Doug Sommer Collection
➔ '90s, ’30s Christmases remembered. - Mae (Crampton) Heinz Newspaper Article from 1975.

Newspaper Article

Object ID:
At 88, Mae Heinz has seen of those 87 Christmases in many times, not the least to count homesteading days and the “Dirty 30's.” Recalling some of those 87 Christmases. she related family traditions and experiences in a special story

(Republic Photo by Byers)

”90s, ’30s Christmases remembered.

Republic Women’s Editor

    “When I was eight or nine years old. we determined to have a Christmas tree at the school. I was appointed to pick it out and have it cut down. I was a pretty good box elder tree branch. A neighbor boy  cut it off and we took it to school. The teacher - oh, he was a good man! - wrapped all the branches with tissue paper. Then he gave us all candy - the girls got a candy cane and the boys, a candy cigar. We thought it was just fine!"
    Back in the 1905, evergreen trees didn’t populate the South Dakota, prairie until someone planted one, related Mae Heinz as she recalled a notable childhood Christmas. Born in 1886, Mae has seen 87 Christmases span her lifetime in many different ways. There were the homesteader times. the “Dirty Thirties!” and today among them.
    “We hung up our stockings. They weren’t anything special. Just a clean pair of our good stockings. They’d get filled with candy and nuts and fruit,” she said.
    ‘”My grandmother had a mudhouse I guess you’d call it. It was boards put up and packed with mud and hay. Then they put a roof on it and oh it was so warm. She’d always have us up for Christmas. There was a huge table and they’d bring in nail kegs and put boards across them for. us kids to sit on. She’d always have a chicken pie baked in an old great milk pan with gravy and biscuits on top. Then there’d be a plum pudding. We had good dinners there.”
    Later, when she raised her own family, she recalled how Santa used to sneak in, unnoticed by the children. “They’d start creeping down the steps about three in the morning. My husband would tell them “Santy hasn‘t been here yet and won’t come unless you go back to bed.”
    “When it was time to come down, we’d stop them on the steps. Our bedroom had two doors, one to the steps and one to the front room where the tree was set up. On the steps, the children would have to sing. Meanwhile, my husband slipped out the other door with the packages and lighted the candles on the tree.”
    “One year we’d gotten kiddie cars for ,two of the beys. Virgil dashed into the front room that Christmas morning and saw the cars, immediately claiming one as his. I asked him how' he knew it was his, Well, he didn’t even go to school yet and he looked down to the side of the car where “kiddie car” was written. ‘Well,‘ he said, pointing, 'it’s got my name on it! ‘right there!’ Those two would open up the bedroom doors and race the cars through the whole house. What a time they had!”
    Another year in the thankless 30's, Mae went to recycled gifts for the children. One was an old doll she’d had. Fixing it up best she could and adding a new dress, she set it on the tree for Bea. “When she spied it on the tree, she said ‘Oh, my dolly!’ and never looked at another thing.”
Many were the years Mae‘s family would have special guests for Christmas dinner. Lonely bachelors, immigrants from across the seas, widowers with their children, hired hands. “I said they wouldn’t hurt us. They always enjoyed it. It made them and us happy too. We never had but one hired man I who didn’t come back,” she remembered.
    People from Russia came to South Dakota to stay. They’d known some other people out here. In the fall, they worked for us — husband, wife, a girl and three younger boys; One of the boys worked for us for a couple of summers, too.
    “Forty years after their, dinner with us, a very old looking lady found her way to my home. It turned out to be the daughter in town during a Corn Palace Week, looking up certain people she thought still to live here.”
    “Then there was the dinner with a widower and six children. They were having such hard times, but when we asked them for dinner, they go, all cleaned up and dressed up. My uncle lent two of his sons suits to two of the widower’s boys. Oh, they did fine!”
    In the family. itself, Mae had plenty of relatives who often wound up at her home for singing and gathering. “First it was the neighbors who came. Then the kids started coming."So we had to have a special day for the girls cause they didn’t want all those old boys around. Well, then we had to
reverse tables when the boys came and the girls went off somewhere. Finally they started coming together and we’d make up lots to eat and sing.”
    For herself, Mae best remembered the gifts from her father as the most treasured. “My father used to give us such beautiful gifts. I remember a bracelet. I thought it was the greatest. Then there was a ring with a green setting. I wore it until it finally wore out. He’d give fine china too. I liked that kind of thing especially well," she finished.

Date published:

The Daily Republic

Donated By:
Doug Sommer
Citing this Record:
"Sommer Family CollectiveAccess System, database : Newspaper Article : '90s, ’30s Christmases remembered. - Mae (Crampton) Heinz Newspaper Article from 1975. [2017.10]." March 18 2017. Web. accessed May 12 2021. <>