Thursday, December 24th, 2009
By Shelley Grieshop
Treasured gifts from long ago
Christmas past and present
  It's tough to describe the jubilance of finding that perfect, gotta-have present under the Christmas tree.
As a child, it's a moment like no other - one that's rarely matched in adulthood by leather wallets and fancy perfume.
Area community leaders recently shared their "best gift ever" with The Daily Standard. Interestingly enough, some still have their decades-old gifts.
"I actually have two that are memorable items and I think they were both received in the same year, 1964 I think," says Auglaize County Commissioner John Bergman. "A BB gun and a microscope."
The BB gun was retired when it wore out from shooting sparrows in the barn, he says.
"Never broke any windows," he adds with a laugh.
The microscope, which gave him an insight into "things in this world that you couldn't otherwise see," remains safely tucked away, he adds.
Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue tells perhaps the most heartwarming story. When she was 7 years old her father was ill and the family had no money to spend at Christmas, she says.
"So my mom told me we were not going to have Christmas that year," LaRue says.
But on Christmas Eve a knock came at the front door and there stood a lady from their church with three packages - one for her mother, her father and her.
"When I opened my package, it was a doll with hair that you could comb and she had on a beautiful pinkish gown," LaRue says.
She still has that doll and will never forget that lady and the present she gave her, she adds.
Mercer County Engineer Jim Wiechart recalls a dandy Radio Shack 150 in 1 Electronic experiment kit. (Not a big surprise for an engineer.)
"It was my favorite toy because it was so versatile as a toy/time occupier," he explains. "I wired it up to make radios, alarms and sound and light devices."
The kit eventually was given away or sold at a garage sale, he believes.
Wiechart shared another story, also involving a BB gun. Seems he and his brother knew he was getting a Crossman air/pellet BB gun with scope for Christmas. When their parents were away, they raided the Christmas stash and took aim at a few birds in the backyard before carefully putting the gun back in the box it came in.
"Our folks never knew this until we fessed up some 20 years later," he says, adding consequences after 20 years were merely scorn and laughter.
The Rev. Tim Clutter of Neptune Church of God cherished a study Bible he received one year, which "launched me into understanding the scriptures like never before," he adds.
Years later, while traveling for a Lima-based company, he spent hours in airports and hotel rooms with his nose in the Bible.
"Then a funny thing happened," he explains.
In the City of Brotherly Love, someone stole his luggage, the Bible and his favorite Cleveland Browns sweatshirt. Angry at first, he quickly changed his tune when he pictured the thief sitting in his home reading the Bible and wearing his sweatshirt.
"I decided that God wanted to get that Bible into that person's hands. I figure the thief had been converted twice - first into a Christian and second into a Browns fan," he says.
Mercer County Economic Development Director Jared Ebbing says his favorite present will always be his train set, which he found Christmas Day on a big piece of plywood with artificial grass and a pond.
At the age of 9, he quickly learned to use one hand to operate his Dukes of Hazzard cars in the center of the track while maneuvering the train remote with the other, he says.
The train is still at my parent's house, Ebbing adds.
Mercer County Commissioner Bob Nuding also chose a train - a Lionel brand - as his favorite gift of all time. At age 5, there was a lot of crashing before he got the hang of the controls, he admits.
"It's stashed up in the attic now and I plan to give it to my son for his son, who's now 1," he adds.
Commissioner Jerry Laffin remembers receiving a "little red wagon" as a gift when he was about 4 or 5. Santa had motive: the wagon would help Laffin haul wood planks into the house.
Laffin's favorite Christmas memories are of his Grandpa Fast and the tricks he played each year on little Laffin. One year he tore into a package only to find a chicken leg and claws staring back at him.
"Another time he gave me this big box, which led to another smaller box and another," he says.
When he reached the final box he discovered a lump of coal.
At 5, Commissioner John Bruns wanted nothing else for Christmas but a special workbench. On Christmas morning, he was jolted into reality when he ran past his brother's spot and, lo and behold, he'd gotten it instead.
"I got a riding fire truck," he says, still harboring disappointment.
Later Santa appeared at the door and - as if the day wasn't bad enough - quizzed him on his prayers.
"I thought, 'Holy crap, what's next,' " Bruns adds.
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
• Local children write to Santa
• VoluTEENs at hospital bring Christmas joy
• Being cut in seventh grade motivated IC's Myers
• High school bowlers roll on Wednesday
• Pilarczyk retires, Archbishop Schnurr takes helm
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