Wasn’t it just Christmas? The older I get, the faster the weeks come and go. What used to seem an eternity from one summer to the next now passes in the blink of an eye.
When I was born, in the 1950’s, Christmas was quite a different experience in St Augustine than it is today. I’m not saying it was “better”, but we had traditions that were truly local — holiday shopping being one of them. The chance to see friends who had moved away, but who could be counted on to return home to spend Christmas with their families. Okay, I am saying it was better.
By the time I was a teenager, and before I was old enough to drive our family car, I could have told you the name of every family who lived in my neighborhood and most of North Beach. Before I graduated from St Augustine High School, I could have told you the part of the county where nearly every local family resided, if not the actual street. Today, I couldn’t name half the streets in St Johns County; let alone name the families who lived there. I’m not dead yet, it is just that the city and county have grown that much and that fast.
You had a connection to St Augustine if you lived here then that I don’t think is possible to recapture today. Since there were far fewer employers, there was a pretty good chance someone in your family worked where someone from another family worked. There was even a better chance that you attended the same church, or attended the same school. It would have been a pretty safe bet that you ate in the same local restaurants, and entertained in the same local bars. Too many choices for any of that now.
I lost one of my favorite Christmas traditions this year, I didn’t make it to midnight mass last night. I am still a member of the same church, and to this day I can’t listen to “Silent Night” on the radio without hearing the voices of our choir singing each verse at the close of the Christmas eve service.
With the sanctuary and chapel lights dimmed, I reflect on the meaning of each word and the real reason we gathered to celebrate. It is very emotional for me since so much of what I knew and loved about my hometown is lost to the feeble memory of a generation that I realize won’t last forever.
I’ve made my peace with that, and I will continue to write next year with the same passion — but admittedly with the help of one or two new contributing writers. A little change can be a good thing and I’m looking forward to it.
Hoping you’ll spend your day, as I will, with my family; enjoying a sumptuous meal that had my wife and daughter in the kitchen all day yesterday and sharing the stories of Christmas past. At least we can continue to keep those memories alive.
Merry Christmas from the Gold Family and everyone who has worked with us and contributed their time and abilities to produce Historic City News for you over the past sixteen years.