Santa, the flower children and another Christmas
by Bill Kinney
December 09, 2012 12:00 AM | 1195 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bill Kinney
Bill Kinney
Editor’s note: This column by MDJ Associate Editor Bill Kinney originally ran on Dec. 21, 1967.

“Ha, ha … your Santa looks like a ‘hippie,’” jeered our 8-year-old, Pat, as she passed our 10-year-old, Bill, just as he pinned up his freshly-drawn picture of Mr. Claus on the kitchen bulletin board.


The war was on and it looked and sounded like a fight scene from Batman as they bolted into the air like two old tomcats in mortal battle. It was 10 o’clock when we finally got them settled into bed and cleaned up the debris.

We have taught our children that hippies are not “things” to be admired and revered and Bill didn’t consider Pat’s comment very complimentary.

Santa like the Hippies?

I flopped into an easy chair and pondered Bill’s Santa drawing. By golly, maybe ol’ Santa does have some of the Flower Children’s characteristics. Santa lets his beard grow, never gets a haircut, and his form tends to be somewhat “hippy,” but you’d never dare suggest to old Santa that he’s hippie. He would fix you with that icy gleam of cold blue eyes and suggest that you will be left off his list from now on.

Yet ol’ Santa is a hippie in some regards. Once a year he goes on a trip, fortified with some of the psychedelic stuff from the Aurora Borealis. He drops in at all sorts of dives and hideaways as well as the more genteel places. He dresses in colorful and gaudy fashion, and his philosophy is based on love.

But Santa really is no hippie in the sense of current usage to describe the carefree lads and lassies who sniff glue, smoke pot and hold love-ins and such. He’s much too active and busy to take time out for such foolishments, although he may drop in at a hippie hangout if they put up stockings at the right time of the year.

His visit, however, is fleeting and before you could say “Everything’s made for Love,” Santa is away and gone back to the North Pole.

His Childhood Was Different

Christmases in our childhood were less complicated by such things. There was no model airplane glue to sniff, because there were few model airplanes back in those Depression days. All we had was mucilage, made of flour and water, and if anyone sniffed that stuff, they were already on a trip clean out of their feeble mind.

Of course, there were chains … but, we didn’t wear these around our neck. They were chains of sparkling beauty to be hung or festooned on the Yule tree, which was decorated by one string of lights and tinsel, and there was a bright star atop the tree. Candles brightened the scene, but you had to be careful the flame didn’t set the tree or house aflame.

Christmas morning, when everyone got up early to open the presents, there was a love-in, but it was a family sort of thing. No one got dreamy-eyed on pot or this modern stuff that warps the brain and makes folks wish they hadn’t. Eyes may have been a bit dreamy, but that was because Christmas wishes had been fulfilled by a kind and generous Saint Nick, whose trip was something he didn’t get out of a paper sack full of glue fumes.

A Rabbit Tobacco ‘Trip’

The worst thing kids smoked in those days was rabbit tobacco, which grew wild in the fields. We could have dreams and go on visionary trips, of course, imagination being what it is, but the trip didn’t end in disaster and heartbreak, although a seat tanning might be in order if rabbit tobacco odors lasted until we got home.

The finest rabbit tobacco patch in Marietta used to be in the field behind late Dr. Ralph Fowler’s house, about where Northcutt and Maxwell streets come together today. It was there that Ralph Fowler Jr., Dan Worley, Johnny McCollum Jr., Talmadge Hadaway, Joe Abbott, Tommy Brinkley and I, as best I can remember, were found inhaling rabbit tobacco wrapped in newspapers by our good friend, Prilla Glover (Mrs. Botan), who lived nearby.

We all had on our aviator hats, wool sweaters, corduroy knickers and long knee-high socks, held up by home-made garters.

“You look like the Dead End Kids,” Prilla admonished, as she spotted our group, ages about 9 to 13, puffing away. “I’m going to call all your mothers.”

That put the fear of God in our young lives and we took a “trip” through the surrounding woods like a covey of quail. We all grabbed a sassafras limb to chew (this was before Scope) to kill the smell on our breaths as we scampered for home.

As it was, Prilla didn’t squeal on us. We’ve all stayed out of jail and none of us have turned into a hippie and gone to pot.

Bill Kinney is associate editor of The Marietta Daily Journal.
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