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Christmas Memories ... Santa Claus & Hot Bread 'n' Butter
Santa Doesn't Always Use A Sleigh
Just the thought of hot bread with melting butter makes your mouth water, doesn't it? Seems like so many of life’s memories have some type of food as one of the central ingredients. Ever wonder why that is?
One wonderful memory that stands out in my family took place way back in the late 1950’s. Components that make up this memory are Santa Claus, helicopters, hot bread with melting butter and a little exercise in problem solving. Santa Claus made his grand entrance in, not a sleigh but rather another airborne vehicle, driven by oil rather than reindeer power.
The place was Memphis, Tennessee and the airborne vehicle was a helicopter. That’s right … Santa was giving his reindeer a little rest while they were preparing for the more famous trip, when they would need all their energy and a little magic also, to circle the globe in one night.
The company that came up with this flight plan for Santa was Hart’s Bakery. I was about 8-9 years old and at the time had two younger brothers, age 6 and 4. We lived “across the bridge”, as it’s referred to here, in a little town in Arkansas, about 50 miles from Memphis. Witnessing this extravaganza about two weeks before Christmas was an all day long adventure for our family.
In order to get a good place to see all that was going on, we bundled up in our winter coats and headed out early, in our big red and white Oldsmobile ’98. Three excited kids that could not sit still and yet, somehow we managed to make it alive, even though we didn’t even have seatbelts to strap us in.
We kids could think only of seeing Santa’s grand entrance. The excitement mounted as television crews where on site to record everything. We’d never actually seen a real helicopter or television crews. After the big fellow was on the ground and positioned on his special throne in the little house, made just for him, on the parking lot, we would then actually get to sit in his lap and whisper to him all our wants and desires.
Mom and Dad always said their favorite part was touring the bakery. I guess they thought it was educational. Anyone who toured the bakery got a special treat at the end of the tour. Your very own personal loaf of hot, just out of the oven, bread!
Plan "B" Gets Put Into Action
We would then hurry and make our way through the crowd to the car so we could cut into the steamy, mouth watering delight. But, aghast! When getting to the car we discovered that in our haste to leave home that morning, we forgot something very important … the butter and the knife. Quickly, "Plan B" (for Bread n Butter) was put into action.
We had to quickly find a grocery store. Remember now, this was the 1950’s and convenience stores where not on every corner, like they are today. Haste was most important for the bread was quickly cooling in the winter air. We find a store and Mom waste no time and heads straight to the diary department, while we anxiously sit and wait in the car, at the front door for her to return. Once the butter was procured it was quite a sight to see Daddy use his little pen knife, which he was never without, to serve up the bread and the butter. By then, you would have thought we were all starving to death because we had all been holding our loaves in the enclosed car and the smell was most intoxicating. Can’t you just smell it now?
Full Belly Contentment
What a memory making adventure we had that day! Watching and talking with Santa Claus, seeing the helicopter fly across the sky and circle a bit before landing, the bakery tour and ending with that wonderful warm fragrant bread with melting butter oozing all over the place …it doesn't get any better than that! With our bellies full, we make our way back home, across the river, content and worn out from all that had taken place on that special day. Fifty plus years later and the memory is still alive!
Shutting The Door On A Simpler Time
It was sad to see the Hart’s Bakery close its doors in the 1970's…like shutting the door on a simpler time in our lives. The building is still there and some other business occupies it now. But, every time I drive past that place on the corner of Summer and Mendenhall, I can still see in my mind the huge neon mechanical sign rising up in the sky. It’s flashing neon lights in the middle of a yellow and red heart shape, spelling out Hart’s. But that’s not all. Sitting on top of the heart was a small car sized loaf of Hart’s bread, rotating very slowing. It was spell binding to watch.
Those, my friend, as the old folks say, "where the good ole’ days".