Put on a little Guy Lombardo

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By Bill Evans

My goodness, Christmas seemed to slip in on us and now we are facing a brand new year.

I seriously doubt if the Evans household will splurge on any extravagance celebration to welcome in 2008. We will face it with a month- old great-grandson who has no idea what may lie ahead.

Two events of major concern for us are paying property taxes by Jan. 15 and celebrating my 75th birthday in February.

That's as good a reason as any (not the taxes) to pause and look at New Year's past.

You know, there was this one time that Momma and I were the only brave souls under our roof to stay up to welcome in the new year.

The little Philco radio next to the kitchen cabinet was broadcasting live big band music of Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians from the Crystal Ballroom.

Sitting at the kitchen table, we were there in our minds, picturing the splendor of dapper dressed fellas in tuxedos and tails and ladies in flowing satin gowns while the music played.

Momma was sipping a cup of hot coffee and I had a Coca Cola poured over large ice cubes just taken from the old Crosley.

As we finished off the Christmas goodies, the radio announcer switched from the happenings in the Big Apple to a reporter standing by in glamorous Hollywood.

Talk about high tech – one moment we were listening to New York and the crowds swarming into Times Square and the next, we were tuned into Kate Smith in Hollywood.

Although it wasn't time to flip any of them, we had gotten a bunch of new calendars from Lancaster merchants to hang.

On the kitchen door was the J.F. Mackey Drug Company because it was the biggest and all the special days were marked. It was my favorite because it told which days the fish would bite, along with the phases of the moon - the important stuff that everybody kept up with.

About that time, Momma got up to draw off the water in the pot where she put those dried black-eyed peas for dinner time on New Year's Day.

My mind was spinning with the thought that those white grains of rice would soon be turned into fluffy clouds ready for making hoppin' John.

Momma always put a shiny dime into the black-eyed peas pot and if the dime ended up in your plate, you were assured of having good luck. You know, to me it started off good by just getting the dime!

Another tradition was eating collard greens, which according to folklore guaranteed you a prosperous new year with plenty of money.

I preferred turnip greens to collard greens every time, but I must've been the only one on Chesterfield Avenue who felt that way. I swear, so many collards were cooked on New Year's Day in our neighborhood, a green, smelly collards haze hung in the air.

The Jan. 1 edition of The Charlotte Observer usually had a banner heading that read "Happy New Year" along with a cartoon of old Father Time and his flowing beard giving way to an infant with the a 19?? stamped across his diaper-encased rump.

Every once and while - when the calendar cooperated - The Lancaster News would come out on New Year's Day, too. Its front page would always recall the significant happenings of the past 365 days.

You know, it's a sight how many of those events we just forgot about. It was nice of them to remind us.

Naturally, we couldn't get our minds off the war. Folks everywhere were hoping and praying that the new year would bring an end to it and that our servicemen and women would be coming back home.

Why, look at this – here's a newspaper picture of Times Square at the stroke of midnight! It looks just like we pictured last night while listening to the radio.

OK, that's enough of that, I thought, as I headed out the door to find something else to occupy my time.

I walked around to the front sidewalk and stared at it. You know, it didn't look any different from the year before. Some things, I guess, stay the same.

With the advent of 2008, I wish lots of things happen for the best and bunches of stuff - like the memories made on that sidewalk - will still remain the same.

On Tuesday, make sure to holler "Happy New Year" to as many folks you encounter.

And it you really mean it, I'll wager the dime from a pot of black-eyed peas that it will happen.