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By Amber Hayden
BOYCEVILLE — When it comes to Christmas, there are always common themes people remember, usually focusing on food and the presents.
Remembering your favorite dish, or recalling the best part about Christmas dinner being the smell of fresh fruit mixed with all the other wonderful scents of a big family meal, might be one kind of memory.
Or maybe your memory includes the first toy you recall thinking you just had to have, and it felt like if you never got it, the world would never be right again.
For Ted and Carol Erickson of Boyceville, Christmas memories are a combination of food and gifts.
Ted Erickson grew up outside of Wheeler on County Road G, and Carol’s home was eight miles outside of Wheeler “in the boonies.”
People from Colfax and Boyceville will remember the couple as teachers. Carol spent 33 of 37 years teaching in the Boyceville school district, while Ted taught several years in Colfax and Boyceville.
“He taught out of a little school in Plainview on Highway 64 before they joined the Colfax schools,” Carol stated. “He had some nerve issues and had to have several surgeries stemming from junior high when he had polio and lived with his aunt and uncle in Eau Claire.”
“There isn’t hardly a place I haven’t been,” Ted joked, adding he has been “just about everywhere.”
In his younger years, Ted was stationed in Korea on the 38th parallel for two Christmases.
There was not a tree to be found that he could recall, nor did Christmas day seem different than any other day, he said.
Carol says she can remember fresh fruit, more so at Christmas compared to the rest of the year when it was a canned fruit of some sort, most often blackberries.
“I can remember the big, red delicious apples. Once in a while you might get an orange but not very often,” she said. “The rest of the time we canned fruit from my mom’s garden like strawberries, and we would pick blueberries, and she would can or freeze them.”
Carol spoke of what most would think of as a candy, but for her family, it was a cough drop made from Vicks VapoRub and taffy. They would stretch the taffy until it fully absorbed the Vicks, and then they would cut the ropes of taffy into pieces for cough drops.
“My mom would make molasses cookies. They were my favorites,” Ted chimed in. “They still are to this day!”
“My mom made a lot of cakes, and we always baked cookies and cut them out to decorate at Christmas time. But the rest of the year it was cake,” Carol said. “In the kitchen, I still have the cutters that were my mother’s.”
Carol also remembers a lot of vegetables for the Christmas meal. Ted didn’t like that part of Christmas dinner and always wanted something sweet to taste.
The couple spoke of Carol’s parents always helping those who broke down near her family home eight miles outside of Wheeler.
No one could ever get away without receiving a meal of some sort, even it was three o’clock in the morning, Carol said.
“Several years ago I was with a friend in Prairie Farm, and a lady asked my maiden name,” she said.
“It turned out her and her husband, along with another couple, had run into the ditch at my parents’. Dad went to pull the car out, and Mom got up and made them coffee and cake, and heated them up some food,” Carol said.
Ted’s Christmas memories revolved around a single gift: the first sled he received when he was only five years old.
His parents had bought three sleds that year, two of which were the same, and then Ted’s sled, which was just a little bit different.
“My brothers kind of laughed at me when I got this one,” he said. “Cause I was different.”
But according to Ted, his sled went faster over the snow because it sat up higher than his brothers’ sleds.
“I want to pass it down to the grandkids, but I don’t know which one yet,” he said. “It’s about 75 years old, so I want to fix it up and tighten it up.”
“Our kids played with it, and it definitely needs to be fixed up, so it’s had a lot of use,” Carol chimed in. “It was well worth what they paid for it.”
Every Christmas Eve, the older kids, along with Carol’s dad, would go out to find the perfect tree.
The Christmas tree would only be up for one week from December 24 to January 1, Carol said.
“My dad always took the kids out that were big enough to cut the tree and got one from out in the woods,” she explained. “I suppose when he was out plowing, he would notice what would be a good tree because it never took very long to find one.”
There were not many gifts when she was a child, Carol said, and most of the gifts they received were clothes her mother had made or a single present that was purchased. The wrapping paper was saved from years before, and they never bought any new wrapping paper.
Carol recalls her family getting an unexpected visit from her grandmother one year. Her younger brother Wally said grandma needed to have a present under the tree.
“He was just a little kid. I think he wrapped her up some popcorn and put it under the tree,” Carol said. “She wasn’t too happy with it, but none of us knew she was coming.”
Carol said she never remembered her parents exchanging gifts, either, but she does remember once her sisters were old enough to be out on their own, they bought their mother a brand new winter coat.
Carol said she remembers it so well because it was the first time her mother had ever received a new winter coat.
From 2000 to last year, the Ericksons were “snow birds” in Yuma, Arizona, to escape the cold winter months and the snow.
“We bought a little trailer, and we stayed in that up until a year ago,” Carol said. “But when we started having health problems, we decided we should come back here and spend some time with the grandchildren.”
The Ericksons started their snow birding by spending just a few weeks at a time before they purchased their trailer, and once they decided the time was right to be in Wisconsin all year long, they donated their trailer to the Crossroads Mission organization in Yuma.
The organization helps the homeless and those coming out of drug and alcohol rehabilitation to get back up on their feet once again.
“We found out about a man who had just gotten out of the service, and he had gone through the alcohol training, and he was trying to get out on his own, and of course he had no money,” she explained. “So we went to them (Crossroads Mission) and said we wanted to donate our trailer to him.”
Nowadays, Ted and Carol spend most of their time at home while he works on his word-find books and she crochets or does needlepoint. They also volunteer at Trinity Lutheran Church in Boyceville where Carol either does some sewing or crocheting.
But on Sundays, the television will be on, and the Packer game will be the only thing on the screen.
“I’m a Packer fan, doesn’t matter if they lose. I’m still a Packer fan,” Ted said. “It’s hard to get going, especially when you have this book here and a TV in front of you. Then you look outside, and it’s cold weather. There isn’t much to get up and go out for.”