Appalachia Christmas Profiles of Mountain People

Christmas Memories – 1950s Morganton North Carolina

Christmas Memories - 1950s Morganton NC

When our family moved to town, to Morganton, in the early 1950s, money was scare: rent for the first time, water bills for the first time, so Christmas was scant. My sister and I received little tins filled with sewing items, for example. (Perhaps our mother was trying to prepare us for an adult life of domesticity.) Santa brought the younger sister a black board on an easel, with the alphabet in big letters across the top; a knob allowed us to scroll through examples of writing; we loved that “high tech” methodology. The memory of that black board has lasted through these almost seventy years and all us sisters still find occasion—when discussions become heated and we fear we may say too much—to repeat the imperative final words: The End. Stop Scrolling. I doubt that our parents intended a Christmas lesson in moral rectitude, but we learned that there is a time verbally to simply “stop scrolling.” –Celia Miles


I hope you enjoyed Celia’s Christmas memory. Celia is a fantastic Appalachian Writer, you can visit her website to find out more about her and her books.

More Christmas Memories are on the way so be on the lookout for them.


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  • Reply
    December 11, 2013 at 9:14 am

    I just became aware minutes ago about your comment concerning the Special Children at Morganton. I would have been drawn to that place Ed……My little sister was a very special child. Thank you for reminding us.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    I received a chalkboard the Christmas I turned 5. There was no scroll but it did have the alphabet and numbers at the top for me to copy. Mine came in the 1940’s so maybe the scroll technology hadn’t been perfected then. (LOL) When I began school the next Fall I was ahead of the rest of the class. I could read some, count to 100 and add and subtract some. Because I was ahead I wanted to know what came next. I picked up on what the other classes were learning and stayed ahead on through the 8th grade. I was reading 4th and 5th grade books in the 2nd grade. Kids today sit in front of the TV or play video games and our nation is in a ‘catch up’ game with much of the developed world in education.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 10, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I got a little red rocker like that for my son when he was just starting to walk. When he out grew it, my oldest grandson used it until he out grew it. Now my 2-1/2 years old grandson is in it. It is red ain’t it? It’s hard to tell in the picture.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Lovely story – It’s wonderful the lessons that can be learned from the simplest things if we just pay attention.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 10, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Since today’s post is about Christmas and mentions Morganton, anyone who lives within driving distance should go see the lights at The Western Carolina Center. It is also known as the J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center. It is at exit 104 off I-40. You drive in a loop through the facility. Everything there is decorated and animated characters fill the lawns of every building. It is a real treat for little children. If you don’t have a small child or grandchild, maybe you can borrow one from a neighbor.
    If you can see beyond the lights and could see through the walls, you would see who the lights are really there for. It is for the “children” inside. You see, this is where the people Western North Carolina send family members who cannot care for themselves and that they are not capable of caring for. Some are sent there and simply forgotten.
    Some of those “children” can understand the reason for all lights and decorations, some cannot. Some people are aware of what goes on there, some choose not to think about it. The people who work there are as special as the people they serve. They help people who cannot help themselves. On weekends and holidays, day and night, it doesn’t matter, they have to be there.
    Morganton is a haven for less fortunate people. Besides the Western Carolina Center, they have the North Carolina School for the Deaf and Broughton Hospital.
    As a child growing up in Swain County, I had a fear of Morganton. That was a horrible place you were sent if you didn’t “straighten up.” People got sent there and never came back. Now, I live just a few miles away and would rather be in Morganton than any other town around. It is a special place. Where else do you see people in the aisle of a grocery store signing to each other? Or signing at the register? Or Down Syndrome people running registers. Nobody gawking! No kids making comments that embarrass their parents. Most people who can be out in the community are readily accepted by the community.
    There are people who cannot go to a Christmas play or a parade or to someone’s home for a dinner. Who give no gifts and get no gifts and wouldn’t know what they had if they did. There are people who will miss their Christmas festivities because they must care these people.
    This is a special season for a special reason and we all should remember all the special people in our communities.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I remember so well those rollers, but don’t recall the alphabet being part of it. I also recall a Christmas where we left behind my Big Boy Doll to visit an Uncle in Morganton and an Aunt in Newland NC. I sure did miss my toys and that amazing bright Christmas tree filled with bubbling lights and sparkling tinsel. I will have to visit Celia Miles’ site.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 10, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Through reading blog since you first
    started, I’ve learned about many of
    our Great Appalachian Writers, Celia
    Miles is one of the best…Ken

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    December 10, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Awe, I loved this story. Reminds me of childhood memories.

  • Reply
    Jean Scott
    December 10, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Sister Celia, Thanks for sharing the photo of Betty and me. Good write-up also. Jean

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 10, 2013 at 9:44 am

    I fell in love right away with the picture of two young bright girls, writing Merry Christmas and Happy New Year on the new chalkboard! I wonder if they thought of it or the parents did! After reading the post I wonder which sisters enjoyed the blackboard the most? Is the smallest sister in the picture?
    Now I also think about this and the picture! It must have been one of those warm (scarce) Christmas days, since the girls are barefooted and have on short sleeved dresses! It probably was warm there as that bright Christmas day sun was shinning and the warmth was trapped on the porch? I loved the sweet little blonde sitting in the rocker, as well as (looks like the older one) standing holding what might be the chalk!
    This picture is so of the 50’s…I love the story as well. I am also a creature of the strolling habit…I start my thought process about a subject and it rolls and rolls…
    Thanks Celia for your picture and story. I will stop “strolling” for now anyhow!
    Thanks Tipper,
    You found another gooden’!

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    December 10, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Nice story. I had blackboard that had a scroll. Simple times.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Maybe it is just me but, does it seem that the best, long lived, and most beautiful memories are from those times spent with family and friends at Christmas? Those Christmas mornings from so long ago, the children’s programs at church, walking down to the mail box and getting a card from that friend we haven’t thought of in so long, someone at the country store we really didn’t know saying “Merry Christmas” just before we walked out or in a parting gesture,the person that owned the store saying, awh, that’s close enough; come back again now! Can’t wait till it’s here again!
    Would like to read more of Celia’s work.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2013 at 8:08 am

    i did so enjoy celias letter as i can relate back to the days when we had very little to do with(still not rich) but we enjoyed the days that modern tec and all it encounters wasnt up and going
    i wish we could have known what lay ahead and enjoyed things even more
    have a great day
    snow here in central ky

  • Reply
    spashul ed LLC
    December 10, 2013 at 8:02 am

    that celia shore duz tela gud storie but sum uv her words is two big fur me but i fount out that if i go too the word and push the left cliker thang and move it tord the uther side til it gets all blu and push on that uther cliker thang a thang comes up that tells me that google will find a dixshunery fur me that will turn them bigguns in two litluns that i can reed
    morganton is mi home well knot zakly mine they call it a groop home sew it mus bee partly mine

  • Reply
    Basel Hildreth
    December 10, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Those were the days when little things meant a lot, not like today when a lot of things means little.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    December 10, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Tipper: Your blog yesterday about making candy ‘almost’ set me on the CANDY LAND path to making it. But I didn’t. Now the mention of the great mountain writer, Celia Miles, has prompted me to explore her site once more. Thanks for all your wonderful tips, beautiful photos from the past and just plain goodness. We need more of such details during this December 2013!
    Best regards,
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 10, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Yes, there is much wisdom, to verbally “stop scrolling”
    Thank you, Celia.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 10, 2013 at 7:27 am

    As I look back, I realize we had many Christmas like this. Funny thing though I never realized it then.

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