Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas in Milwaukee - 1967

Back in 2008, I offered my recollections of how my family celebrated Christmas as I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s.

Now I have some videos to illustrate those memories.

I have transferred some ancient home movies, filmed with a Super-8 millimeter camera, to digital format. Through them, one can follow the holiday celebrations of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the year 1967.

Yes, 44 years ago. Almost half a century. I was eight years old. I don't remember what it was like to be eight years old, but at least I can see myself then again.

First, the early evening of Christmas Eve. On this occasion, the rotating responsibility of hosting the Czuta family and its branches by marriage (Benkert, Geilenfeldt, Jaeger, Michalak, and Sincere) fell to my parents, so the party was held at our house in Wauwatosa.

Can you believe that one acceptable Christmas present in those days was a decorative ashtray? (Watch carefully and you'll see it.)

Next, my family took to the road -- no doubt leaving the wrapping paper on the floor and half-empty highball glasses on the bar -- to visit with the Sincere family. The first sequence is at my grandparents' home on North 49th Street, with most of my dad's brothers and sisters (especially those who were not yet married) finding their way there as well.

The later sequence is at the home of my Uncle Bill and Aunt Lucy. Note the several pre-teen boys dressed in tacky Batman costumes. (Adam West would appreciate the gesture if not the execution.) Christmas Eve was about the only time that we kids were allowed to stay up well past midnight. My guess is that this footage was shot around 2:00 a.m., even as Santa Claus was gliding up above to deliver his presents to all the good girls and boys.
I'm sure if I uploaded just the 30 seconds or so of the Batman boys, that video would go viral.

Finally, Christmas morning arrives and it is time to open up those presents left behind by St. Nick.

The first 3'30" of this video takes place at the foot of the artificial Christmas tree at my own family's home on West Derby Avenue in Wauwatosa. The gifts that I open up, as toy poodle Tabitha bounds through the discarded wrapping paper, include a toy called "Incredible Edibles" and a "GI Joe Official Space Capsule," commemorating NASA's Gemini program. I also received a bowling ball (it weighed eight pounds, one pound for each year of my age, and did not yet have finger holes drilled into it).

Later, we traveled to the home of my grandparents, Chester and Josephine Michalak, on Spring Drive in Brookfield. Santa left behind a big haul for me and my cousins, Julie and Sheri (my sister, Cathy, and their sister, Jennifer, had not yet been born; our other cousins, Jason and Chris, were more than a decade in the future). Apparently I really liked that tacky Batman costume, since I wore it Christmas morning.
Whether this was a history lesson or simply an exercise in nostalgia, I don't know.

In any case, I wish you a Merry Christmas (1967!) and a Happy New Year!



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