Here is a charming look at Christmas from Curkly Seckler, tenor singer and manolinist with Flatt & Scruggs in their hey day. Curley also wrote several of their most memorable songs, like No Mother Or Dad and That Old Book of Mine.
Curly and his five brothers and two sisters grew up on a 150 acre farm near China Grove, North Carolina. Their dad passed away in 1929, when Curly was only 9 years old, but they still managed to have a special family celebration at the holidays each year. Christmas Day had special significance for Curly, since it was also his birthday!
Back when I was growing up, all of us had to hang up a sock, you know. Us kids, there was eight of us, used to hang them on the mantle. You’d hang up a big sock, and then they’d fill it up, over half way, with just parched peanuts, in the bottom of it. Then they’d put an apple or an orange or a tangerine in there, and then on the top of it you’d have a little knife or something like that, and that was it, back in them days.
I remember one year my mom give me a knife, and I kept that thing up until me and Eloise got married (in 1998), and through that move I lost that knife somewhere. I don’t know where it got to, but I lost it. And my mom only give, I think, about twenty-five cents for it. Back then you could get a pretty good knife for a quarter. I was about nine years old, probably, when I got that knife. I remember that real well.
I’ll tell you something else they did one time. They give us some little old stopper guns, you know, with a cork in the end of it. Little old pop guns. Us kids got them things, and you’d hammer it back, and then shoot it, and it’d go, "Poop."
We’d always go out and cut a tree down and put it in the house, for Christmas. And we’d decorate that Christmas tree. We strung popcorn on it. But it seems like it was some kind of soap suds that we used to put on the tree, to make it look kind of snowy looking. Seems like we used to cut out some ducks and stuff and paste them on there. Little old things, out of a Sears and Roebuck catalog, and paste it on the tree. We had some good times together, all us kids.
And I’ll tell you something else we used to do along about Christmas time. If it was pretty weather, we always went hunting the day before Christmas. We had a shed down there, below the old house. We took an old drum and beat that thing out and cut the top out of it, and put a pot down in there, and us boys would go out and hunt rabbits and bring them in, and we made a big fire and we’d boil them rabbits, and then we’d have a rabbit stew. We’d go out hunting all day and bring them in, and then put them in that pot down there, then we’d play music after we eat. It’d take about half a dozen rabbits to feed us all, plus our neighbor, that played music with us, Mike Belk. And then we’d pick and mess around with the guitar, after we eat.
We’d have ham for Christmas dinner. We raised our hogs and we’d kill them before Christmas, and we had ham. And we had plenty of pies. My mom just baked all kinds of pies. ‚ÄòTater pies, ‚Äòsimmon pies, peach pie, apple pie. We always had sweet potato pie. We used to eat rhubarb pies, because we’d grow it.
We’d all pile in the cars and go to church on Christmas. We had two automobiles, two T-models. They always had little things they’d give all the kids out there at the church, like an orange or apple, and some of them little old cookies, animal crackers, in little boxes. I know we’d get a little satchel, with them cookies and things in it, an apple, an orange, during Christmas, from the church. Even after I started playing music for a living, I always went down home for Christmas. All my seven brothers and sisters was always home on Christmas. We always had a nice Christmas.
In the 1960s, after I’d quit working with Lester and Earl, we’d go up to the McCormicks’ every Christmas. Back when the McCormick Brothers was all still living, we’d go up, where Lloyd and Kelly and their daddy and mother lived, up there in Westmoreland, Tennessee. In that old house, they had a big basement underneath it, and we’d go down in there and play music.
Lloyd would always play Santa Claus for the kids, and he had a real outfit. He had the boots and a beard, and everything. You’d never think it was Lloyd McCormick. He’d go out, after a while, and dress up like Santa Claus, and come back and go, "Ho, ho, ho, ho," and come in. And he’d give out a bunch of gifts, and we’d play all kinds of songs, there. Christmas Time’s a-Coming, we used to sing that a lot. But we used to go up there every year, for Christmas.
I used to eat there a lot, in the old days. I remember I’d be up there late in the evening, and it was about time to eat, and their mom would tell me to get in there to the table, "You know where your place is." And she’d open that back door of the house, there, and holler down to the barn, and say, "Lloyd, come on home. It’s suppertime." I’ve eaten many a meal up there. And during Christmas time, we’d eat there, too.
In later years, when we’d go over to Gerald McCormick’s for Christmas, Lloyd played Santa Claus over there about every year, as long as he was able, before he passed away. Mrs. Seckler sat on his lap! We’ve got pictures here of it.
I’ve always enjoyed my Christmas Days, and I’d like to wish everyone a very happy holiday.
Curly Seckler – December, 2007