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In-Depth: Remembering how the Greatest Generation celebrated Christmas

Now in a supply chain crisis, learning from a generation.
Children eating their Christmas dinner during the Great Depression turnips and cabbage
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Posted at 1:38 PM, Nov 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-26 06:22:50-05

MCGREGOR, Texas — There is an old Dolly Parton Christmas song called, Hard Candy Christmas. It's all about Christmas in difficult times.

It's easy to say the last couple of years has been difficult. With a pandemic, financial hardships, and supply chain shortages. Now a supply chain shortage?

"I've never seen this happen where I couldn’t get a product in time," said Bell Smith at Irene flowers in McGregor.

Supply Chains
Containers are stacked at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Christmas decorations have been difficult making their way to the US. That isn't stopping Smith from enjoying the Holidays.

"One of my favorite things is that customers come in and they oh and aw," said Smith.

Customers still did just that, but in some ways, Smith had to make do with what she had.

When you're at Irene Flowers you're instantly surrounded by Christmas.

"We order almost a year out," said Smith.

While this year has been difficult, Smith is preparing for 2022.

"Maybe this is the year that we go back to what we used to do," said Smith.

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Christmas during the great depression was not always easy. It meant few gifts if any.
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Christmas during the great depression was not always easy. It meant few gifts if any.

Going through pictures and history you're reminded how The Greatest Generation had to celebrate the holidays.

"Christmas wasn't about the things you got," said Grandson Greg Rake.

Ray Ford and Madeline both born during the Great depression.

Ray Ford and Madeline Baldwin were born in Young County during the Great Depression.

Childhood life was simple. Both lived in little homes and Christmas was on the lighter side.

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Painting of the home of one of Rake's grandparents.

"They had family and that's what mattered," said Rake.

Oranges and Apples in stockings. The families would go out and cut the Christmas Tree. Hooking the horse to the buggy and they would go to a friend's house.

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Pictures on display remind the family of where they came from.

Madeline's daughter Jo Rake remembers hearing stories about her mom. One year Madeline was told they couldn't afford anything for Christmas, not believing it until there was nothing under the tree. Not even fresh fruit.

The grandfather would go off to World War II. They were separated several years at Christmas. Exchanging letters.

Later went to college on a GI Bill. Madeline stayed at home until all the kids got older.

Ray Ford died in 2010 and Madeline would go on to live with family always around.

Later on in life Madeline, now known as nanaw, was unique. In her older age Hallmark movies at Christmas, her dog scooter, and family were enough.

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She would always tell stories of granddad. Once you met her you were instantly family.

I know that because I became like family to her through a friend. I later learned that my grandmother and her were neighbors.

Even though my grandmother had died, she couldn't always remember. Asking how she was, I would always say "She's doing great, enjoying Heavenly Rest. I never had the heart to keep telling her she had died.

She would always ask me about the weather and the TV business. She would tell me story after story. I was able to tell "nanaw" goodbye.

We weren't blood, but she was still my "nanaw". She died at the age of 98, in January 2020, just before the pandemic.

This Christmas we might have a supply chain shortage and still deal with a pandemic. Learning from the past could make us grateful for the most wonderful time of the year.