Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Ghosts of Christmas Past Still Haunt

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Ghosts of Christmas Past Still Haunt

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union columnist

Editor's note: Charlie Patton is on vacation but he left behind this column from last year.

A good Christmas story bears repeating.

Think It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol. Think Charlie's Apocalyptic Christmas.

That last story isn't well-known. But it's my story and I love it. So every now and again I like to retell it:

It was 1956, the age of Eisenhower and I was 5. Many remember the '50s through a golden haze of nostalgia as a time of peace and prosperity. I remember an Age of Anxiety. The radio seemed to be constantly airing bulletins about some Cold War confrontation that might lead to nuclear war. I was convinced the apocalypse was upon us.

What I didn't expect was that I would cause that apocalypse.

On Christmas morning, my brother and I rushed to the family room to discover what treasures Santa Claus had left. What we found was a cardboard village. There was a cardboard sheriff's office for me and a cardboard grocery for Bill.

They weren't exactly life-size, but they were our size. I could walk into my office, hang my guns on a cardboard peg and look out my cardboard windows. Bill could stand behind the cardboard counter of his store and inspect the cardboard shelves that held his cardboard dry goods.

The most spectacular detail was this: My cardboard sheriff's office included a cardboard jail, with a cardboard lock and a cardboard key.

We were very happy. For a while.

And then, needing a prisoner, I locked Bill in my cardboard jail. He didn't like that. So he staged a jailbreak, demonstrating the fatal flaw in a cardboard jail. Years later, I saw the movie Gunga Din on TV. In one scene, Cary Grant and Victor McLaughlin use an elephant to pull down the back wall of a jail. …

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