Easter is my favorite holiday! As a child, Easter meant I would soon get a nice sized hollow chocolate bunny, candied eggs with the hard sugar outside and the white nougat inside, malted milk eggs with a hard chocolate outside covered with edible paint that, when wet, got all over your lips and made your mouth look like a birds behind. Jellybeans of all colors filled the candy dish on the living room coffee table. The black licorice flavored ones always went begging until they were the only ones left. I never trusted people who ate them with all of the colors and flavors that were available first. I never had time for Easter Bunny nonsense. We had animals and I knew that rabbits didn’t lay eggs. The only thing they laid looked like those licorice jellybeans.
Easter also meant new clothes and new shoes. With the clothes showing wear that were given as Christmas presents some three months earlier, a fresh pair of blue jeans and a nice button up shirt would not only look good for church, it could carry me until the end of school in a couple of months into summer.
A quick two mile journey put us square in the back door of Johnson’s Dry Good on the corner of the Main Street and Highway 96. Very few used the front door but it still opened frequently with a loud dinging of the bell overhead that was struck by the door. The back door made no announcement of approaching customers but it didn’t need to. The ones who know to use the rear door were valued customers and friends.
Doris Johnson, owner and proprietor of the establishment, was a wonderfully sweet woman. Her smile went from ear-to-ear on her forever red cheeks. Large glasses connected those cheeks to her high forehead and thinning jet black hair. She was overweight but not obese and you could tell for yourself because every transaction was ended with a good hug. Doris carried Big Smith overalls and Levi’s in every size available. She also carried Husky sizes which, sadly, were printed on the leather label on the back waist band for all the kids to see. Doris didn’t have a dressing room for men because men rarely shopped but let their wives do the clothes buying for them. Young boys got to change between the tall overstock shelves in the storage room. The fear being seen was a source of constant terror, especially when most customers came through the back door anyway and could catch a glimpse of the white Fruit-of-the-Loom underwear that just every kid wore.
Then our shopping excursion was taken back to Huntington to the Seaman’s Store on Huntington’s Main Street. The Seaman’s Store was THE place to get shoes in the area. I can still see the glass showcases filled with women’s nylons and accessories. Pretty handkerchiefs covered the top of the cabinet with scarves hanging on a rack above. Boxes of shoes filled tall shelves behind the counter where only the clerks would be allowed to stand. I remember this so well because I would have to sit quietly and survey all the surroundings as my mother would look at everything and end up spending most of our time there in deep conversation with the clerk Mrs. Mary Hollister. Finally, all eyes and attention were on my feet as Mrs. Hollister would drag over a small leather and chrome stool and stick my socked foot into a chrome contraption that had a slide rule to tell her my exact foot size, plus a quarter inch to allow for wiggling. We would try on pair after pair but it always seemed to end with a familiar pair of Ked’s canvas shoes. Not only did they fit better, they were the cheapest. The Seaman Store also gave its shoe customers a free metal shoe horn. I don’t think I ever saw anyone but Mrs. Hollister use a shoe horn but it sure looked lovely in our drawer beside the others that waited there for attention.
Come Easter morning, my mother and I would attend the citywide Sunrise Service held at the little city park across the street from the Methodist Church. I remember sitting in cold chairs that had the morning dew freshly wiped from the seat and being in fear my new blue jeans would look as if I had an accident. Sunrise comes awfully early in the morning and I didn’t understand then why they insisted missing sleep every year. The Methodist Church members seemed to always be in charge while my Baptist pastor stood a step or two behind with the Assembly of God and Pentecostal preachers. Our church, like all the others, were a tight knit crowd and there seemed to be some suspicion between the denominations as we looked at each other like we were rooting for different fighters about to enter the ring. The pastors took turns saying some of the service and their congregation would respond better to them than they did other preachers. They would shout and say amen or clap, except for the prim and proper Baptists, which I was gladly a part of. Mom was raised in the Pentecostal church and was known to give a shout even when it was the Baptist preachers turn to talk. Stares from my friends let me know that my mom was different than the others.
Not everyone was as denomination minded as those I have spoken of. Many knew the real reason of Easter and celebrated as each pastor spoke. But the one thing on everyone’s mind during the service was about getting home to that ham that was cooking in their ovens. Pigs at Easter had about as much chance as a turkey in November. But I never felt sorry enough for them to not get a big old slice when it was passed around at the family dinner table
I don’t get new clothes at Easter any longer, but I still enjoy that ham!