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In the Good Old Days

Trivia Question

Which famous actress played Sister Mary Benedict in the film The Bells of St. Mary's?

A Fake Fir

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credit: shutterstock: April Turner

It would be no surprise to my husband of over three decades if I asked for a real Christmas tree this year. The reason he would not be shocked? I ask for a real Christmas tree every year. But he just smiles, waves off my request, and lugs the massive, unwieldy bag of artificial tree parts from our basement to our living room and helps me assemble all 9-feet-high of it.

He's not a fan of the dropping needles, the watering responsibilities, or the potential fire hazard a real Christmas tree can present. But to me, nothing can ever replace the look -- or the smell -- of a fluffy, fresh-cut pine in the corner of a room, lit with twinkling bulbs and draped in tinsel and ornaments, just like in my Good Old Days.

Back then, Dad and my brothers would select a suitable tree and finagle it through the front door of our two-story home, working up a sweat (and letting a few choice words fly here and there if the tree was not cooperating). Then Mom, my sister and I would decorate it, and we would draw names to see who would place the old, beat-up metal star on the top as the finishing touch. The final result was glorious! Only once did I ever ask my parents if we could get an artificial tree. That was the year our grade school purchased a silver aluminum tree for the entryway, complete with a rotating light wheel that flashed a rainbow of colors onto the tree's shiny branches. I was 8 years old and I thought it was the most magnificent thing I'd ever seen (see more about these trees in Antiques Corner). I would make up excuses to go to the principal's office or the cafeteria, just so I could walk past that enthralling spectacle of 1960s kitsch.

My dad considered purchasing one for a brief moment that year, when a sharp pine needle wedged itself into the palm of his hand while he wrestled the tree into the room. But Mom just smiled, waved off his request, and helped him set up all 6-feet-high of it.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all,

Mary Beth Signature

Mary Beth Weisenburger,
Good Old Days® magazine

PS. Is there a holiday or other tradition from your Good Old Days that you would like to bring back or reinstate? We want to hear about it! Send a brief response to me at, and it could appear in a future update or in Good Old Days magazine! Here are several email responses from the Oct. 21, 2020, update question: Did you enjoy raking and burning leaves in the fall of your Good Old Days?

Debi Lionetti shared, "I loved reading your essay on burning leaves in the fall. That time of year was always a favorite. My dad and I would rake the leaves off the back lawn into a large pile. It was usually dusk when we were done, and the air held a sharp chill as the sun went down. My mom would join us outside with a bag of marshmallows, and her apron pockets held potatoes for baking. Dad would add plenty of good-size sticks atop the leaf pile once the flames caught. When we had a good amount of embers, he would nestle the potatoes in the coals. We would stand near the fire in the twilight and watch the embers float into the sky. How good the fire felt as we warmed our hands and faces! What a treat to stand there and enjoy those smoke-scented potatoes, seasoned with a pinch of salt! When we were done eating, it was time to grab a few sticks and toast some marshmallows over what was left of the fire. Dad would splash some water over the remaining embers, and we would enjoy looking at the starry sky for a few moments before heading indoors. Burning leaves in the fall is a thing of the past, as it is no longer allowed in my part of Connecticut, but I will never forget that distinct aroma on a crisp fall night! Thanks for bringing it back to me with your article!"

Robert Williams wrote us, "Back in the late fifties, when I was in my mid-teens, my friend Raymond had a Halloween party that I and several classmates attended. One requirement was that all of us dress in costumes. I went as a werewolf, wearing my sister's dark brown fuzzy wig and a W.T. Grant five-and-dime-store werewolf mask. Raymond's father lit the pile of leaves that were placed upon some maple sticks, and we had hot dogs, marshmallows, candy corn and apple cider. Then Raymond's mother gave us each a Hood ice cream sandwich. It was a good time, sitting there eating and watching the leaves burn, and the fact that I was with my friends, all dressed in costumes, made it even better."

Mary Beth Weisenburger has been with Annie's since April 2011. She has 25 years of experience in the marketing, advertising and publishing fields. In addition to her job as editor of Good Old Days, she has been writing a family humor column for over a decade. She and her husband, two college-age kids, two dogs and various other critters live on five acres in the country, where she enjoys reading on the back porch, refinishing furniture, feeding the birds and digging in the dirt of her perennial gardens.

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Trivia Answer

Ingrid Bergman. This film also starred Bing Crosby as Father Chuck O'Malley. The film was the highest grossing film in 1945.

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