the value of bachelor's degrees in music. I was living at the former Lambda Chi Alpha house at 1050 N. Cherry. The $60 monthly rent was exactly one week's salary.

Money was tight. My usual breakfast consisted of one or two doughnuts and coffee at the Dunkin Donuts on Speedway, just across from Catalina United Methodist, although sometimes I splurged on the 59-cent special (2 eggs, toast, hash browns and coffee--with refills) at the lunch counter at Ledyard's Drugstore, Park and Speedway.

Way before Christmas, someone had set up a Christmas tree lot on Speedway near Catalina Methodist. I think it's where Arby's is now. Most of the trees were natural, but some were flocked. There were white trees, blue trees and red trees. And in what must have been a peculiar burst of patriotism, someone had flocked a red, white, and blue Christmas tree (It was during the Vietnam War, after all).

All through the holidays I kept my eye on the Christmas tree lot on Speedway. The number of trees dwindled as it got closer to Christmas, but the red, white and blue Christmas tree was still there.

Finally, Christmas morning. I had nowhere to go since I was estranged from my mother, so I was spending the holiday by myself. The lunch counter at Ledyard's was closed, but Dunkin Donuts--as far as I know--never closed. And so there I was not too early Christmas morning, with my coffee and my doughnuts, cruising Speedway in my 1951 Studebaker (I bought it for $75 from an old lady who lived near Tucson High).

And what should be lying in the middle of Speedway? The red, white and blue Christmas tree that nobody wanted. Someone had thrown it there during the night, the only Christmas tree left on the lot.

Well you're probably thinking that there is a warm holiday message here and that I hauled the red, white and blue Christmas tree home and set it up in my room. And that I had myself my own little Christmas. But no way! That thing was too ugly to live!

Many Christmases have gone by since then. Some better than others, but on the average, much better than that one. Still, a Christmas never goes by that I don't think of that red, white and blue Christmas tree lying in the middle of Speedway. It's just so Tucson.

Best wishes to you and yours for the holidays.
From Chris Kaufmann
I have to admit Christmas time does elicit some great memories. In a way, it is too bad we donít visit and reflect more often on the "good, bad and ugly" times during the rest of the year. Everyone just seems too busy. I was sitting at a local fast food restaurant today and I saw a gentleman sit down with his food and then bow his head, close his eyes and I assume say a short prayer. It doesnít matter what denomination you may adhere to (if any) it is nice to see that people put things in perspective.

For me, I echo the sentiments of Chuck Trafford in that what a great blessing was this last reunion and this Internet connection. Having moved away from Tucson shortly after High School it is nice to have this connection. I also thank my 5th grade teacher at Catalina Foothills School on River Road for making us learn how to type. For our test each week she would close the doors and shade the windows and turn off the lights. She would then dictate. You could look at your fingers if you wanted to (since you couldnít see anything). There were some pretty crazy letters written, but you did learn to type. Who knew in 1961 how important that would be 35+ years later.

One of my best Christmas memories was in the early eighties I was an element member of the C.A.T. (counter assault team) out of Metro Division of L.A.P.D. The Turkish ambassador had been assassinated by some Armenian dissidents. We were assigned to guard the Turkish Ambassador 24 hours a day. These VIP details were interesting for about two days and then become extremely boring. We had been on this detail for almost a month. It was Christmas time and because we belonged to an elite special detail we usually got very good time off during normal holidays. As a single officer, I volunteered to work most holidays ( heck why not, there was overtime pay and the married guys could be with their families ).

We had a 6 man detail on the Ambassadors residence. It was cold (for California). We would send two officers on a patrol for about an hour and then rotate to the other two teams. When the officers were inside several would "rest" while at least one monitored the multi security TV screens that were strategically placed around the compound. To add a little to the mix. Christmas time is an excellent time for bad things to happen on these details. Most security forces are off guard and an assault has a extra dramatic effect due to the time of year. LAPD was pretty proud of the fact that their Metro VIP detail had never had a protected personality injured. In hindsight most experts agree that one of the biggest mistakes the Robert Kennedy Presidential campaign made was asking LAPD to allow them to provide their own security for the senator during his campaign. As they say the rest was history.

Anyway it was about 0300 hours (3am) when your really are having a battle with your body to stay awake and alert. My partner and I were extending our patrol in the hopes that the officers we were switching with would return the favor.

As we approached the security area we saw all the lights on. We advised, on the radio, we were entering. Inside we found the Ambassador's driver ( a kind gentleman about 65 ) and his wife, the cook for the ambassador. They had brought a small Christmas tree and they had a great Turkey (fitting) meal with egg nog, hot chocolate, Turkish coffee (not for me) and a great dessert. They then gave us each a gift. Mine was an expensive pen and pencil set. It was such a surprise and perhaps as others have said: these spontaneous small celebrations seem to bring us closer to the true meaning of Christmas.

After we had eaten and were visiting with our gracious hosts, we were told how much the newly appointed Ambassador appreciated the incredible assistance we had been to the security of his family and himself during these terrible times. It is too bad we had no security for the former ambassador. We hear this often, but it always feels good. The lady then told me that the Ambassador had ask her to discard some clothing to charity. She didnít know how to do that. My partner and I said we could drop it off at the mission on our way home. Her husband and her delivered three big boxes of clothes. Some of it looked to be in excellent condition.

E.O.W. (end of watch) was at 0600 hours. The sun wasnít up as we drove our overloaded Metro cruiser out of the high class homes in the north part of Wilshire area. We were both dead tired. As we got near downtown LA I started to exit the 101 Freeway on Broadway. My partner (half on the nod) said what the heck (cleaned up) was I doing? I said, dumping the clothes. He said, "who cares about that junk. Just trash it. Letís get some sleep." I said it would only take a minute.

We arrived at the LA Mission about 0630 and it was getting light. It was too cold for many of the street people to sleep and they were crowded around a couple of big 55 gallon drums that they had mini bon fires going in. They were freezing. When we stopped the cruiser everyone kind of jumped back. They were used to seeing police looking for bad guys stop buy and kind of give them a bad time. Some of them were pretty good at giving the police a bad time themselves. The look on their face as we opened the back doors and the trunk and took out these big boxes was priceless. Next to a couple shot guns and AR16 assault rifles and ammo boxes and bullet proof vests were almost new coats, shoes, shirts and the like. Like the first time you feed a strange animal, they stood back just watching us. There were about 30 of them.

I took out a heavy jacket and handed to a young man in a tee shirt. Good God, he must have had a lot of alcohol in his system, or else he would have frozen solid. Then John gave a lady a coat and then a shirt to guy and soon they were taking things and trading things and laughing. I still remember a black lady with tears in her eyes coming up and shaking our hands and saying thanks.... "You made this the best Christmas I can remember." I just said, "Merry Christmas".

It shook me to the core. This simple act had effected these hardened street people to tears. As I got back in the car to drive home, I was energized. My partner, a callous, savvy, strong, veteran element member of LAís elite Metropolitan Division and winner of the medal of valor, muttered, "Thanks partner, that was great."

Iím not sure, maybe it was the cold, but I think there was a tear in his eye................

That was along ways from Catalina High School. God Bless to all. Merry Christmas.
From David Werch
In 1971, I was in the US Army, and stationed in a very small place call Fu Loi, Vietnam. I too was surrounded by no one really special, and it was getting close to Christmas with no festive mood to be found.

The day before Christmas, I was told to report to the commanding officer's office, and I want to tell you that my heart was in my throat as I went across the compound. Nothing good ever came from a visit to the C.O.' s office.

When I arrived at the office, I was greeted by an Air Force Major, which was VERY strange. He introduced himself, but the years have made me forget his name. His surprise was much more memorable. He had a big box, and told me it was fresh off the jet that he flew in country that morning. He told me that a VERY good family friend was worried about "me" and "our boys", so she asked the Major to deliver Christmas. I thanked him, he gave me the box, we exchanged handshakes and Christmas greetings, and he was on his way back up north to his own base. The looks I got as I went back across the compound, were unbelievable. Things like this never happened.

When I opened the box, it was full of everything you need for Christmas. A tree...with all the from all my family members...and even "fresh" Mexican food. I was in total shock. I rounded up all my friends, told them about the care package, and invited them to share the feast. Everybody brought something, we all decorated my room, and we had one of the best times I can remember having for the two years I was there.

It wasn't home, but as we all took time to relax, the feeling of Christmas was still real. We all knew that the people missing us, wished they were with us too.

Thanks for rekindling the memory of Christmas 1971, and Merry Christmas.


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