Some Christmases are not so merry and bright. It was Christmas Eve during the Great Depression, 1939 or 1940. Jobs were very hard to find, and it was hard to even put food on the table.
Two of my dad’s acquaintances urged him to go with them to a distant town, where there was a textile mill, and supposedly all three of these adventurers could likely land a job there.
It sounded too good to be true, but the trio had unfortunately not obtained the rest of the story. They were hired the next day to work in the mill on the night shift. But Dad, being a family man, asked if there was housing available in the town.
The boss gave him directions to some flop houses, where the men slept in the beds in shifts. Mulling the situation over, Dad did some calculations and revealed to his friends that the pay rate was only 90 cents an hour, and the cost for the room they shared was 50 cents each.
The trio, hearing Dad’s figures, were in a pretty fix. They wanted jobs badly, yet they knew they could not work at the mill if they had to lose what little money they had. Each man had a family to support, and each had expected to move his family to the town where the cotton mill was located.
Yet with no money, no job and no place to stay, and families in dire straits, it was indeed a bleak morning the next day when they had to go back to their homes and try to explain to their families.
They had to walk and hitchhike, and drivers were hesitant to bring strangers into their vehicle. To make matters worse, it began to snow, and the few cars on the road passed the men by.
The men were cold and wet so they went into an abandoned old house, hoping no doubt for a brighter tomorrow. Then one of the guys found a pint of moonshine in the house.
“This will help keep us warm,” he claimed. Well, not so much. Dad was never a drinker, yet if his buddy’s analysis was correct, he might have been sorely tempted.
They all woke up the next morning with frightful headaches the next morning, and the man who found the booze alleged that it must have been tainted. That was probably true, because most moonshine made in those days was far from being safe to drink.
So the crew started out walking home in the snow. Dad’s pals dropped out soon and he had to go it alone because our house was much further away.
My mother was a quiet, even tempered Christian lady, who seldom raised her voice in anger. But when Dad’s shoes hit the front porch, she was on him like the proverbial hen on a June bug.
She read my poor Dad the riot act, even though he tried his best to explain to her that he did not imbibe of the polluted whiskey, and he was sorry he only had three peppermint sticks for our Christmas.
She soon forgave Dad even for that. After all, he was trying to find a job and give us a Christmas.
Dave Casper is a lifelong Hall County resident and frequent columnist.