Merry Christmas, 1996
To celebrate Christmas, I am sharing my Christmas Day columns, a tradition that started in 1996. Here is the 1996 version:
A Christmas story: December 1950. A couple walks to the movie house in Ottawa County. “Oh, aren’t those rings pretty,” the girl says as they pass a jewelry store. “Can we go inside and take a look?”
The guy is thinking of the movie, but suddenly a ring is on the girl’s finger and she says, “This is what I’d like for Christmas.”
It’s price is $250. The guy’s half-brother is just out of the Army; he offers little brother his discharge pay. The engagement is official the next day.
“We had a great Christmas,” said the guy.
Great times and not-so-great times would follow for Merlyn Johnson and Mickey Mantle.
A Christmas story: Dec. 24, 1967. At a party in Green Bay, Wis., a woman tells her husband she heard a noise outside. He looks through the window and sees on his lawn a 1968 Lincoln Continental.
The husband had grown up with no luxuries. He tells his friends that night that when he was a little kid, someone had given him a ride in a Lincoln. “Ever since then, I’ve dreamed of owning one,” he says. “I never thought I would.”
He has tears in his eyes. His friends swear he was ready to bawl, which would come as a great surprise to every NFL running back who ever had been tackled by Ray Nitschke.
A Christmas story: December 1958. A Notre Dame student, the baseball-playing son of a potato farmer, goes to a dance at St. Mary’s, a ritzy girls school across town in South Bend, Ind. While he stumbles around the dance floor, his dancing partner asks what he is getting for Christmas.
“A bathrobe,” he says. “And other stuff I can use at college.”
Like what? “A suit,” he says, knowing full well he was getting no suit. “Two suits,” he goes on, warming up. “Maybe three. And a couple of pairs of shoes — alligator shoes. And a dozen monogrammed shirts. And, uh, slacks and sports jackets and sports shirts and an overcoat and. . .”
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