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Across the Fence was a weekly feature from the Hamilton Herald News written by Arvord Abernethy. This is a compilation of several Christmas pieces by Abernethy. — DH

Memories are wonderful things to possess, if they are pleasant ones. It seems that the farther we travel down this life way, the more we look into our rear view mirror.

The memories of Christmas season probably stay with a person more than any others, as it was at that time of the year we would have our fondest dreams. Not only would there be thoughts of the toys we wished Santa would bring, but there would be school and church programs, and most of all a family Christmas dinner at Grandmother’s.

Some time before Christmas, out teacher would make the outlines of holly leaves and berries and Santa Clauses with her jelly pan, and we would get to color them during drawing class. We would then glue all the leaves and berries together to make a wreath to put in each of the classroom windows. The Santas found a place along the top of the blackboard.

The first Christmas tree I remember was when I was in the second grade. Out in western Oklahoma you hardly got to see a tree, much less a Christmas tree. The teachers found a dead peach tree and covered all of the limbs with cotton, and to me it was beautiful. We had drawn names in class and all of us had put in a nickel to buy the teacher a present, so the last day before the holidays was a high day in our lives.

Christmas at home was also a time of anticipation and good times. It had been a year since any of us had received a toy of any kind, so anything we received found a glad welcome. No one out there had a fireplace, as there were no trees for wood, so we would imagine that the sewing machine looked like a fireplace and would hang our stockings on it. The next morning they would be filled with an apple, an orange and candy and nuts.

One year one of my brothers received a fire truck and one of the ladders was missing. Dad suggested that Santa might have lost when he came through the yard gate. We ran out there and sure enough it was there, and the reality of a Santa was strongly fixed in our minds.

There is a lot of difference in toys then and now. A rubber ball or a top was about as mechanical as anything you got. A little red wagon would have wheels that would turn. If a girl got a doll that would close her eyes when she was laid down, she got the latest in mechanical development.

Have you noticed what kind of toys and games they are advertising this year? Many of them have little computer units in them. They say those units are about the size of your thumb nail, but can do nearly as much as a human brain can do. The units are called chips. We had chips when I was a kid, but it was something you got out in the cow pasture to burn in the stove.  Them wuz the good ole days.

My sincere wish for each of you is that you will find the true peace and joy that Christ came to bring on that first Christmas Day.

If you need something to get you into the true mood for Christmas, attend the singing of the cantata “The Glory of Christmas” at the First Baptist Church on Wednesday, December 17, and Sunday, December 21, at 7 p.m.

Over 40 adult singers from different churches are in the choir along with a children’s choir.

This is a very spirited piece of music that you will enjoy and get your Christmas off to a good start.

If you happened to look to the eastern sky after five o’clock last Tuesday evening, the fourth, you saw a sight that seldom occurs–three stars (I should say planets were real close together with the old man in the moon standing nearby.

At the top was Jupiter, the largest of the planets, large enough to swallow 1,300 earths.  Next in line was Saturn, the one that wears the hula hoops around its waist, the largest one being 170,000 miles in diameter. Next was Venus, brightest of all planets due to the reflective quality of its surface.  Since Venus was named after the goddess of love and beauty, why shouldn’t she be the brightest?

The waining moon stood nearby, but had his back turned to the beauties as though eh was a little embarrassed to be in such famous company.

Wish I had time to drop by and wish to each of you the merriest of Merry Christmases. Remember that feeling of happiness we had at Christmas time when we were kids? May you find it again this year.

We often measure the happiness of Christmas by the number of gifts we receive. Some of the dearest gifts we receive are not always wrapped in colorful paper and fancy bows which will soon be tossed in the wastebasket, but may be wrapped in a warm, friendly smile and greeting or a sincere handclasp.

A small gift you may receive, and you can also give, yet is measureless in value, will be those three little words, “I Love You”, when wrapped in the arms of the giver. Another gift suggestion: a few “Thank Yous” all wrapped and tied with sincerity will let others know of your appreciation of kindnesses and favors of the past year. It might be appropriate to wrap an “I’m sorry” in a package of love and give to someone. The joy could be boundless.

Many of you have had a cloud of sorrow to darken your blue skies during the past year, but may it have passed away to where you can feel the warmth and brightness of the Son-the Son of God, whose birthday we are celebrating.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

ACROSS THE FENCE

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Harold Blair beside the patch machine.

Harold Blair beside the patch machine.

Originally published in the Hamilton-Herald News 19 March 2009.

Harold Blair has reopened his boot and shoe repair shop.

Harold Blair is back in business. At 90s something, he has reopened Blair’s Boot and Shoe Repair.

Blair purchased Crain’s Shoe Repair in the mid- 1980s. The business was originally operated by Robert

Verne Crain, who opened in January 1954. Crain was the father of E. C. Weathers of Hamilton, who provided a history of her father’s shop.

By January 1954, Robert Verne Crain was ready to launch out on his own in the shoe, saddle and combine canvas repair business, she wrote. “Within a 24-hour period, Mother, Daddy and I drove to Celina, purchased a shoe repair shop, loaded it on Bill Stephens’ truck and returned to Hamilton.

Crain’s Western Shop opened at 205 N. Bell, which in 1954 was the north end of the building now occupied by Floral Designs by Jill. Within a few years, the front part of that building became available, and Verne, with the help of his older brother, Edwin, rolled the shoe repair equipment on iron pipes up the street to 123 E. Henry St., which was its location when the city flooded on April 26, 1957.

On that day, Pecan Creek went on a rampage, causing an estimated half-million dollars in damage to the city’s business district. The square was submerged in water, and many stores on the north and east sides of the square had serious damage. The City Drug building had three feet of water inside when its back door disintegrated. Several cars from Paul Gilliam’s Used Car lot on North Rice were washed away. Gerald’s Feed Store, which had folding doors across the front and back, flooded throughout, damaging almost all of their inventory.

Next door was the shoe repair shop. “I was a senior at Mary Hardin-Baylor College in Belton… we spent the evening in the darkened first floor parlor of our dorm”, Weathers wrote. “Occasionally when electricity came on, we heard about floods throughout Central Texas.” Weathers said she wasn’t concerned when news was broadcast about floods in Hamilton, because she was sure that her parents were either at their farm at Blue Ridge or at the home on West Grogan Street. But they were not. They rode out the storm from their shop.

“I will never know why Daddy had sandbags in his shop, but he did,” Weathers wrote. The Crains sandbagged the front door, which was slanted across the southeast corner of the building, reducing the force of the water and preventing their building from being flooded.

Mrs. Jewel Workman Hughes Parrish purchased the building in 1958, and the Crains moved their shop across the street to 210 N. Bell, a building that had only a dirt floor, and later to 206 N. Bell, its final location.

Illness caused Verne to close the store in 1974, but Ray Weathers, Elreeta’s husband, reopened in 1975 and operated the business for 10 more years. He sold all of the shoe repair equipment, supplies and furniture to Blair in 1986.

Blair will be open 9 a.m. to noon and 2-6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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