Christmas on Portsmouth - Dot Salter Willis
The Mailboat Christmas (1991)
I remember our Christmases at my grandparents’ home when I was a small child. It was always a very Merry Christmas that all our family looked forward to.
Some of the boys would cut down the prettiest cedar tree they could find. It would be a big tree. Cedars grew plentiful on the island at that time. Some of the boys would cut down the prettiest cedar tree they could find. It would be a big tree. Cedars grew plentiful on the Island at that time.
We would also get yaupon bushes that were very green with beautiful red berries and decorate the house, especially the front room. We made chains out of colored paper, glued together and placed all over the tree. We also made popcorn chains, lit candle and hung big red paper bells around the house.
My Aunt Pearl and Uncle Jerome Fulcher who lived in New Bern would always come home for Christmas. They had a small daughter at that time named Geraldine. They always brought some decorations for the tree as well as gifts for the children. I remember they brought a long chain that smelled out “M-e-r-r-y C-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s” which was put on the wall for everyone to see as they came into the room.
We always had fruit and candy in our stocking that we hung up for Santa Claus. We also got some small toys such as dolls, boats, books and cut-out paper dolls. Sometimes we got clothes too. I remember one Christmas I got a china doll. She was real pretty, with a china head, arms and legs, and a cloth body. One day my Mama took my sister and walked down the banks to the store. This store was owned by my great-Uncle Theodore and Aunt Annie Salter. They also had the post office inside the store. While they were gone, my Dad and I laid down to take a nap. Of course, I had my doll with me. My dad fell asleep and I (being a child) decided to get up all by myself. I had to step across my Dad. I fell off the bed with the doll in my arms. I did not get hurt, but my beautiful doll got her head all broken. We later had a funeral for her and she is still buried somewhere on the island.
We were always told this was Jesus’ birthday that we were celebrating, and I can remember the story being told, over and over. Families always got together on Christmas, if there was any way possible.
Christmas was a happy time and enjoyed by everyone in our family. We always had plenty of company coming in to say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”
We did not have all the things children have today, but we did not miss them because everyone on Portsmouth Island had about the same things. I remember we did have a “Victrola” that played the round cylinders. I wonder sometimes what happened to that old Victrola.
All the children seemed to be happy, especially at Christmas. We visited all the children to wee what Santa brought to each one. It was always busy – but happy – on Christmas Day.
Portsmouth Island holds many memories for me – some sad, but mostly good, but Christmas at Portsmouth was always special.