children Christmas Smoky Mountains

Letters to Santa


Blind Pig and The Acorn reader Don Casada was going through old issues of several local newspapers and found a couple of letters to Santa.

Don sent the letters my way, noting the things the girls asked for are telling about the times they were living in. The letters were published in the December 22, 1938 issue of Bryson City Times.

Dear Santa,
I am a little girl nine years old. I am in the second grade. I have studied hard and have been good. Santa, please bring me a doll, some apples, some candy, some oranges, and some nuts. If you will bring these things, I will be good little girl.

Your friend
Irene Woodard.

Dear Santa,
I am a little girl nine years old. I am in 2nd grade. I am a girl good in school and am making good grades. Santa, please bring me a doll, a ball, some candy and nuts. I will study hard if you will bring me them.

Your friend,
Leonia Holden

Don has completed such extensive research on the area of Swain County that he was able to send me photos of Irene and Leonia when they were children.

Below you can see the photos and information regarding them that Don sent.

women and children

Those in the photo are (L-R): Delia Woodard, Fannie Ball & daughter Pearl, Gladys Woodard, Irene Woodard, Miley Woodard with Inez Woodard.

The photo of Miley (Sutton) Woodard (1893-1983) was given to me by Delia Ann (Woodard) Watkins (1926-2020).  She was a wonderful lady who grew up in the uppermost home on Peachtree Creek (the one in Swain County which empties into Fontana Lake about 3 miles northwest of Bryson City).

family standing in front of old house

TVA Kodak negatives collection in the Atlanta National Archives

The photo was taken in 1943. The father is Jim Holden. Leona is the girl in front of him. His wife, Bertha Hyde, is to the right of Jim and Leona. I don’t know who the woman to the right of Bertha is, but will speculate below. The older girl to her right is Emma Holden (1926-2017).

The boys, L-R on the front row would be Harold, John Gilbert, and James Robert.

Now then, the speculation. I suspect that the woman to the right of Bertha is her daughter-in-law, Sara Maranda Sorrels Holden, who was married to their son Clarence. Clarence served in the Navy during WW2, and so would have been away when this photo was taken. Perhaps the girl on the front row is her daughter?

I like the sweetness of the letters to Santa that Don sent, but I really love the photos! I could stare at them for hours noticing different things like the dog on the porch, the chinking in the chimney, the various footwear on the women and the fabric used for their clothing.

When I look at old photos like the ones Don sent its as if the camera caught just a glimpse of the closeness of the family members—the way they loved each other and even the way they may have gotten on each other’s nerves every once in a while 🙂

Thank you Don for sharing your finds with us all!

Last night’s video: The Best Easiest Coconut Macaroons – In Appalachia.


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 23, 2021 at 8:45 pm

    Miley Sutton was married to William Jackson Woodard. He was born in 1867, she in 1893. He was 26 years her senior. Miley was his second wife. His first was my great grandfathers sister Sarah Hasseltine Breedlove. He and Sarah had 8 children that I know about. They were born between 1885 and 1904. I do not know how their marriage ended but he remarried Miley while Sarah raised his children. He and Miley had 9 children together. He died in 1936, just 2 years before the article was published in 1938. So if Inez was 9 in 1938 she would have been 7 when he died. Irene would have been about 8, Delia about 10 and Gladys 14. So he left two women to raise their children alone. ​
    This is not a commentary on the man’s character, just an observation.
    Our next door neighbors when I was growing up were the Luther Sutton family. Miley and Luther have remarkably similar facial features. I know they were cousins but I don’t know how close. If you’ll look at the 4 Sutton girls they also have the same characteristic Sutton features. My uncle Wayne’s wife Muriel was Luther’s sister and she shared many of those same attributes.
    I haven’t figured out who Fannie Ball is yet but I’ma workin on it.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      December 23, 2021 at 8:46 pm

      “4 Sutton girls” should be 4 Woodard girls.

    • Reply
      Kevin Knight
      December 24, 2021 at 5:35 am

      Thanx Ed for the additional info, it makes the photo more interesting. Merry Christmas

  • Reply
    Judy Hays
    December 23, 2021 at 1:55 pm

    I love looking at these photographs and it’s so nice to have a name for the people in the photos. Lately I’ve been reading books from Jim Casada’s list of books about Appalachia (thank you for the list) and the first thing I do when I get the book is look at all the photographs. I really like looking at a glimpse of life “way back when”.

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    December 23, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks Don and Tipper. I love looking at old photos also. I like the comment by Donna Sue about giving only 3 presents, great idea.

  • Reply
    Margaret carter
    December 23, 2021 at 11:40 am

    Thank you for sweet remembrances I’ve noticed in pictures of people they were not smiling… seems like everyone was sad ot troubled back then

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    December 23, 2021 at 11:28 am

    Most marvelous post Dear Tipper and Mr. Don Casada!…..So fitting here at Christmas time…..I am 75 years of age come January as it so reminds me of my parents in that time period…..The Shepherd clan moved westward from northern Virginia in 1805 into southern Kentucky and on to North Carolina south of Asheville…..My Dad was born in 1927, I have heard so many wonderful and sometimes trying stories of his folks and grand folks in both those areas…..Thank you for sharing your stories with us…..It felt like it transported me back to those times…..I love the photos and descriptions!….Thank you Don!….Rick, Richard, Shepherd

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 23, 2021 at 10:10 am

    Br’er Don had already shared much of this with me, but I thought I’d add one tidbit to this panoply of delights in which Delia Woodward Watkins figures so prominently. Delia was well known on the local scene as a gifted cook who devoted no small part of her life to the culinary arts, and on Don’s recommendation not too long before her death I contacted her in connected with a food memoir I was writing. She was gracious beyond belief in terms of helpfulness, and I strongly suspect that was pretty much her approach to life throughout her 90+ years. In other words, she was an exemplar of all that is good and gracious, endearing and enduring, in mountain ways.

    • Reply
      Kevin Knight
      December 24, 2021 at 5:52 am

      Thanx Jim for the info concerning the photo and details. With your info and Ed’s info the peoples character and life are much more appreciated. Merry Christmas.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2021 at 9:59 am

    Sweet letters and I love old pictures too! The first picture I noticed the hair cuts. I have an old picture of my Mother and five of her sisters standing barefooted and they have the same hair cut that was popular at that time. They must not have been used to getting a picture taken or ever seen a camera because they are not smiling. Just looking serious or shy. Next I noticed the shoes and then in the second picture my eyes went to the house first. One of my Grandmothers lived in a house with a long porch like that, maybe a little bit bigger. They weren’t painted and they had the wood shingles on the roof. Looked like an old picture from one of my families. I noticed the ones in overalls but I couldn’t figure out if there was a bench/chair on the porch. I thought there was a purse sitting on top of the bench/chair.
    Merry Christmas to you Tipper and your family and all the readers of the Bling Pig and Acorn.

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      December 23, 2021 at 2:40 pm

      I believe that may be a sewing machine on the front porch. I think the haircuts were so cute and much easier to keep nice than the longer girl’s hair of today.

    • Reply
      Don Casada
      December 23, 2021 at 3:54 pm

      Dee, what is sitting on the porch of the Holden home (with a dog lying in front of it) is a treadle sewing machine. A piece of cloth is draped over the the working part. Our daughter now has a machine just like this one which my wife inherited. While the one on the Holden porch doesn’t show the Singer name (and neither did ours), otherwise they look very much like this one:

      • Reply
        Charles Ronald Perry, Sr.
        December 24, 2021 at 9:19 am

        Don, Merry Christmas. Can you contact me after Christmas. Delia Woodard and family are relatives of mine and I would like to ask you some questions. My email is [email protected] Thanks

  • Reply
    Angelyn McLain
    December 23, 2021 at 9:13 am

    I love letters to Santa. They can tickle you and sometimes they make me cry. Children are so precious.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2021 at 8:49 am

    Tipper, I enjoyed the letters as well from those sweet girls from years gone by. I too lingered over each picture studying the shoes, the fabric of their clothes, facial expressions and how they were sitting or standing in each pictures. Those small details tell so much about each person. It’s funny how you mentioned the dog on the porch, which I completely missed. However, I did notice the small dog in front of the little boy who was holding the dogs front paws and the boy next to him was looking at the small dog too. It’s true how a picture can speak a story of its own without a word spoken.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 23, 2021 at 8:47 am

    Looks to me like Clarence had sent some Navy hats and Harold and John Gilbert were wearing them for the picture. Maybe that picture was made specially to send Clarence wherever he was and somebody wanted to be sure he saw them wearing them? If that was the reason for that picture I’m sure it was a prize possession. Not Christmas though because the clothes are too light.

    Wishing each and all of the BP&A family by blood, by law and by mutual affection a richly blessed Christmas season. You are, each one, a blessing we count among our blessings.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    December 23, 2021 at 8:08 am

    I too enjoyed the old letters to Santa from the 9 year old girls and to see their photos was a cherry on top!!! Merry Christmas to all BP& A family and their families!!! Christmas is in the heart first and foremost. It’s about being thankful for a tiny baby born to change this world!!! And HE did!!! Thank you, Jesus, for coming here and saving mankind and for giving me life to the fullest and not a mere existence.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    December 23, 2021 at 8:03 am

    A bit about the photos:

    The photo of Miley (Sutton) Woodard (1893-1983) was given to me by Delia Ann (Woodard) Watkins (1926-2020). She was a wonderful lady who grew up in the uppermost home on Peachtree Creek (the one in Swain County which empties into Fontana Lake about 3 miles northwest of Bryson City).

    Here’s a photo of Delia, taken eight years ago:

    The photo of the family of Jim and Bertha Hyde Holden is from the TVA Kodak negatives collection in the Atlanta National Archives. The Holdens lived on Middle Peachtree Creek, which empties into Peachtree Creek just above its mouth. Their home was about 1.5 miles from that of the Woodards.

    Both families were forced to leave their homes when TVA built Fontana Dam, even though both homes were located well above the land which was flooded.

    Delia told me a Christmas story which maybe Tipper will let me share next year.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    December 23, 2021 at 7:34 am

    Those two letters to Santa are precious. I love to look at old photographs. People weren’t taught to smile for the camera then, we see the natural character of their faces.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2021 at 7:23 am

    Reminders of how we are all connected are almost tangible with our childhood Letters to Santa. Reading these two little girls’ wishes makes my heart swell, and yes, wonder about their lives, see that Homecoming with the post-war soldier, did they stay nearby, etc. These snapshots are priceless.

  • Reply
    donna sue
    December 23, 2021 at 7:10 am

    I love looking at old photos, too. I enjoy looking at all the small details, from what’s in the background to the buttons on the clothes. I often wonder why I am so fascinated with life before I was born. Is it because it boggles my mind that people are the same in their hearts and heads no matter which generation it is throughout history. Even the things we need in daily life is basically the same, how those things look has changed, but we still need chairs to sit on, clothes to wear, etc.. What has not remained the same is technology. I enjoyed reading this post. I only remember writing a few letters to Santa. Growing up, Christmas was not focused on Santa, although we were not discouraged from believing in him, and my mom did have Santa decor mixed with nativity decor. My mom loves things from before her time, too, and that is what I remember the most about Christmas growing up. The stories she would tell, the old fashioned traditions she liked to have, and the second hand/antique things she displayed everywhere throughout the house. The letters Don shared are wonderful treasures. I love the simple gifts asked for. I bet those girls treasured what they received at Christmas. Today’s kids do not care to take care of their things so they last a lifetime. In today’s world, item quality is poor before it even comes home. Throw away and buy more is the motto. The amount of gifts under the tree are overwhelming. I had a pastor’s wife tell me a few years ago, that their kids only received three gifts each Christmas – like Jesus did from the wise men. I thought that was a very wise decision they made from the birth of their first child onward. Merry Christmas, Tipper. I hope your holidays are joyous!

    Donna. : )

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    December 23, 2021 at 6:30 am

    These pictures are wonderful. When I look at pictures from this Era I always look at their shoes. It looks like everyone’s shoes fit pretty good except maybe Pearl’s. It looks like her little feet were stuffed in her shoes just to make the picture. When I look at pictures of my grandfather and his family some of the children have on shoes that would fit their parents. How blessed we are today to have shoes that fit .MERRY CHRISTMAS ❤

  • Reply
    Kathleen Heiman-Randolph
    December 23, 2021 at 6:15 am

    Tipper, my thoughts exactly. Looking at clothes/fabric (feedsacks ?) shoes / stockings, the dog on porch. Mostly short hair. The rickety porch floor. The massive fireplace. Pictures, of my older siblings, in Montana ( at the “ranch” they were all barefoot!

    • Reply
      Kevin Knight
      December 24, 2021 at 6:08 am

      Hi Kathleen, your question mark by feed sacks made me remember how my Grandmother would make her dresses from feed sacks and use patterns that she bought at the five and dime store. Thanx for the post, memories.

    Leave a Reply