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Sharon Hanson: ‘My brother had to cut off our first big Christmas tree to get it in the house’

By LeAnn R. Ralph

ELK MOUND  —  Sharon Hanson grew up on a dairy farm south of Elk Mound.

The most memorable Christmas tree of her childhood was all because of her 16-year-old brother.

“Our first Christmas south of Elk Mound, I think my brother was 16. We used to live in a little tiny house (before the farmhouse),” she said.

“‘This year,’ he said, ‘we’re going to have a big (Christmas) tree.’ He had to cut it off to get it in the house. He bought ornaments for it. That was our first big Christmas,” Sharon recalled.

“When my brother brought in the big tree, my mother said he either had to cut off the tree or cut a hole in the ceiling. That was nine-foot ceilings. So you can imagine how big the tree was. I don’t remember if he cut it himself. I don’t remember where he got it. All I remember is we had a big Christmas tree to decorate,” she said.

“I don’t imagine we had too many ornaments on it. I remember he went to town to buy ornaments. Some reindeer. I suppose he got them at a hardware store. He was so excited to have a big tree. We’d never had one before,” Sharon said.

Sharon and her husband, Jerome, have lived at 404 North Holly Avenue in Elk Mound for 50 years. Sharon is known around the area for being a Tupperware dealer.

The Hansons have five children. Three live in this area. One daughter lives in the state of Washington. Their oldest son is a truck driver. Their other children live in Eau Claire and Colfax, and one is close to Elk Mound and owns part of the original farm.

“We always say the part that has the pond. There’s a big area of water in there with ducks and geese,” Sharon said.

The Hansons also have nine grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

“We can’t all get in here at once (for Christmas), so we have to split it up,” she said.

“I’ve been in Tupperware for 40 years, so I’ve seen a lot of changes there. When they come out with different (merchandise) for Christmas or any time of the year, you have to wonder who keeps inventing all of this stuff!” Sharon said.

Sharon’s husband worked for the Elk Mound school district for 43 years. He started out as a bus driver and eventually became a custodian. He retired in 2001.

Sharon attended a country school in Seymour called Springfield Prairie.

“We moved (to Elk Mound) the last April of my seventh grade. I went to junior high and high school here. My husband went all the way through here, first grade through twelfth,” she said.

“My husband’s home farm is just two miles east (of Elk Mound), and my folks used to live about five miles south,” Sharon said.


Sharon taught Sunday School for many years at Barum Lutheran Church.

“We used to always have the program on Christmas Eve day. Then the younger ones came up. They said, ‘Let’s change it. We want to be home with our families on Christmas Eve.’ So we changed it. Every year we have the Christmas story. Angels. The kids all get to play different parts,” she said.

“It’s always a challenge to get the Sunday school kids going in the same direction with the program,” she said with a laugh.

Sharon says she sees quite a few of her former Sunday school students.

“The students I had are teachers now and running the programs. I’m the grandmother now. The great-grandmother!” she said.

No surprise

Sharon says she does not remember much about Christmas gifts that she received — except the ones that ended up not being a surprise.

“I remember one year, that’s when my folks lived south of Elk Mound, I got snoopy. I got a leather shoulder purse with a long strap and a white sweater, like a letter sweater. So I found out before Christmas. It took the joy out of Christmas. You try to teach your kids not to do that. Wait for Christmas. Get the surprise,” she said.

Sharon and her neighbor across the street used to coordinate the toys that they bought.

“The girls usually got a doll, and the boys got a truck of some kind. The lady who lived across the street, her daughter and our daughter would get the same things so they would be alike when they played. We tried to do that with the boys too. Then there was no fighting over the toys because they had the same thing. Dolls. Games. The younger one got a lot of he-man toys. He would sit at the top of the stairway and play by himself. He was 11 years younger than the others. He had to entertain himself,” Sharon said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever gone shopping the Friday after Thanksgiving. I always thought I didn’t want to get into that mess!” she said.


Sharon’s mother used to make rolled out molasses cookies and rolled sugar cookies.

“But the molasses cookies were my dad’s and the boys’ favorite. One of my sisters-in-law is making the molasses cookies now. She thinks she’s got the right recipe. Mother’s cookies were always soft. She was baking them before, and they would always get so (crispy). Now she’s got a new recipe, and they seem soft again. There’s a trick to everything, I guess,” she said.

“The one I made that the kids loved was the peanut butter cookies with the chocolate star on top. That used to be one of the main cookies I made. Now I buy a few sugar cookies, and someone else makes the star cookies. My daughter is a good baker and enjoys making (Christmas goodies),” Sharon said.

Sharon is of Swedish descent.

“My dad was the one who wanted the lutefisk. He wanted that for Christmas Eve. Then he always wanted oyster stew for New Year’s Eve. It took me 30 years to learn how to eat an oyster. When I started to cook it myself, I thought I’d better learn how to eat them. I got a couple down. It was enough!” she said.

Sharon does not bake much now and says everyone else in her family is obliging about bringing Christmas baking.

“I used to make rosettes, sandbakkels. Now I’m not supposed to have that kind of stuff, so I don’t make it. The lady who used to live across the street, she and I would bake together. Of course, she has moved now, so I don’t have the camaraderie anymore,” she said.


As one might imagine, the biggest hill in Elk Mound — the Mound Hill — used to be an attractive place for kids to go sliding.

“In the winter time, the kids used to slide on the Mound Hill. They used to come down the road up to the water tower. But there wasn’t near the traffic then that there is now. Now they would never get across the road. We have our little hills down here (at the house on Holly). There was a little curved road on the Mound Hill,” Sharon said.

When Sharon was growing up, she remembers sledding and tobogganing too.

“Out in Seymour, we had a hill we could slide on. We would make a sled out of barrel staves with a seat on it. But then we moved here, there were some hills, and we’d go with the neighbor kids. Ice skating we never did. Well. I did once out in Seymour. And then I was seeing stars from flat on my back. I didn’t do much ice skating after that. But tobogganing and sledding. The Luther League used to have sledding parties. Sleds and tobogganing. I never tried an inner tube. That seemed a little tricky,” she said.

Sharon belonged to Elk Meadow 4-H as well as the Luther League.

“Between the two of them, we’d have a couple of sliding parties every winter,” she said.

Nowadays, you hardly ever see kids out with sleds or toboggans. Sharon said she thinks there are so many recreational parks that kids go there instead of out in their backyard.

“Which is probably better than going out in the woods someplace with a hill. You never know when you’re going to hit a tree,” she said.

Christmas lights

Sharon says she has always enjoyed Christmas lights.

“We decorate the deck with lights. I can decorate outside easier than I can in the house. If you decorate too much, there’s no place for people to sit,” she said.

Sharon also enjoys driving around looking at Christmas lights and is hoping to get to Irvine Park this year to see the Christmas displays.

“I like the outdoor lights. We drive around Eau Claire and see the different places. They’ve spent a lot of time and money. But you wonder where they store them for the year. That would be my problem. Where would I store the (outdoor) decorations during the year?” Sharon said.

Compared to the huge Christmas tree Sharon’s brother brought in the house when she was a child, their Christmas trees on Holly Avenue have always been smaller.

“I have tried to keep ornaments from different years to put on the tree,” she said.

The assortment of ornaments, Sharon says, brings her a walk down memory lane.

“We get together with my family on Christmas Day. We used to get together with (Jerome’s) family on Christmas Eve. But he’s the only one left now,” she said.