Christmas with the Luepkes

By Kelsie Hoitomt

GLENWOOD CITY — When Christmas rolls around, it appears that faith and family are the two key things that are of importance to Clarence and Geraldine Luepke during the holiday season.

 The Luepkes have spent either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day inside the church since the day they were each born.

As small children, it was their parents Herman and Anna Luepke and Walter and Selma Voeltz that brought them to Sunday services and Christmas programs; alongside each of their seven siblings.

Now days with their own children grown up, Clarence and Geraldine spend Sundays together at Holy Cross Lutheran Church; Clarence has been a voice in the choir for many years now.

Holidays as children 

Aside from church, Clarence and Geraldine remember spending the winter months outdoors with their siblings and classmates.

“Back then kids seemed to do more outside and play more whether at home or school,” said Geraldine.

Both her and Clarence were big fans of hitting the hillsides with their sleds and toboggans. Geraldine would strap on her skates and go to “Beebe’s Pond” as a teen.

Growing up, Clarence lived outside of Glenwood City on the family farm and Geraldine was in Forest on her family’s farm as well.

When they weren’t raising havoc at home, Clarence was at the old Sunnyslope school and Geraldine was at the Forest school house.

Since Geraldine lived in Forest, their family had electricity, which meant Christmas was brightened by a string of holiday lights and many icicles.

As for Clarence, he grew up without electricity until he turned 17 years old in 1945. His family used candles to light their Christmas tree.

“You had to hang just a few on the outer branches to make sure nothing started on fire,” explained Clarence since Christmas trees were always real and cut down by hand.

Despite those difference, the Luepkes both remember coming home after Christmas Eve church service and their fathers would make them sit in the car while he ran into the house to check if Santa had come.

“Santa” typically brought each of the children one gift for Christmas, which was usually a doll or handmade clothing.

It was a cedar chest with dishes inside that Geraldine received from her uncle that sticks out in her mind the most; she still has the chest to this day.

For Clarence, it was his very first guitar that he received on Christmas Day when he was 12 years old. His love and talent of playing stems from that guitar.

Outside of the home, both received a special gift bag with an orange or apple, hard candy and peanuts from the church after a Christmas program.

Mealtime

As children, Christmas Day was shared with the entire family. Geraldine and her siblings were bundled up and sent to her Grandma Voeltzs’ and Clarence spent his at home.

Christmas Day dinner in the 1930s and 1940s was centered around a goose. A goose always seemed to appear at the table in the Voeltz house and Anna would raise a special goose for the Luepke family.

When asked what is the big difference between Christmas then and now, Geraldine replied “the food”.

“Meals were so much simpler then and today things are just so elaborate,” said Geraldine.

A memory that still makes both Clarence and Geraldine laugh today revolves around a Christmas meal.

“I remember our first Christmas at our own place after being married, I tried to make a turkey for the family in the oven and for some reason it just wouldn’t cook,” chuckled Geraldine.

Christmas of their own

Clarence and Geraldine were married on June 3, 1949. After that they had five children; Steve, Susan, Jim, Rick and Don who have given them 15 grandchildren and seven great-grand babies.

While the five children were still children, Clarence and Geraldine took them to the grandparents for the Christmas holiday.

Clarence laughed as he reminisced about the one year the entire ceiling seemed to be covered in paper chain links that he and the kids put together. They were strung from one corner to the next and connected to a bell.

As time passed and the children turned into adults, the Luepkes began hosting Christmas more at their own home. Geraldine typically decorated the tree and cooked the meal; as she has become quite the lady in the kitchen aside from her first turkey incident.

“My earliest memories of my mother were ones of enticing aromas, bubbling stews and soups, crusty, fragrant homemade bread and cakes and pies that were temptingly sweet,” said daughter Susan.

“I also remember Dad making homemade fudge every Christmas,” shared Susan. “Beating it until it lost its glossiness took some real physical effort, but the sweet reward was always worth it.”

Family and food were of abundance in the Luepke family not only throughout the holidays, but every day of the year.

Those two things were of greater importance over gifts during Christmas.

“We didn’t buy much back then for the kids,” said Geraldine. “I know one year Jim got his first guitar and Sue got a big doll while we were staying in Florida at the time.”

Christmas activities 

The Luepke family always seems to be busy throughout the holidays whether the activities are inside or outside.

In the past, Clarence would take the family out on a sleigh ride with his trusty horse, Mindy. If it snowed enough, the family would bundle up and ride down the streets of Glenwood City.

More recently, Clarence and Geraldine took up caroling through the church and they spent time going door to door singing to others.

Inside, things got quite heated during a game of cards or Aggravation. Aside from Christmas, Clarence and Geraldine were a part of a card club for over 40 years and they still pull out a deck or two if guests visit.

In a more mellow setting, puzzles are a big passion in the Luepke family especially in the winter months when it gets too cold to be outside. Geraldine even has a puzzle hanging in her bathroom that was framed after finishing it with the help of family.

Aside from games, one of the most important past times to the Luepkes is music. Clarence, his son Jim and Jim’s son Jake all play guitar.

Don also has a son, Trevor, who plays guitar very well and a daughter that had once taken a liking to the violin. In fact, it was Clarence that hand-carved a violin for her.

“At our last family reunion there were a couple guitars that got passed around and each of the boys played and sang,” shared Geraldine.

Christmas today

Food, music, games and a most of all family can still be found on Christmas Day with the Luepke family.

Clarence and Geraldine now spend their holidays inside the homes of their children.

“They don’t want us to have to do anything but show up now days so we just go to Jim and Lori’s usually, since their house is big enough too,” said Geraldine.

This Christmas for the Luepkes will be celebrated a little early since their son Rick and his fiancée are coming from Texas to visit for the holiday season.