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Family Christmas customs in Charlton County have changed during the years.

Mrs. Gertrude W. Johnson, daughter of J. Mack and Kate Altman Wildes, both from pioneer families of this area, told several years ago of the Christmas times when she was a child. Living on a farm near Folkston, she had several brothers and sisters.

Her daddy -- Papa -- was a member of the Primitive Baptist Church, which had some strict rules of conduct. One rule declared that there would be no Christmas tree in the home. But the Wildes children found this unacceptable, and one Christmas they defied their daddy’s order.

Two of the older children dug up a young pine tree, about three feet tall and planted it in a flower pot, bringing it indoors when their Papa was not home, and hiding it in the parlor. This room was not used every day, so apparently Mr. Wildes was unaware one of the church rules was broken in his home.

The children had no extra money for store-bought decorations so they used what was available to them on the farm. Making paper chains to hang on the seedling’s flimsy limbs occupied much of the children’s time. Sheets of paper, ripped from the previous year’s Sears Roebuck catalog, were cut into thin strips and stuck together with homemade paste. This was made in the kitchen by mixing water and flour in a saucer. This thick sticky mixture held the chain links together.

Miss Gertrude had learned to crochet the popcorn stitch, creating a fat little popcorn of string and then three or four inches of a crochet chain, followed by another little popcorn and more chain. This yards-long dainty creation was then added to the little tree.

Stockings were not hung on the mantel in the Wildes home, but instead, using the smallest socks he could find, Papa stuffed them with several pieces of hard candy and an apple or orange, whichever fruit that particular child liked best. After the children were asleep, he tiptoed into their bedrooms, and placed the socks by their shoes, for the children to find on Christmas morning.

There were so few toys received at Christmas that Miss Gertrude remembered once when only the smallest boy got a tin whistle and the baby girl received a little doll.

The children used what was available to them – a small pine tree, paper, string, flour, and water, to help make an unforgettable Christmas season.

---Lois Barefoot Mays

Source: Interview with Mrs. Gertrude Wildes Johnson 9-16-1990


Dec. 1909

Folkston will have Christmas tree for all children of the community. At the school.  Gifts will be purchased for all children that attend.

January 1910: Contest cake never made. The baker has gone. He left just before Christmas for we know not where.

Dec. 1912. Fireworks and cap pistols and caps. Thomas & Allen Furniture Store.

December 1916, St. George Tree at Baptist Church. Union tree with all three Sunday Schools working together.

Dec 1921 Threee holly Christmas trees at grammer school. Covered with clusters of red berries.

Dec 1940 Dear Santa, Please bring something for a little boy eight years old. I don’t know what I want. Bring me any old thing. Your friend, S>L. Picren.

December 1940Dear Santa, I want a doctor and nurse set.and I want a doll 25 inches tall, that you thik I would like. Sant claus’s friend, Rubye Gibson.

December 1940. Dear Santa I am a little girl and live at Newell on the left hand side of the railroad. I want you to bring me a doll baby and crib, a little red dwagon, some blow-up balloons and a tea set. Be sure to bring chocolate candies. I love you. Juliette Louise Brown.

Dec 1940 Garden Club put chridstmas tree in front of courthouse. Electric olored lights. Small pine saplings placed at all business intersections

Dec 1940

Teachers gave Harris candlesticks at his house.

Dec 1946. Beautifully shaped cedar at courthouse. E.C. Gowen, electrical contractor arranged the details of the lights. The tree’s reappearance of a tradition discontinued during the war years. And added much to Folkston’s Christmas scene.

Gertrude Johns tree

Mrs. Askew doll

Madison Gibson trip to town with Papa.

from DeBrahm's Report
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