Bill Moeller Commentary: Looking Back at Meaningful Christmas Memories


I don’t suppose there’s any memory in this world that can’t — under certain circumstances — be both positive and negative.

For us older guys, it might be the memory of a crush we had on that cute little blonde girl in the seventh grade and what might have happened if we hadn’t been too bashful to tell her about how we felt.

You ladies might just switch the genders and spend a moment or two remembering as well.

Then, there are the usual feelings of those of us whose candles on a birthday cake these days could result in an emergency run by the Riverside Fire Authority.

Were things really better “way back then?” 

Well, at Christmastime, maybe our toys weren’t as mechanized as they are today, but they usually demanded more dexterity and imagination.

Do any of you other old timers remember what it was like on that Christmas morning when you unwrapped an Erector set that came in its own metal box loaded with metal girders, wheels and a bag of nuts and bolts? 

If your family was wealthier than ours, the box would be larger and would include a small electric motor that opened a larger number of ideas as to what could be constructed.

The types of things that could be constructed were limited only by your imagination.

I haven’t seen one advertised in a Christmas catalog for a good many years. Do they still make those sets today or have Legos completely taken over that position? 

Even Crochetyman would admit that the ability to imagine a completed structure with more pieces to choose from is a lot easier to do than it was back “in our days.”

For the younger children, mostly boys again, TinkerToys were the thing. They came in a circular cardboard container. Remember? They were thick, round blocks about the diameter of a silver dollar with holes drilled in the middle and around the edges that allowed you to insert wooden rods of various sizes, and who knows what it might look like when completed?

Here’s another thought that comes to mind: When was the last time you played with Pick-Up Sticks? OK, they came in a long cardboard tube and contained a large number of what looked like elongated tooth picks of various colors, about 5 or 6 inches or so in length.

The way the game was played was simple. You held a bundle of those sticks in your hand and then dropped them onto a flat surface, usually a table. The object of the game was to try to remove the sticks, taking turns one at a time, without moving any remaining pieces in the pile.

It taught dexterity and a calm steady hand in far better ways than using your thumbs to play one of those small electronic devices we see everywhere today.

Would you believe I’ve seen young people using those things during concerts? I wouldn’t be surprised to see them operated during the sermon at the church of their choice — or, more likely  their parents’ choice — during a Christmas Eve gathering.

Which brings us to a point in this epistle where I hope that you — and all of those around you — will be able to honor the spirit of the Christmas tradition in whatever way that you feel is the proper way according to your own belief.

Merry Christmas.


Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at