early bandIn the 1930s, Henryetta had an annual Christmas parade with the high school band, floats, scouts and other organizations, men on horseback, decorated cars with local personalities and merchants, and at the end, SANTA CLAUS! But the one I've always remembered best was the 1939 Christmas parade for three reasons. They aren't very important, but one might be a surprise to many readers. It sure was for when it took place
The first reason is that it was my first close encounter with Vincent Tripodi, the HHS band director, and I was surprised by what I heard from him. Mr. Tripodi was a native Italian with a definite accent. Had a lot of trouble with English and could become very upset with band members when one or many made a mistake.
I was later in the HHS band from the 7th through 9th grades, and to illustrate the language problem, if you did something wrong, he would call you a stupidy pig, and if he was really excited, he'd forget "pig" and just call you stupidy, stupidy.
I learned at the 1939 Christmas parade that he was also confused by words to distinguish between the sexes. I knew of him, and had seen him at some 1938 football games (Jack Gibson's second year to announce the games) when my cousin, Bobby Morgan, was the band drum major and when Roy Van Meter played as the first of the long string of Henryetta football Van Meters.
But I had never been close to Tripodi until the day of the 1939 parade. When he came past me while walking beside the band at the 1939 Christmas parade, someone watching on the sidewalk behind me asked him when Santa would arrive, and he said "she's coming."
It shook this fourth grader to his heels to hear that a woman had taken over for Santa.
The second reason is that the parade was supposed to be the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but was really the Saturday after the second Thanksgiving. To explain, since 1863, Thanksgiving had been designated by annual presidential proclamations, but had always been the last Thursday in November. In 1939, November had five Thursdays and the last was November 30, so there'd be just 24 days left for Christmas shopping.
To help merchants in the ongoing great depression, and with great pressure from Macy's department stores, President Roosevelt proclaimed in late October that Thanksgiving would be Thursday, November 23.
Now, besides all the church services and high school and college football games that had been scheduled assuming November 30 would be Thanksgiving, schools had already scheduled the Thanksgiving break for that Thursday and Friday. So the Henryetta schools announced that the official Thanksgiving break would remain as scheduled and there'd be no school that Thursday and Friday, but if a student's family observed "Roosevelt's Thanksgiving" on November 23, the student could also stay home from school that day and not be counted as absent. turkey
My family stuck to the traditional Thanksgiving. The families of most classmates observed November 23, or claimed they did, and had two Thanksgiving holidays while I just had one. Then, 1940's last Thursday was November 28, and President Roosevelt declared Thursday the 21st to be Thanksgiving, so I again had one more day of school than most classmates - and I'm still not over it. Then, Congress passed a law making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday, so it can't be later than November 28 or November 22. So there are the details about what cost me two extra days of school.
The third memory's best. It'd been advertised in the Free-Lance that after the parade, kids could go to the Montgomery Ward catalog order store to get Ward's annual free coloring book.
Back then, Ward's had catalog stores in some of the towns that didn't have a Ward's store. You could go there and order something that would arrive faster than if you ordered it by mail from the catalog at home. (Everyone had Wards and Sears catalogs that were fun for kids to look through to see things they wish they had.)
Henryetta's Ward's catalog store was on the north side of Main, about half way between Fourth and Fifth and was run by Ethel Thompson, an adult daughter of neighbors who lived two doors from my family. After the parade, I headed to the Wards catalog store to get my coloring book.
But in 1939, it wasn't a coloring book. Unknown to us kids, Ward's had decided that instead of their annual coloring book, they would have a comic book that year and it was about a reindeer with a red nose that helped guide Santa's sleigh one cloudy night. Believe me. It was the original ‚"Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" comic book that Montgomery Ward gave away help boost depression sales. All of us got the comic book and learned the story. That comic book was all there was about Rudolph for a few years, but the story became popular. Then it was put to music and later recorded by the great singing cowboy movie star, Gene Autry, who'd actually worked in Henryetta in the 1930s for three different brief periods as a dispatcher (telegraph operator) for the Frisco railroad.
The lyrics told a slightly different story, though. In the comic book, Rudolph wasn't one of Santa's reindeer. Instead, he was a boy reindeer who lived in a reindeer town. But like in the song, the other reindeer kids teased him because he had a red nose.
RudolphWhen Santa was delivering toys one very foggy, the song calls it a "cloudy" Christmas Eve and was afraid his reindeer would lost, he saw a red glow below and traced it to the house where Rudolph was sleeping. Santa woke him and asked him if he'd guide his sleigh the rest of the way because it was getting cloudier and he was afraid he and the regular reindeer would lose their way.
Rudolph did it, and that was the beginning of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". So those are my 1939 Christmas parade memories. Vincent Tripodi called Santa "she" and it shook me to my heels. In 1939 and 1940, most of my classmates had two Thanksgiving holidays from school in each year, while I just had one, and I'm still not over it. I got my Montgomery Ward ‚"Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" comic book "and if I'd only known, I'd have saved it. Oh, that 1939 Christmas parade!" Since I mentioned the Wards order store, I must add that when I was a boy, O. B. Board, who worked in PPG's office, stopped in our neighborhood nearly every evening to take the Wards order store manager, Ethel Thompson, out for the evening.
Later, he and Ethel married. Ethel Thompson Board died in 2011 while living in Round Rock, Texas near a granddaughter. She was 96 and had been a widow for 35 years. She rests in Westlawn. When her obituary was published, I learned that as long as she lived in Henryetta, she made sure she visited her father every day.
Her father, Walter Thompson, was living in a nursing home after having both legs amputated as a result of diabetes and after Mrs. Thompson died. Before Mr. Thompson retired, he drove one of the county road graders that was kept in a building on the east side of Fourth Street, between the Frisco and old KO&G railroad.
When I was in the sixth grade and taking trumpet lessons, I sometimes played (or try to play) on our front porch, two doors from the Thompsons. I once heard Mr. Thompson tell my father that someone who was visiting him while I was playing, the visitor asked if that was my father playing the trumpet, and Mr. Thompson responded with, "If Earl Goldsmith played a trumpet like that, do you think he would be out there playing where we would all be able to hear him? (My father was also "Earl," but I'm not a Jr. because he had no middle name, and I do.) "
A little more relative to Vincent Tripodi. For some reason, he always lived in Okmulgee, so he must have had a more than normal gasoline ration during WWII. I was never in that house as a boy, but knew where it was. After my mother died in 1964, my father remarried in 1969, and I then had a new adult step-niece and, of all things, she and her husband happened to live in Vincent Tripodi's former house.