Editor's Note: Today, as part of our 12 Days of  Christmas series, local seniors share their memories of Merry Christmases. Tomorrow, more seniors will share their memories.

MUSCATINE, Iowa — In the mid 20th century, before the birth of Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays, debt wasn’t the price one paid to make spirits bright.

Muscatine area seniors Mary Ogle and Margaret Dick remember those years well, when they would be surrounded by loving parents and grandparents, while taking in the fragrances of favorite foods and the thrill of a special gift.

Mary, 83, hasn’t forgotten the morning she found a small red table with matching chairs under the tree, or the Shirley Temple doll she received on another magical Christmas morning.

She hadn’t been to a Shirley Temple movie, but Mary was delighted with the beautiful doll.

“She had a pink pleated skirt and little white shoes,” said Mary, during an interview at the All American Care Center in Muscatine, where she has lived for the past four years. “I played with her until she was worn out.”

She knows now the gifts were from her parents, the late Bert and Mabel Trafton, but as a child, she believed Santa Claus brought them.

When she was in first-grade, Mary said her father played Santa Claus at a Christmas program at the one-room schoolhouse she attended.

“I recognized his voice,” said Mary. “When we got home, I said, ‘That wasn’t Santa Claus; that was daddy.’”

Mary said she’s watched Christmas become more commercialized since the days of her youth in Wilton, but it hasn’t dampened her spirit.

Mary, whose husband, John Ogle, passed away in 2009, looks forward to spending the holidays with her daughters, Barb Phillips and Patti Keller of Muscatine.   

“I’ve always loved Christmas,” she said.

A thoughtful note

It’s been more than 80 years since Margaret Dick opened her Christmas stocking to find an orange and apple and a letter from Santa Claus.

The letter, which Margaret now knows was written by her mother, the late Mary Easterly, took the form of an apology from the jolly old elf.

“It said he was sorry, but there wasn’t enough room on his sleigh for my gift, but maybe next year.” said Margaret, 92.

The same sort of note appeared in Margaret’s stocking for several years, but she never did see the little roll top desk she wanted so much.

It was the Depression era, and Margaret’s father, the late Samuel Easterly, was laid off from his job at the railroad.

Margaret, who grew up in Silvis, Ill., said her mother was a good cook and her Christmas dinners, which included the traditional Swedish dishes of lutefisk and potato bologna, were a holiday highlight. She also enjoyed attending midnight mass with her mother and older sister.

And the family always had a Christmas tree.

This year, Margaret, who lives at Muscatine’s Lutheran Homes assisted living apartments, will spend Christmas with her daughter, Susan Smith of Muscatine.

Margaret’s husband, Kenny Dick, died in 1992, six months short of their 50th wedding anniversary.

Their son, Joel Dick, passed away in 2003. Son Paul Dick lives in Orion, Ill.

Margaret said she and Kenny were able to give their children more at Christmas than she had, but the cherished memories of her childhood are her parents’ enduring gift to her.

“I had a good family,” said Margaret. “I wouldn’t have traded them for the world.”