model train set on track

Christmas Remembrance

e*Train Issue: Jan 2016   |   Posted in:

By Jim Yocum                                                                    Winter 2016

Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. There was nothing like the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven, stuffed with mom’s secret turkey filling recipe.

(She didn’t really keep it a secret, but she never measured the ingredients, it was all by smell and taste.) Now we are told not to place the filling inside the bird with the threat of sickness or death…. Somehow I survived more than 80 turkeys mom stuffed from end-to-end, with only the discomfort from overeating.

My thoughts are now focused around Christmas. I guess that’s because I come from a large extended family and it was the highpoint of the year.

My dad would go crazy with the lights, trains and of course the tree that had to be decorated just so or else! The lights were put on first…. Dad liked to layer them (some deep into the inside branches, and an abundance of lights on the outside branches). He would stand back and view the result until he was satisfied they were perfect. Each ornament was carefully hung with size and color in mind. By now six or seven hours had gone by and the tinsel was still in the boxes. Each piece had to be hung separately and heaven help the helper who would try to toss the tinsel on!

Dad’s Packard sat outside in the drive ready for double duty, whether it was to run over to Aunt Helen’s house to get extra folding chairs for the feast, or go the hardware store to get several more packages of those large NOMA® lights. You could buy them for indoor or outdoor lighting. Times have changed since those days.

The Packard sits in my garage, covered up and waiting for April to arrive. Miniature lights have changed the market forever, and those big colorful lights are a memory. Some kind of hand-held electronic gizmo has replaced the coveted spot under the tree where the trains once ran….

BUT If you stop by my house … the tree is decorated as my dad taught me, trains are running … puffing smoke … whistle blowing … a watchman pops out of a shanty, and the crossing gates go down to protect the village automobiles. There’s usually a miniature Packard or two in the mix. Now-a-days my daughter Carol has Thanksgiving, and requests dad to help with the tree and put up a set of trains to entertain youthful visitors when they stop by. My son-in-law, Brian, is going to smoke the turkey and that’s OK, he’s a really great guy, and when it comes to the charcoal grill he knows what he’s doing. He is good to my daughter, and is excellent at making his home brew. The stuffing will be made outside the bird, and that’s OK too.

Times have changed, but they are still good times…. I wish everyone happy memories, however you celebrate the holidays!

Jim Yocum is a long-time volunteer at the National Toy Train Library. Viewers will enjoy his recent article about the Packard Club visit to the National Toy Train Museum.