The Christmas Trees

Every year at Christmas when I was young, we would spend some time at Grandma and Grandpa Sweitzer’s house, eating a huge holiday dinner, enjoying presents and seeing all the Cousins and Aunts and Uncles we had not seen all year. It was a house full of people, screaming kids and usually someone playing the old out of tune upright Player Piano with the player missing.

One of the things us kids always looked forward to was Grandpa’s Christmas tree. It was one of those horrible fake Aluminum trees, with a color wheel.To make it something special, Grandpa drilled a hole into the bottom of it’s wooden core and mounted it on top of an old record player that had one of those metal stems to hold multiple records. Then he set that player to slow and the tree would rotate. The whole thing got placed on his big wooden desk that sat in from of the picture window that faced the street. People from all over the neighborhood would stroll by, just to see Grandpa’s Spinning multi-colored Christmas Tree.

Grandpa decorated the tree with various things and those small candy canes. Us kids would make a game of snatching the candy from the spinning tree. This seems like silly entertainment now, but for 5 and 6 year olds in 1965, it helped pass the time and get us a Sugar Fix too.

Grandma’s contribution to the trees every year was to make a Gumdrop Tree. She used those really huge Gumdrops to make a colorful tree on a Styrofoam Cone base. she’d spend an hour sticking Gumdrops to the tree with toothpicks, so the kids could pick their favorite color and flavor from the tree. She would refill it, so there was always some available for a quick treat. Between the two trees, the kids could make it through what was usually a very long day.

Grandma Sweitzer Toast

When I was a youngster, I stayed at my grandparent’s house quite a bit. Dad and mom both worked, so they would drop me there and sometimes I would get picked up late in the day or sometimes I would spend the night. I had the front room by the attic stairs so I could look out to the traffic going by, or if I was bored, I would sneak up the attic stairs and spend time exploring. Their house was one of those huge old Victorians, four floors from basement to attic.

JACKSON

On the mornings when I spent the night, Grandpa would wake me and I would dash down to the small kitchen at the back of the house and join Grandma while she made breakfast. Usually it was simple stuff like Bacon and Eggs or sometimes Oatmeal, but always on the side was a stack of Grandma Sweitzer Toast. 

Grandma has one of those old all metal toasters. I don’t know what year she got it, but I would suspect somewhere in the 1940’s after WWII. By the time I came along in the 1960’s the poor thing was worn out. It was my job to sit and watch the toaster, to make sure it did not burn the toast. Many times, we would get to talking and laughing and I would forget the toaster until we smelled something burning. Out would pop two slices of burnt, very crispy toast. Grandma would put it on a plate and walk over to the sink. She’d stand there scraping off the burnt part and what was left was usually just a sliver of bread with crust. On this, she would slather a huge amount of fresh butter she got at the farmer’s market. By the time breakfast was served, the toast was very sloppy and chewy and delicious. Some of the slices were so thin, they would collapse in two when you picked them up.

To this day, I like my toast crispy and a little burnt, I always add butter and if I happen to have some, a glob of home made jam or even better some Apple Butter. We did all sorts of things, but the base is always, Grandma Sweitzer Toast.