“To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
— Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States, 1923-1929
In 1993 Dad published his memoirs. “Me & Jimmy” tells a story of growing up in the South in the 1920s. Dad and his friend Jimmy were members of a neighborhood gang. A gang like the TV show “Spanky and Our Gang.” The gang members were Billy, Sanky, Moses, Harry, Bob, Jack, Smokey, Abe and the leader, Jimmy. When dad, nicknamed Dooley, met up with the gang he had to fight Jimmy to be a member. The boys made a circle around Jimmy and Dooley, whooping and hollering while the two fought. Dooley said he put up a good fight, but he’d be lying if he said he won. After that Dooley was a gang member and he and Jimmy were best friends.
The book recounts tales of building forts, fighting brick wars, playing marble games with names like “Bullseye” and “Knuchs.” Boys made homemade sling shots from wooden crates, inner tubes, fishing line and a leather pad from the tongue of an old shoe. They made kites from hollow cane poles, string, newspaper, school paste and strips torn from an old shirt. They played football, baseball, basketball, went camping as Boy Scouts, fishing, exploring, skinny dipping and skating. With a stick and a can, they played hockey. They hung out at the Checkerboard Store where they bought winding balls, Black Crows, Baby Ruths, Nehi orange drinks and Tom’s toasted peanuts. There was no TV or radio. They also worked earning money with a push mower, a swing blade, cleaning yards for 25 cents to a dollar, and selling figs in the summer. They were carhops at the drugstore and caddies at the city golf course where they also sold lost and found golf balls for a nickel.
Then one December day Jimmy and Dooley were on their way to the Checkerboard Store when they first noticed a shanty house. Two raggedy little girls and two raggedy little boys were playing with sticks and bottles on the bare ground. At the store Jimmy asked Mr. Tuttle about the family. Mr. Tuttle said the father had tuberculosis. The mother took in washing and ironing to earn a little money. Jimmy was troubled by what Mr. Tuttle shared about the family. On the walk home Jimmy said, “Dooley, what if we give them the best Christmas ever.” “How?” asked Dooley. “We hardly have any money.”
So, the boys hatched a plan to ask for donations for a little money and used toys. Nobody had much, but everybody gave something. Mr. Tuttle gave groceries, and Mr. Addkison at the hardware store gave some red, blue and green paint. The gang boys painted and repaired wagons, tricycles, hobby horses, toys, dolls and a swing. Mr. Tuttle’s son Tom loaded everything in the back of a pickup and quietly carried Santa’s goodies up to the house’s porch late Christmas Eve night.
Christmas day the boys walked in pairs by the house where they saw the children and parents laughing and playing with their new toys. Jimmy turned to Dooley, “Wasn’t this the best Christmas ever?”