The early ones were full of Joy lots of
American Made Toys Trucks were the toys my brothers and I enjoyed.
But the later years the Christmas Toys wined – and the decoration
also fettered out. This was because the family got bigger and my
father’s check only went so far.
The hardest part was going back to school after the Christmas break
(St Antonius) and hearing all the tales of what each school mate
got. Bikes – Train and the lot. We mainly got socks and underwear.
One Christmas I had wanted a toy plane that I saw in Hopper Drug
Store Window, it was made by Ideal Toys Called the Flying Boxcar.
Each day prior to Christmas I imagine how I would fly the Toy around
our house rescuing Downed solders. But Christmas came and I got
the socks and under shirt and an orange.
Our tree was an artificial silver twig – it looked like an upside
down umbrella. No lights, just a few Styrofoam balls that the treads
were falling off. I tried to make the best of it. I listen to WABC
radio and listen to the DJ tracking Santa flying over the metropolitan
area hoping that he would find our house – he never did!
I’d make a big deal of the hard candies that Santa give out on
the last day of school - before Christmas. I’d do anything to dwarf
off the sad felling. I’d go to bed and look over across the street
to our neighbors house. They always had a beautiful lit tree. So
that became my tree I would stay up very late - just looking at
it’s twinkling lights. I would count down the minutes down as another
Christmas day passed away.
This all changed in 1967. I worked for a man called JR selling
Pretzels on Street Corners in Newark (to help out the family). This
year JR picked me to have the best spot to sell pretzels. This was
in Irvington Center in front of a 5 & 10 Store called Greens.
It was a magical Time. People going to and from stores all dressed
up for Christmas. Each store was decked out with Gold-Silver-Red-Green-Lights.
The snow flakes and what filled the air those frosted nights with
the unforgettable Christmas Music - coming from the Salvation Army
Booth. It was the first time I really appreciated those fine hymens
and wonderful blessed songs. It truly was a Norman Rockwell Sitting.
I would treat myself to wonderful tasting hot chocolate (not from
a pouch) sitting at the counter of Green. It had wooden floors and
glass counters with all sorts of trinkets. To a boy from a dying
city that had just had it’s revolt the summer pass, this was heaven.
I had this spot from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.
Going forward into the future – We all used to gather and celebrate
Christmas Eve in my Mom’s House in upper Irvington. The year was
now 1989. My girls lead the other cousins in singing wonderful children's
Christmas songs. It was a wonderful evening.
My mother came over to me and said, son I want to show you something.
We walked over to the stable and she said to me this is why we celebrate.
I said to her as I looked at the infant Jesus in the stable, Yes
I Know. She then said to me: Do you know who gave me this stable?
I said no… Did you just get it? She looked me in the eyes and said;
You did, don’t you remember. You brought if from Irvington Center
when you sold pretzels.
Just as in the movie it’s a wonderful Life it all come back to
me. That Christmas Eve Night in 1967, My Boss JR was half loaded
(As Jules coined the old but accurate saying) when he came to close
me out for the night – counting the monies and paying me. He gave
me my pay, I think I made $7. JR Said to me “Johnny” have a Merry
Christmas and handed me an extra $25. I could not believe it!!!
I ran into Green and started buying gifts for all my brother and
sisters. I bought a real good hand mixer for my Mom. I was down
to 6 bucks when I remembered the Stable that was in to store window
that I had seen every night I was selling pretzels. Green was closing
down. I ask how much is the stable in the window. I think it was
18 dollars. The kind man said to me how much to you have left? I
said only 6 dollars. The man said well I’ll take 5 for it Merry
I walked all the way from Irvington Center down to South Eleventh
Street in Newark (Again remember what the city had gone thru that
summer). It was and still is my most Joyous Christmas. My brother
Jacques helped me set up all the toys for my brother and sisters
to wake up to. Jacques then took me to Roush Common House for my
first Roast Beef Sandwich. A Frank Sinatra Christmas Song was playing
on the Juke Box. I thanked the Lord in my heart for all the Blessings
he had bestowed on me that night
This truly was a magical night that I will never forget. The true
meaning of Christmas is giving and God the Father give us his only
begotten son our savior.
God Bless and to all a Merry and Blessed Christmas
John Desranlesu is a Car Show Photographer.
You can view his work at: