Writer’s Workshop: Me at Christmas, 60 Years Ago

Mary has been cleaning things out around the house, and she found an envelope that had pictures in it. Among the pictures was this one, of me and Santa Claus.

Cute little bastard, wasn’t I?

According to what my grandmother Walkie wrote on both the picture and the folder it came in, this was 1958. The picture itself was printed on very cheap paper, but the colors (i.e. black and white) have held up well. I thought I would scan it in, but the scanner doesn’t work, so I took a picture of it with my phone. It turned out well.

This was kind of a wild time for us. Kip was born in Chicago on November 13, and by Christmas we were living in Indianapolis. The picture was taken by Gillaspy Photographers, who had locations in Skokie (a Chicago suburb) and Chicago, and the folder was from Mangel Florist of Evanston (another suburb) and Chicago, so it must have been taken before we moved. My best guess would be that it was taken sometime during Thanksgiving weekend, because most likely we moved the first week of December.

I remember that Christmas because I remember sneaking downstairs early on Christmas morning, seeing all the toys, and playing with them for a while before Mom and Dad got up and found me. They asked why I didn’t call them and tell them I was going downstairs, and I think I told them I didn’t want to wake them.

That was a rough year for my Mom. By the following Christmas we were back in Chicago living with Mom’s parents, minus Dad. Guess it was rough on all of us, though we were all too young to care. It was an eventful year for me: one day, the kid down the street and I were down in the basement playing. I climbed on top of a tall built-in cabinet and said something like “I’m Superman!” The other kid climbed up after me and gave me a push (no doubt testing my ability to fly), and I fell to the floor, which was covered in honeycomb tile, and broke my arm.

When I had recovered from that (a few weeks later), I was down in the basement with Mom helping her do the laundry (i.e. she told me to come to the basement with her because she was afraid of what I might do when her back was turned). She had this habit of using the plastic cups she would give us drinks in to measure out bleach… well, she poured some bleach and set it down, and I drank it. It wasn’t fatal, but I remember she stuffed Rice Krispies down my throat, hoping they’d make me throw up (they didn’t, by the way).

And, of course, there was this incident…

16 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Me at Christmas, 60 Years Ago

  1. First, you are a cute kid and I love that photo of you with Santa. There is something just more nostalgic about the photos from this era with Santa. I think the Santa’s looked more realistic. Thankfully there was not much bleach left otherwise a Hospital visit would have been on the list. At least all I ate were flies and a worm when I was 1 and, thankfully, I don’t remember this. Now as for being zapped halfway across the room, you love to play dangerously


    1. They insist on Santas with real beards these days. A friend of mine, who looked like the Santa in the Coca-Cola ads, once checked, and they make about $30,000 for a season. I have the beard and the girth, but not the tolerance for children that being Santa requires.

      Dad, who usually had to take me to the hospital to get stitched up because I was forever maiming myself, used to tell my mother “we’d better hurry up and have another, because I don’t think this one’s going to last.”


  2. Hi John – love the photo and the brief history snap : the life we lead. But bleach – yugh … not good at all – in fact a rather nasty experience … cheers Hilary


    1. She certainly had the patience of one. That was a bad time for her: three kids under the age of four and a bipolar husband, living 200 miles from home and her family… it would have broken a lesser woman…


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