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Lack of money didnt dampen the season spirit
June Bruce sits near a tree decorated with white flowers and golden ornaments at Paramount Courts Senior Living Center in Turlock as she recalls her past Christmas experiences. - photo by Brooke Borba

Since 1918, June Bruce has experienced almost 94 years of Christmas celebrations.

After moving from Oregon to Keyes when she was 3 years old, Bruce experienced a holistic approach to the holiday season. Her father was the Superintendent of the Swedish Baptist Church Sunday school, and her mother was the choir director in charge of the Christmas pageants.

“We had to learn pieces and singing. I had a piece with three verses. I said the first verse and forgot my second. Someone opened the door at the back of the church, which made a loud noise. Once it got quiet again, I just skipped to the third verse. My mother was the only one who noticed,” Bruce said.

After the services on Christmas Day, Bruce would finally get a chance to look into her stocking.

“We never had much money. I got an orange, and that was always special. My dad could make all kinds of things. I loved the dresser he made. It was special because he made it,” she said.

Despite not having a great deal, Bruce said that she would always make ornaments at school, or build things like homemade picture frames for her parents’ Christmas gifts.

 “We could only make presents at that time for our parents. We would make something or another. They appreciated it all the same,” she said.

A Norwegian holiday

Christmas is often a time of nostalgia and fond memories. For Ingie Klevmyr, who was born in 1923 in Kristiansund, Norway, Christmas was celebrated during a three day span, known to her as Juledag.

“On Christmas Eve, we would put presents under the tree and spend our time with close family members. We actually had two Christmas days in Norway. The first we would spend with our grandparents, and the second we’d spend with our friends,” Klevmyr said.

Many of those days consisted of singing Christmas carols and having parties. Klevmyr said they would have crown-roasted pork, a dish where the pork was wound into a circle and made to look like a crown on the table. She brought this tradition to the United States when she began her own family in America.

Though Klevmyr enjoys the holidays at present, she feels that Christmas has been overcome by commercialized advertising. As a woman whose home was invaded and burned twice during World War II, she has learned a true appreciation for family.

“I was happy if I got a sweater, pants, or snow shoes. Now kids get too many things. I had lots of fun with my husband, and that is what mattered. We had a lot of fun together,” Klevmyr said.

209 reporter