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Christmas of Yesteryear - 1951
by Walter Redden



Christmas, 1951, I was half way around the world from home, and it suddenly dawned on me that I would not be home for Christmas.

This was my first Christmas to be away from family and friends. I was beginning to feel sorry for myself. Like many servicemen, I was in Seoul, Korea, wishing I were in Mississippi.

Mail call for the 15th R.S.M. was a few days before Christmas. Our unit occupied Chosen Christian College, some four or five miles northwest from the center of Seoul. I can hear my name--”REDDEN”-- being called by the sergeant. Two small packages had arrived and I was thrilled. One was a can of Maxwell House coffee from Mr. Joe Miller, who lived at Symonds, Mississippi. I shared my coffee with two buddies: George Eccleston from upper state New York and Russell Webb from Oakridge, Tennessee. Thanks to Mr. Joe, we enjoyed that.

A big surprise tin of Hebrew cookies was from Mother. It was my favorite treat for Christmas and Mother’s secret family recipe! Mothers never forget.

On Christmas Eve, we had a real treat. Thirty children from a nearby Christian orphanage came dressed in Korean style clothes and sang Christmas carols in English for the 15th R.S.M. The songs I remember are “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Joy To The World.” After a big round of applause we gathered for a super Christmas Eve dinner.

There were tables set up so we could have the Korean children intermingle with us at each table. Our menu called for turkey and dressing, peas, bread and coffee. The children had powdered milk which looked like chalk dust mixed in water. But before we ate our meal, there was individual prayer at each table. I led our prayer, which went something like this:

“Thank you, Lord, for this Christmas season. We do celebrate the Savior’s birthday with humble hearts and on bended knee.”

Then my mind drifted back to my second grade teacher, Mrs. Virginia Henry. She taught us a prayer for mealtime. So I continued:

“And thank you, God, for this food. Suit it to our bodies. Forgive us of our sin and we forgive those who sin against us. With our family circle unbroken, I pray in Jesus’ name. AMEN”

What a night to remember! When the children left, there were tears flowing down the cheeks of each soldier.

The next day, Christmas Day, men who were off duty could go to the Bob Hope USO show in Seoul. Eligible to take in the show were those who could crowd into the only 6 by 6 truck that would run.

The theater building was one of the very few buildings left standing after the destruction of the city of Seoul. We arrived about 3:00 p.m. and the show started at 7:00 p.m. The temperature was 0 degrees F, and it seemed that thousands of troops were standing very close together, trying to keep warm, waiting for the doors to open.

I do not remember everyone from the show, but I do remember Walter Pidgeon, Debbie Reynolds, Carlin Carpenter, and Les Brown and his Band of Renown. And, of course, the headliner was Bob Hope. After a few Bob Hope jokes, I almost forgot where I was.

That was Christmas of yesteryear.


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Walter Redden, a native of Pace, Mississippi, now a resident of Jackson, Mississippi, is retired and enjoys writing stories and volunteering for church and civic projects. Contact him through the USADEEPSOUTH Editor

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