WOSTER: Remembering a simple time and a special Christmas giftThis is the day our first child was born, a daughter, back when we lived in Sioux Falls in the shadow of McKennan Hospital.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
This is the day our first child was born, a daughter, back when we lived in Sioux Falls in the shadow of McKennan Hospital.
I used to write columns about our daughter’s birthday, not every year, but sometimes on milestone years, you know? I suppose if I were being brutally honest, I’d have to admit I mentioned it often enough that she and her friends developed a fear that I might still be writing about her birthday when she was 40, or 60 or 80. Come on. That would be silly.
To be clear, this isn’t an essay on my child’s birthday. This is more about the period in which she was born and what a simple time the late 1960s were, at least in my memory. Nancy and I were young, we were working and we had more income than expenses — something like $200 a week between us, if you can imagine that kind of money. We hadn’t accumulated many “things.” Our wants were simple and our needs were far simpler than our wants.
Nancy worked as a nurse at the hospital. I worked as a photographer at the newspaper. During that first Christmas season of our marriage, I don’t believe we had even sprung for our first television set, a black-and-white model (13-inch screen?) that came with a built-in exercise feature. It had no remote control, so if you wished to change from one channel to one of the other two that were available, you had to get off the couch and walk all the way across the room and turn the dial. Sometimes, before you could hoist yourself to your feet, the announcer on the program would command, “Don’t touch that dial. We’ll be right back after this message,” or words to that effect. The first time or two you heard that, you wondered how the guy knew you were about to see what fuzzy images were on the other two channels.
A couple of weeks before our daughter was born, my grade-school pal and former college roommate decided to take a break from dental school at the University of Minnesota and earn some money. He showed up on the front porch of our rented house just off Cliff Avenue one evening, and he slept on the couch for a couple of nights while he found temporary work at Fantle’s, a department store on Phillips Avenue, and then a room at, that’s right all you Village People, the local YMCA.
I’m not sure my old buddy liked living at the Y as much as he’d have preferred to keep bunking in our living room. I do know we were happier to have the couch free in the evenings in our three-room house.
We had a small Christmas tree in the corner of our living room that year. With the couch, a small rocker, the TV stand and a portable phonograph (playing Bing Crosby holiday music, of course), there was hardly room for people. I worked a Tuesday through Saturday shift that winter. Nancy worked regular weekdays at the hospital, and she went into labor shortly after midnight on her day off. I got the whole Saturday to be with my wife and new daughter, on condition that I make up the time a couple of hours every day or two for the next couple of weeks.
It wasn’t strictly according to the rules, but on the first night Nancy and the baby came home, I had my buddy (who had left Fantle’s in favor of a job as short-order cook at Chris’ Country Grill) use my newspaper camera to take a photo of Nancy, the baby and me, squeezed together on the couch.
The guy I worked with, Bob Renshaw, was souping film the next day, and he handled that roll. I came back from an assignment to find my negatives hanging with a note that said, “I don’t think these are official newspaper business” in strict, heavy all-caps printing. Below that was an envelope with a perfectly developed black-and-white print of the new baby and her parents, with one word in cursive: “Congratulations.”
It was early for Christmas, but it was a wonderful gift.