It is that time of year again. Young people are looking forward to Christmas. We senior citizens are describing our most memorable seasons. In 1961, I was serving in the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany. I had a pretty good singing voice at that time, not so much anymore.
Naturally, my unit had a glee club. Our primary purpose was to give a Christmas concert at the local orphanage. We learned to sing two carols in their native German, Oh Christmas Tree, and Silent Night.
Then we obtained a list of names from the orphanage and headed to the PX to buy toys for them. My child was a 5-year-old boy and I found him a big red fire truck.
On the day of the concert we had all our gifts wrapped, loaded up on a deuce and a half and headed to the orphanage. We were greeted by the kids with enthusiasm. Gifts were arranged under the tree and we sang for the kids. The two songs in German were a big hit!
So were the gifts. It turned out that my fire truck was almost as big as the kid that received it.
There is very little that does not show up on the Internet these days. When I did a search on my old unit, I found that several of the guys had posted articles and pictures. Included on the pages was a picture of our concert! There I was, standing among the glee club members watching the kids play with their gifts. I was so young, I almost did not recognize myself.
Now this was a dangerous time in the world. The Soviets had built a wall around Berlin and both sides were talking trash. That wall was not built to keep us out of East Germany, it was put up to keep their own people in. East Germans and other eastern European people were fleeing west in large numbers and the whole scene was a major embarrassment for the Soviets. My unit was considered a prime target if the Soviets were to attack, so we were all pretty nervous about the whole thing.
That day at the orphanage was perfect for the era. We had a chance to forget the drama at the Brandenburg Gate and simply enjoy the season. The kids had a blast with our visit and the tree full of gifts. As we left, I looked back and saw a 5year-old boy pushing his big red firetruck around the room making fire alarm sounds.
I have seen many Christmases in my life time. Some were good, some not so good. But that visit to the German orphanage was one of the best.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://www.frankgillispie.com/gillispieonline.