The Christmas Tree

In the late 30's Fayetteville was more of a village than a city. We were like a large family. In the same manner as we love all the members of our family and overlook things that are not so lovable, that’s how we were. Since there were not many of us, the names, the peculiarities, and the relationships of all the people were familiar to everyone. There was no place for pretension. When asked “How are you?”, there really was concern; and “Y’all come to see us” was a sincere invitation. We cared a lot for each other.
In this setting Christmas was very special. As I saw it through a child’s eyes it was like a Norman Rockwell painting. There was a large tree on the Courthouse lawn that served as the town’s Christmas tree. The area was dimly lit by street lights at each corner of the Square. It was surrounded on all sides by country stores (staying open late on Christmas Eve), a jail and a hotel that looked as if they came from an old western movie. Believe it or not, on Christmas Eve everyone met around this tree and exchanged gifts.
An elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Rosenblum ran a small department store on the southwest corner of the square. For about a month before Christmas they kept a large pickle jar on the front counter of the store where those wanting to participate in the gift exchange would write their name on a slip of paper and deposit it in the jar drawing another name. There always seemed to be extra names in the jar, but somehow everyone received a gift. The Rosenblums took pride in our gift giving. On Christmas Eve Santa read the name tags on the gifts and called them out. Each person received only one gift.
I only remember two of these town Christmas trees. World War II came along and most of the men were away at Christmas time. After the war many new people moved into the area and we no longer knew everyone. Things changed. I’m not sure if they were better or worse, but we never had another town Christmas tree. I’m sure we never will.