Who doesn’t have fond memories of the Holidays when they were a child?
And as the years pass, those memories become stronger.
Old timers in Watkins remember a Christmas tree being placed in the middle of the downtown during the Holiday season to brighten everyone’s spirit.
Bill May, the proprietor of May Theatre, would make sure that the children always had a bag of candy and a Christmas movie to watch. And, for outdoor fun, a parking lot would be flooded and iced over to provide for figure skating and ice hockey fun.
Bill May’s generosity in Watkins is legendary.
“We believed that he financed many of the activities and gratuities available to young people,” remembered the late Eugene McCarthy, who grew up in Watkins and would later become a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate. “He was a Santa Claus to the town of Watkins.”
In Eden Valley, it was the Chamber of Commerce that was responsible for sponsoring a Christmas party for children, which included a visit by Santa and free movies. The chamber was also in charge of decorating the streets during those early years.
A story is told about one year when the decorations were hung and left up a bit too long. Christmas passed, as did New Year’s Day and then Valentine’s Day and
St. Patrick’s Day.
The parish priest at that time, Rev. Schreiner, reminded chamber members that the decorations really should be taken down before Easter.
Those old decorations became so beat up that one year resident Don Nohner saw an ad for Christmas decorations being sold by the city of Brainerd. He purchased them and brought them back to Eden Valley where they were used for a number of years. Eventually, George Kummet redesigned and rebuilt the ornaments so they could be used for a few additional years.
Folks who grew up in and around Kimball remember watching black and white movies in City Hall and awaiting Santa’s visit.
“Everyone got a small bag with peanuts, hard candy and I think there were apples sometimes, too,” remembers Debby Duncan.
Jim Fogarty, who grew up in Kimball in the 1960s, remembers Christmas vacations from school during the holidays.
“Us kids, meaning the Fogartys, Van Vleets, Mertens, Browers and Hinz family would take our sleds up to the street … to Cherry Street South,” Fogarty wrote. We would cross over Linden Avenue East on a sled ride you would not soon forget! We would start at the top of the hill and end up down by the railroad track. Many times, with the right flying start, we would go across the railroad tracks. We never had any accidents, but we did take a lot of chances. Usually one kid would stand on the corner and say, ‘You can make it.’
An early photo of Kimball City Hall which was an integral part of Christmas celebrations for many local familes.