What makes Christmas special? These Butler County memories show the holiday spirit

This picture of his parents, Dewey and Clara LaMance, “took my mind off the war,” says Walter LaMance, a Marine serving in Vietnam in 1966.

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This picture of his parents, Dewey and Clara LaMance, “took my mind off the war,” says Walter LaMance, a Marine serving in Vietnam in 1966.

Christmas provides some of the fondest memories of family time, and more will be built today during the annual celebration.

We asked readers for some of their cherished Christmas memories and all-time favorite presents. Here are some of their responses:

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‘Picture took my mind off the war’

In 1966, while serving in the Marines, I received (a) picture of my parents. My father, Dewey LaMance, played Santa Claus at the old Middletown Mall in the East End. My mother, Clara LaMance, sent me the picture. I was in Vietnam. It was a happy moment and a fond memory. It was a happy moment because I was so homesick. We looked forward to mail call hoping your name would be called.

Of course, there were no phones, so receiving mail was so important in those days. In the midst of the carnage of war the picture took my mind off the war for a few moments, and reminded me of past Christmases with my family which were always wonderful times.

— Walter LaMance, Monroe

‘Luckiest boy in the world’

My favorite gift was when I was 8 and my sister was 6. We woke around 6 a.m., as we did every year, and we went to mom and dad’s room screaming: “Santa’s been here.” As we turned the corner running to what awaited us the first gifts we saw were two awesome bicycles.

There was a plain gold-colored one with high handle bars and a white banana seat. The other bike was fully decked out. It was hot pink with a three-speed shifter on the cross bar. Hand brakes on the high handle bars. A white banana seat with sparkles and raised white letters on the tires.

As we got to the bikes, my sister jumped on the hot pink, decked-out bike, so I grabbed the gold one. We just assumed the pink one was for my sister and, of course, we were trying to ride them around the living room that had no room to do so.

As my mom and dad entered the room, my dad had a really puzzled look on his face. When he finally spoke he said, “Sorry about the colors but these were the last two bicycles Santa had. We thought you two would know the bike with gears was Gregg’s because he’s the oldest.”

What 8-year-old boy in the late 1960’s didn’t want a hot pink three-speed bicycle? I was the luckiest boy in the world.

— Gregg Pigg, Middletown

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‘Well worth the smiles and squeals’

Back in the 1960s, I was in the Navy and often deployed over Christmas so we usually celebrated in November or any day we could as close to Christmas before I began my deployment. Looking back while I was active, I was seldom home on actual Christmas Day.

When my time in the Navy was over, my wife and and I purchased a larger and older home in Kansas City. At that time, we had two daughters, ages 2 and 4. Since this was the first Christmas together, we decided to make it great. We found a cardboard “put together”-type kitchen and set to putting it together on Christmas Eve after the girls were in bed.

A seemingly small job was actually a fingertip-busting nightmare with a million teeny screws. It took us hours to put it together.

In the morning, the sore fingers and mere three-to-four hours of sleep were well worth the smiles and squeals of joy from our daughters. We didn’t share with them until they were adults with children of their own how sore that kitchen set made our fingers.

— Larry Hardy, Oxford

‘Christmas I will never forget’

My mother informed us three boys one Christmas when we were little that it was going to be a bleak Christmas this year and not to expect many presents.

My father had an expensive and rare operation from some neighbor kids throwing some snowballs containing some cinders when he was not looking. Anyway, the snowball grazed his eye and took out the lens of one eye. On Christmas Day we heard the doorbell ring downstairs so we went downstairs and found a very large box with a label saying: “To the Dirksen boys from Santa Claus.”

We brought it upstairs and opened it to find it was an elaborate train set. My mother, being a proud German, went to neighbors up and down the street and friends and not one admitted to giving it to us and all seemed surprised. But it gave us a Christmas I will never forget to be blessed in that way.

— Howard Dirksen, Fairfield

Wife ‘my favorite Christmas memory’

My favorite all-time Christmas gift, nothing else is close, was my wife, my princess, Mary.

She is what makes my favorite Christmas memory. At the time I was teaching school in Cheyenne, Wyo. At Christmas break, I immediately went to her home in Greenup County, Ky., and we hurriedly went to the courthouse and applied for our marriage license.

However, in 1961, a three-day waiting period was required for the license. Sunday was one of the days we had to wait, and it didn’t count as a legal waiting day. Therefore, our wait was four days. But I’m so thankful and blessed for the awesome nearly 57 years with my Mary.

— James E. Porter, Franklin

‘We feel truly blessed’

Santa brought me an Evel Knievel stunt cycle toy when I was 9. My mom thought it was an odd choice for a girl but my dad knew I would love it. I also got a Barbie that year and within 10 minutes I had cut all of Barbie’s hair off and ended up playing with my Evel Knievel toy until it wore out.

My favorite Christmas memory came in 2006, the first year we celebrated our Christmas as a complete family of four. Jack was 4 and his sister Eleanor was 6 months. He was way into Captain Underpants Books and she was into anything she could put in her mouth because she was teething.

— Angie Irick-Margeson, Mason

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