I asked several people to tell me their favorite Christmas memory:
Judy Shippey: There are so many, but I would have to say that a real favorite happened when I was working for the late Rene’ Kemp as his assistant. At Christmastime, I decorated the office appropriately. Since the office was downtown behind the courthouse, I often heard the chimes playing seasonal music. Mr. Kemp was so proud of the fact that the chimes were repaired because he was the one who got the money to repair the clock and chimes through the State Legislature. It was really special when I could get him to come to the door with me and we stood and listened to the music together. I really miss the clock, the chimes and Mr. Rene’ Kemp!
Lewis Levine: I recall that my parents would take me to my grandparents on Christmas Eve. They didn’t live too far from us. Anyway, my father would make an excuse to leave. When we returned home, all our presents would be under the tree and a window was open. My father would say, "Looks like Santa forgot to close the window when he left." This was in the early ’60s.
Mary Herring: When I was little, we attended Hinesville Methodist Church. They always had a Christmas party for the children in the basement and Santa showed up with a big bag of toys. This one particular Christmas, I noticed that Santa was wearing work boots with white paint spatters on the toes. The boots looked exactly like a pair my daddy wore and the paint spots were exact. When home, I asked Daddy if he played Santa at church and he said it was not him. I knew it was, and believed it ever since, but never knew for sure. I also remember the Christmas before my daddy died, Fred Gassaway from the men’s Bible class, brought us gifts including a wallet for my dad. I thought that was ironic because we had very little money. My dad had not worked in months because of his illness with cancer. He carried that wallet faithfully with him all the time and when he died it had one dollar in it. If it hadn’t been for neighbors, the church and my aunt, we would not have had much Christmas that year for sure.
Sheriff Steve Sikes: I remember Christmas at my grandparents’ house on Highway 84 in Hinesville when I was 9 and Clay was 10. The whole family would gather there for dinner and to unwrap gifts. We, as a family, had a friend and his family there that year, Dr. Lemolley and his wife Catherine, both of Italian descent. She had a very heavy accent and when excited would always revert back to her native language. Clay and I would make it a point to get to hear her native tongue whatever it took. This year, my uncles Zeck and Troy had beaten us to it. They had caught a wild pig. Aunt Flo Zechman had tied a big red bow around its neck and had wrapped it in a big box and placed it under the Christmas tree with Catherine’s name on it. When she opened that box, the pig hit the floor wide open, down the hall and through the kitchen, back through the living room, out on the sun porch and back to the living room with that very large Italian woman speaking in her native tongue in hot pursuit! I can still see my grandparents, my dad Bobby Sikes and the rest of the family rolling on the floor laughing!
Barry Wilkes: In the late 1990s, I was chairman of the local Child Abuse Prevention Council. To raise awareness about child abuse and to raise funds for the council, other members and I sponsored "Hug Me Wagon Train" and placed red Western Flyer wagons and child abuse prevention displays in local businesses asking for donations of money and toys for impoverished kids. Monetary donations were nominal but toy donations were tremendous. I borrowed a moving truck from Fussell and Son Furniture Store and we loaded it with all the toys we had amassed from donors, along with hams and other holiday victuals. Dr. Whit Fraser dressed in Santa garb and Helen Stanford and her granddaughter accompanied me as we traversed the county delivering toys, foodstuff and gifts. It was heart wrenching watching the surprise and elation of the children to whom we delivered presents. It mattered not to them that most of the toys they received were second-hand. Almost all were ecstatic upon Santa’s arrival and their parents or others caring for them were heartened by the kindness of others and Christian love extended to them. However, it was those of us making the deliveries who received the greatest blessing as our hearts were touched by the joy that simple Christian kindness brought to many that Christmas. Ever since that, Christmastime is remembered fondly but as long as I live, I will always be haunted by the reality that there are countless children all over the world who suffer from neglect and abuse and one day of kindness may light their eyes but it cannot save them from their pain, suffering or even death. Give yourself a great blessing and help someone in need this Christmas!