By Bob Spiwak
Here we are in the second week of December. We have finally been treated to temperatures in the 30s, moderate for the valley. The Christmas at the End of the Road festivities are past, and the horse-drawn wagon shuttling people from the Winthrop Barn parking lot to downtown and back put me in mind of Christmas in Mazama in the 1980s. This would be an amalgam of several events, all quite clear in the mind, but the exact dates exist like cerebral snowflakes in my head.
The Mazama Community Club was an active, albeit small organization in those days. We had Thanksgiving potlucks, work parties and other events during the year, which I believe included the birth of the now world-famous Mazama Pancake Breakfasts. But the outstanding get-togethers came in the week before Christmas.
Somebody would bring a large tree to the community hall and it would be adorned by all who brought decorations, along with swags, lights and other things. Peggy Coates, one of the artists in residence, always had something special to perk up the scenery. Of course, there was an abundance of food for all.
The most memorable events were the caroling expeditions, over the years both blissful and miserable depending on the weather. There were usually song sheets, and a corps of singers of varying vocal talents would rendezvous at the building and set forth, usually in cars, to the widespread denizens of the area.
Sometimes it was by plan, other times it was “hey, there’s a light on down that lane.” The lead vehicle would turn in and the rest, three at best, would follow. I’d guess that the local population was half what it is today. The only little kids were the sons of Marc and Mary Rea, and I vaguely remember a little girl.
One year someone got the idea of taking the piano on the jaunt. John Hayes borrowed Harley Tawlks’ red flatbed truck, and with much grunting, heaving and shoving we loaded the out-of-tune upright instrument on the vehicle and sallied forth into the cold. The chill factor was abominable as we rolled from place to place with Sarah Pedric, I think it was, playing the songs that enabled the shivering group to stay in tune.
Another year, same truck. It was a larger-than-usual group and Greydon Patterson offered a hay wagon to accommodate the overflow. Thus the truck, with a generous supply of hay bales and Hayes at the wheel, led the procession up Highway 20 to Mazama, towing the wagon. Well, the wagon got a flat tire about a mile from the hall and the occupants all squeezed into the truck bed. The temperature was somewhere around zero, and all were anxious to get to the building and the big stove. Singing was forgotten, and to accommodate the carolers, John must have put the pedal to the metal because the chill factor must have been 20 below. That was the longest mile I have ever endured, even with flasks of warming liquids being passed around.
One year we went to carol Vera Tawlks, down the long driveway to their home. Problem was, she was in the car with us. So we parked and waited for her to enter her house, a moment later she emerged with a big smile and a plate of cookies.
Another year found us surprising a foursome, all in a hot tub and apparently unclothed. With a lack of Christmas spirit they chased us away.
The worst was the night it rained. It rained hard and our song sheets were pretty much pulp. We pressed on regardless, some soaked to the skin.
Christmas is for me the best time of the year. I hope, sincerely, that it will be that for you as well.