The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 10:17 am Thursday, December 17, 2020

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Christmas, 1918

By Marie Craig

One hundred and two years ago at Christmas, World War One had ended the previous month, but military men and civilians were still fighting the dreadful influenza epidemic. Reading the old newspapers online for Davie County gives some insight to this period of time describing the war, the flu, and people celebrating Christmas.  Articles are from The Davie Record, Dec. 11, 1918.

People were happy the war was over. For example, “Sargt. Jack Allison, who has been in the U.S. Army for the past 15 months, was honorably discharged last week from Camp Sevier, to the delight of his many friends. Jack is the first Mocksville boy to be mustered out of the service.”  (Camp Sevier was located 3.5 miles east of Greenville, S.C. It was built in 1917 by recruits. See pages 381-382 of Davie County in World War One for more information.)

On the National level was this short paragraph: “More than 5,000 American soldiers arriving here from England on the transports Lapland and Minnekahda, shared as a part of their home-coming reception the tremendous ovation given President Wilson as he sailed for France to help seal their victory at the peace table.”

Joy because of the end of the war and the returning of military men back to their homes and loved ones was tempered by the serious influenza epidemic sweeping the world. Here in Davie, the author was able to study death certificates during these two years in the Register of Deed’s office and found that 58 Davie people died of this flu and resulting pneumonia. Ages ranged from one month to 81 years old. (Public records began being required in 1913, only five years before, so it’s possible the numbers could be higher as people adapted to this new rule.)

On the same newspaper page was this comment: “So far as we can learn all the flu patients are getting better. Out of the 24 new cases last week, more than half are up and about. If care is exercised, the number of new cases should be small this week.”

Another article in this issue describes the epidemic throughout the United States: “Appalling and Increasing Total of Deaths Reported.  Washington.– Between 300,000 and 350,000 deaths from influenza and pneumonia have occurred among the civilian population of the United States since Sept. 15, according to estimates of the public health service. These calculations were based on reports from cities and states keeping accurate records, and public health officials believe they are conservative.  The epidemic persists, but deaths are much less numerous.”

But Christmas was coming.  That always makes everything more pleasant. Merchants had advertisements such as the following.

“Cooleemee Drug Co. The happiest season of the year is now with us. We have just the gift for him or her. Come in and look at our line of useful gifts before going elsewhere to do your Christmas shopping.”

“Crawford’s Drug Store.  Practical Gifts are Sure to Please.  There will be an unusual demand for practical, sensible gifts this year. We want to call your attention especially to our Stationery, Combs, Brushes, Cameras, Toilet Articles, Perfumes, Pens, Shaving Supplies, Jewelry, Flash Lights, Candies and many other things which are staple goods and the buying of which will save you special holiday prices.”

But in spite of the hard times, news writers kept their sense of humor by submitting this two sentence article: “During the heavy wind last Wednesday, Reuben Gaither’s hat blew off his head and lit in the bottom of the public well, opposite our office. We are getting thirsty.”


By Gaye Hoots

I am in the process of remodeling the small condo I recently purchased in Oriental at the same time the Carter twins are putting a roof on the house in Advance. This was a project I had put a lot of thought into, and after selecting the shingles I decided to do the wrap-around porch in metal. This was a look I had researched online and really wanted. When David explained to me the additional cost of a metal roof, that changed my mind. I decided to put that money into the condo.

My money is limited, and I should wait until the house in Advance is rented, but I got the painting on the condo done for a fraction of what it would have been because the painters were not professional painters and were doing me a favor. This encouraged me, so after they painted the unit a beautiful, muted, blue-green and cut down the countertop to the bar that dominated the room, and painted and used epoxy to make the bar top look like marble I was pleased and decided to continue the project.

Perusing magazines on home projects has always been a hobby, and I have done several homes before, most without a contractor. I don’t know handymen with those skills in this area, so after deciding on beadboard paneling for the entire kitchen, which is mostly doors except for the walls the appliances are on, I decided to consult a contractor. In addition to the paneling in the kitchen which included the backsplash, I asked him to include doing wainscotting in the hallway which would require about two sheets of paneling. He priced doing the countertops in laminate and the bar sink in the sunroom as well.

His price motivated me to tackle the project on my own. This was not my first rodeo and blissfully I only tend to remember the end results. My first move was to price the beadboard paneling. Lowe’s had always carried it for about twenty dollars for an eight by four panel. I spent over an hour on the computer only to discover none of the stores locally or in the Winston area had it in stock nor could they order it. The painters I used found eight sheets of it in Mebane and picked it up for me. That alone was a four-hour project, so I see where a contractor’s time goes.

I had been considering the countertops for weeks but could only find the ones with a backsplash and fancy edging at Lowe’s and Home Depot. What I wanted was a more modern look with a simple, clean flat edge and no attached backsplash. I couldn’t afford to have them built as the labor would have exceeded the cost of the material. Deciding to compromise, I searched Lowe’s online again. They had just added a line called Stretta in a white marble with a flat edge and no backsplash. It was not the solid white I wanted so I drove to Lowes in New Bern to see if it would work. It matched the look of the bar the painters had done for me.

I placed an online order for the countertops, one with a mitered edge and as the shorter one was only available there with a flat edge, I ordered that. My order included the kit for the edges and a miter kit. I had spent hours deciding on a sink and faucet and included them in the order. In two days, I was notified that the faucet was delayed but other items were ready at the store. This posed the problem of picking up a ten-foot counter. It took me two days to get a handyman who helped with other projects to agree to get them. Lowe’s contacted me twice more but agreed to hold them for him. This was within the 7 days their policy said they would hold them. The handyman called me from the store to say they had the countertops but could not locate the other items so he picked up the countertops and I agreed to get the other items the next day.

I went to the store and they told me they had the faucet, but the other items were already picked up. I explained they were not picked up and after checking their records they found they never had them in stock. I signed for the faucet and looked for a sink that would work but that was not in stock either. When I contacted the person who had agreed to install the paneling and put in the counters, I explained they had not sent a mitered counter that they billed me for and asked if he could miter it himself. He called back to say he found the mitered tops at Lowe’s near him and might pick them up and return the ones I had. The endcaps were in a Kinston store, so he would need to stop there. I am waiting to find out if he is coming down tomorrow and install them without a sink which evidently is not coming. Still checking my email and if it arrives today, I will go back to New Bern but will call first to make sure they can locate it. I leave tomorrow to return home to accommodate family and with no sink, the plan is to reinstall the old one until I am back down here and can order one from Wayfair.

If I were paid by the hour for the time I put into the project, it might account for the contractor’s price. I know I don’t want his job but hoping to get this done for a price I can afford.

Christmas Promises

By Julie Terry Cartner

His gnarled hands carefully unwrapped the embroidered tree skirt as her words came back to him.

“Promise me,” she’d said, “promise me that you will decorate for Christmas after I’m gone. Promise me you’ll have a tree, decorate it, and put the tree skirt under it, every year. I know how much you’ve always loved Christmas, and I don’t want you to lose that too.” Voice fading away, her blue eyes closed in exhaustion. “Promise.”

And so he had. He’d made his vow to her, the love of his life, right before she’d breathed her last. Now, here it was, a year later, Christmas once again. Holding the tree skirt gently, he closed his eyes. “Cara, had I known how difficult this would be, I’m not sure I would have made the promise,” but even as he said the words, he’d known it was a lie. He would have done anything, promised anything, for her.

As his fingers gently traced the embroidered decorations: Christmas trees, poinsettias, stars and bells, he remembered his young wife and the first Christmas they had spent together. Like so many young couples, they had little money, and even less for presents. He had whittled her a Nativity, once again gracing the mantle, out of one of the dead cedar trees in the pasture, and she had made him this tree skirt, a single red bead at the seam, which had covered the base of every Christmas tree since then. When he’d questioned the bead, she’d promised, one each year. And she’d kept her promise. Fifty-two beads adorned the skirt, one for each year of their marriage. No more beads, he thought sadly, no more Cara.

As he stroked the linen cloth, he pictured her, his lovely bride. Blue eyes sparkling in the face he loved. Rosy cheeks, a sprinkling of freckles across her nose and that long, thick, chestnut hair. A laugh that made you want to know the joke, a smile soft as an angel’s wings, and a voice to match. He could almost hear the whisper of song, the ghost of a voice crooning “O Holy Night,” his favorite carol. Oh, how he missed her.

Crouching down, he placed the skirt around the tree, fastened the clasps, and smoothed it out running from the tree outwards, just as if she were there instructing him. And suddenly she was, her curly hair slipping over him like a curtain as she kissed him. He reached out a trembling hand and caressed her face. “Well done, love,” she whispered. “Now, let’s watch the show.”

With that she pulled him back onto the couch and their lives, like a slideshow, flashed before him. The first Christmas, their homemade gifts, the simple meal, but surrounded by love, so much love. The second year, her, gently rounded with child. The third year, a five-month old baby reaching for shining lights and sparkling ornaments, the gurgling laugh of childhood joy. The next few years as Maureen, Liam and Elizabeth joined Michael around the tree. Each year a precious gift. Each Christmas magical, even the hard ones – when he’d been laid off, when the baby was so sick they didn’t know if she’d live, the year his beloved father died – even they were magic because the love was so strong. He laughed with the others when Michael, always the jokester, gave him hair dye when he’d turned gray, and smiled in misty joy when Lizzy’s love gave her a diamond and promised undying love. And then life expanding as grandbabies joined the family circle. The memories swirled and glowed as they passed by his eyes, his lovely Cara’s hand clasped firmly in his. Finally, the last slide, their final kiss before Cara passed on. “Our beautiful life. We were so blessed.”

Smiling sweetly, she promised. “Every year, when you put the skirt around the tree, I’ll come back. We’ll share our precious memories until you no longer need them.” Kissing him sweetly, she handed him a single red bead before she disappeared, but as promised, returned each year to bring him the greatest gift. Remembrances.


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