CHRISTMAS was always a special time at our home for me and my brother, even when times were hard, and like most families, there was no money to be spent on Christmas goods.
Mom and Dad did the best they could for us. We hung up our stockings, and the excitement on Christmas morning finding what Santa had left for us – apples, nuts, a few sweets and a small toy (a little doll, a little tin car for Albert, my brother) perhaps.
Then there was the smell of chicken roasting – plum pudding and custard for afters.
When the dishes had been washed and put away we would get Mom to play the piano and we would sing songs and carols.
Things have changed over the years, people are happily able to afford good food and toys for the kiddies etc.
I remember one year, when we were all together as a happy family. It was Christmas Eve, the shopping was done, and the gifts packed in wrapping paper tied with ribbons. My brother and I just wanted to pop out for a last look around, it was late when we had finished work and we got away and went to Brierley Hill.
A lot of the shops were closing as the town cleared of shoppers but Woolworth's was still open. Christmas goods were being reduced to get them sold. Boxes of crackers were half price.
We were having some friends round to spend Christmas evening with us and Albert said we would have some crackers as it would make the evening go with a bang.
I replied they would not be much good at that price!
My brother said if we opened them carefully we could put some things in, and to look around to see what we could find. We found some very small bottles of scent, some ladies and men's hankies and a pack of five small cigars.
"Don't tell Mom and Dad, let it be a surprise," I said as we went home for tea.
After Mom and Dad had gone to bed we set about our task of opening up the crackers and removing the items (a whistle, a ring, a gold bracelet – well gold plated anyway) and replacing them with our goodies. We closed up the crackers, pleased with our efforts.
Albert then had another idea. We had planned for friends to play games and have a quiz with bars of chocolate to be won. He said the items removed from the crackers would be given as booby prizes to the ones who got the answers to the questions wrong. So we wrapped them up. It was very late when we crept upstairs to our bedrooms.
Christmas morning was busy cooking Christmas dinner – turkey with all the stuffing and vegetables, Christmas pudding and brandy sauce – lovely!
The afternoon was spent just sitting and taking it easy. Our friends arrived early evening and after a good natter, we got out mince pies, glasses of wine and the crackers. Everyone was so surprised and pleased, and asked where we had them from and our friend Fred said they were the best crackers he'd ever seen. We told them – Woolworth's.
"More like Fortnum & Mason," our friend said.
We played our games and at last it was time to say goodnight and our friends left, thanking us for a lovely evening.
Boxing Day arrived, an easy day before returning to work. Cold turkey, and just the rest of the pudding to warm up.
In the afternoon as Dad sat smoking the little cigar from the cracker we were again asked where we got the wonderful crackers from. We told him how we got the crackers and put the things inside. Dad said it was a great idea and continued contentedly smoking his little cigar.
6 Kensington Gardens, Wordsley.