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Adams County Pa. Related Historical Articles

Ghosts of Christmases past

Elwood W. Christ

After living in Gettysburg for 22 years, around Christmas time I still time warp back to my youth and family life in Lehigh County. My parents, Warren G. and Sarah M. (Strauss) Christ, both Berks County natives, owned and operated the Trexlertown Airport and a gas station (ca. 1946-1966) located on Rt. 222 about five miles west of downtown Allentown. Today, urban sprawl blankets the Trexlertown area like a blizzard. I'd hardly recognize the small town of my memory if it were not for the tall trees that still line the highway. The airport, where I spent my first 13 years, is now the Trexler Mall, complete with shops, Salvation Army Santas, and a McDonald's.

Yet, despite the passage of time, I recall fondly the memories of old-fashioned Pennsylvania "Dutch" Christmas traditions.

Religiously every year my mother produced from scratch batches of chocolate-chip and cut-out sugar cookies. I loved to help my Mon make them, but that didn't help my waist line. I loved the taste of raw cookie dough and the aroma of cookies baking in the oven.

Another tradition was decorating the Christmas tree. About two or three weeks before the 25th my Dad drove a half mile down Rt. 222 from our place to Tercher's Market to buy a freshly-cut tree. One of the joys of the season was its decoration and its smell. I remember one Christmas vividly. With the tree trimmed, and the lights from it as the only illumination in the room, Mom, brother Harvey, and I sat around the tree and sang traditional carols. I still recall feeling that the true meaning of Christmas was more than just the tree and the exchange of gifts. I also recall feeling a strong sense of belonging to something bigger, whether it was my family or the family of humankind.

Due to the amount of work to make ends meet, my father was around infrequently for these traditions. Pop, however, was in charge of building the "Putze." Among the Moravians, the word "Putze" meant a landscape erected in church or homes at Christmas time. In the Christ household, the Putze was a 4' x 10' platform on which sat the tree and a miniature village around which ran two Lionel O-gauge trains.

But the fondest Christmas-time memory of my father was back in January or February 1960. Being a pilot and flight instructor, after a blizzard, when the ground was covered with a foot of snow, he put skis on our Piper J-3 Cub, NC-6003H, which now hangs in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. I recall the flight vividly…

With I in the back seat and Pop in the front, he cranked the Cub up and away we did jump. We soared and swam through icy cold air, as a quilt-like pattern of white fields and fence rows made us both stare. The blue of the sky and the purity of the snow made us both wonder, "what all does God know?" But as soon as the flight started, it had to come to a close. We landed and coasted to the hanger where we warmed up our toes. Although my parents are gone and my brother keeps in touch, that cargo plane full of memories will survive both of us.

Do you know of an old legend related to Adams County?
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: History@myGettysburg.net

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