Christmas officially on the way

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By W.B. Evans

Inspiration can come from the strangest of places. Take these two boxes, uh...box and a half of chocolate-covered cherries I’m staring at. 

For me, this early gift, from my daughter, Kathryn, is a sure sign that Christmas is on its way.

Before I could get one of the boxes open, my great-granddaughter, Madison, 3, came tearing through the house screaming at the top of her lungs.

“Nana (Kathryn) fell off the ladder,” she said.

You know, I’m startin’ to believe that Evanses and ladders just don’t mix. 

I felt her pain, thanks to my gutter-cleaning, ladder-falling episode this past summer.

Within minutes, I learned Kathryn had taken a spill while putting Christmas decorations on her front porch.

My poor daughter has literally fallen on hard times. With the help of her husband, Eric, and her brother, Kathryn is on her way to Springs Memorial Hospital. We fear her leg is broken, but it’ll be a while before we know anything.

This sounds sorta cold and impersonal, but there is nothing much I can do at this point, except open one box of these cherry candies for a taste test. 

The first bite took me back some 70 years.

Now for the under-30 crowd –  long before the super-duper, big giant discount stores came along – Main Street was a bustling place, especially this time of year.

The talk of the town was the upcoming Christmas parade. Daddy said Mr. T.C. Hicks knew a fella who knew a fella and managed to get the 121st Infantry Band from Georgia to march in the processional.

All the downtown folks were putting on their best to welcome them. The Main Street merchants had outdone themselves with window displays and all sorts of big things were in the works.

I had little interest in the toy drums that Belk’s Department Store had on sale, but on the day of the parade, they were gonna be giving out Santa balloons to every kid under 10 years old.

Now, that I was interested in, but it wasn’t something I had to have.

I knew where my first stop would be.

Cox’s Toy Town was a pretty neat place, but I was going to check out his competition.

Mack’s Dime Store was OK, but they were an out of town outfit. I kinda cottoned to Buckelew’s dime store since its proprietor lived on Chesterfield Avenue.

Now, Mr. Buckelew, and his son-in-law, Mr. Ralph Cooper, had about the most stuff one could cram inside a store. If you didn’t see it, just ask for it; they had it someplace. 

At the back of the dime store was about the best little old paint department filled with small cans of enamel. 

Many a Lancaster bicycle owed its paint job to that paint store. I was especially fond of a shade called Chinese Red. 

I made a beeline to Buckelew’s after the float carrying Santa Claus and Preacher Jewell McElrath from the Methodist church on the Mill Hill passed by.

The candy counter at the front of the store was filled with just about any kind your taste buds could beg for. Candy wasn’t the only treat. 

One bin was brimming with fresh Spanish peanuts. 

Most folks would fill their palm with nuts, roll them around and the blow away the husks. Not me, at least, not inside the store.

Buckelew’s had cashews and chocolate fudge with nuts, too, but that was a little out of my price range.

The penny candy was the best seller for us boys and a few girls who had a sweet tooth to satisfy.

I could smell a whiff of Radio Girl perfume on the cosmetics counter as I walked past.

There it was – the “Official Sign of Christmas” a table stacked with boxes of chocolate covered cherries. My mouth watered at the thought.  

I had to admit the 20 cents a box price was steep for a young boy, but hey some things are worth it.

I fished the two Mercury dimes out of my pocket, bought my own box and headed out the door. I made it as far as White Street before opening the box and devouring three pieces. 

The soft chocolate shell covering the sweet liquid and the honest to goodness real red cherry almost made me swoon with delight. This candy was almost too rich in flavor because before long you had your fill of this seasonal delight.

You know, they are just as good now as they were then. The inclusion of chocolate covered cherries have become a house rule for us. I’m not much for bureaucracy, but I think it’s time to add one more.

If it requires a ladder, I think we’re gonna let it slide.