Here a transcription of the tenth installment of John D MacDonald's 1947-1948 newspaper column "From the Top of the Hill," published in the Clinton (NY) Courier when the family was living there.
This will be the last post at The Trap of Solid Gold for several weeks, as family commitments and duties at my day job eat into all of my free time. I hope to be back in mid October.
Ten years ago this week, the Christian world was concerning itself with the annual Yuletide celebration.
In Japan there was an air of carefully concealed exaltation, because the Panay had just sunk and the Western world had lost face.
In Germany the little boys were charmed with light but massive-looking toy tanks in which they could ride around and around. The caterpillar treads didn't work, but that was almost the only flaw in the realism.
In Austria the Anti-Semiten Bund, upset about some of the poverty-stricken fellow members, had latched onto a very good thing. It seems that the year before, 1936, an obscure woodcarver had whittled out a lot of jolly Christmas tree ornaments. These gay little trinkets depicted a tiny gallows from which swung a little wooden Juden. Two carved wooden vultures perched on the cross frame of the gallows.
Recognizing the success of the trinket, the Anti-Semiten Bund put the item into mass production for the Christmas season and on Christmas morning, in thousands of Austrian homes, the children played with their new toys under the trees on which hung those cute little expressions of social-political opinion. The poorer members of the Bund benefited largely.
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Germany, as you know, is the home of our Christmas customs. St. Nicholas, the protector of children and travelers, is said to have saved the three daughters of a poor man from being sold, by giving them dowries. That is the origin of the giving of presents. Santa Claus comes from the Dutch spelling of St. Nicholas.
One Christmas custom in Germany which we would like to see adopted over here is the giving of small presents to children on December sixth. The major presents must wait until Christmas morning. If this past week has been a typical example of what we can expect every year, we plan to give, on the sixth, a small, but efficient muzzle and a set of the best police bracelets available.
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Our own Christmas spirit was a bit backward this year. We heard the carols and saw the store decorations and bought some cards and still we couldn't get into the swing of the thing.
Then about two weeks ago we were down in Utica and had parked over near the YWCA. As we returned to the car, we saw four little Negro girls, about eight years old, walking on the far side of the street. They were all of a height. They were arm in arm and singing, in marching tempo, "Come All Ye Faithful". They sang it loudly, defiantly and with fervor. At that point we decided Christmas was really coming.
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In an early column we said that talking to a man who had been interviewed by a Gallup Pollster had convinced us that the poll isn't a myth. As a direct result of our comment, we became a guinea pig last week. A young member of an obscure local family named Hayes (something to do with a bank, we believe) came up to the house, and we found that there is indeed nothing casual about the poll. The forms used look something like a dilly devised by the Internal Revenue people. The questions go on and on.
They trap you neatly. They ask a rough question and you sweat out the answer and lean back and then the interviewer says, "Why do you feel like you do about this question?"
The question that intrigued us the most went something like this: "What single factors do you like least about the two major political parties?"
Kick that one around for a little while!
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This is the tenth issue of this column. To all of you who have expressed interest in it, given advice, suggested topics -- Merry Christmas!
And to all of you who feel we waste valuable space in the Courier, talk about the wrong things, bore you to tears -- Merry Christmas, anyway!
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See you next week.