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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

The holiday season, a class reunion and more

Donna Brown

‘Tis the season, and there is nothing more for getting you in the holiday mood than hearing carols downtown. It takes me back to when music was played by First Federal Bank, people shopped at Millers Department Store and colored lights were strung across Bellevue Avenue.

Personally, I’d trade the generic white snowflakes for good old fashioned colored bulbs.

It is also the time for vintage TV shows like “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I have always had an affinity for Lucy Van Pelt of Peanuts fame because she gets a bad rap for her attitude. My favorite Lucy quote is from the Christmas special and is her way of explaining Christmas to her crush, Schroeder. Lucy says, “I mean Jingle Bells. You know Santa Claus and ho-ho-ho. And mistletoe and presents for pretty girls.”

We all have favorite presents from when we were kids. My husband was recently reminiscing about the Christmas he and his brother received a Flexible Flyer sled that they had to share. Another Christmas he found a metal barn complete with tractor, silo and barnyard critters under his tree. I vividly remember getting a life-sized baby doll in second grade and I can still recall the vinyl smell when I held her tight.

It seems that Christmas is a time of aromas. I swear if I close my eyes, I can still get a whiff of our lopsided cedar trees cut down in the woods behind my parent’s house. Another that stands out in my mind is the smell of the oil from our Lionel trains that circled our tree and took baby Jesus to his manager, along with the fragrance of sugar cookies and homemade cinnamon buns wafting from the kitchen.

My husband and I don’t give gifts to each other anymore. When we were young and renovating our old farmhouse, we bought each other practical gifts, like gardening tools and a sewing machine. Later we moved on to such things as jewelry and leather jackets. Now we say to each other, “Want anything?” “Nah, got everything I need.” We don’t require more knickknacks, bric-a-brac or more small kitchen gadgets. Isn’t it funny how when you are young and have nothing you can be thrilled by a hot air popcorn popper that hangs under your cabinet and has a little drawer for melting the butter? Well, it overwhelmed me one Christmas in the 1980s. As did a Mickey Mouse watch in high school and a polaroid camera in college.

Aren’t we lucky for memories?

• • • • •

The Hammonton High School Class of 1982 just celebrated their 40th class reunion. They were kind enough to invite me to join them and it was a lovely affair at the Pinelands Golf Club in Folsom. The food was delicious, and the disco music of that era took me back to a time when I taught their class in 1976. They were without a doubt my favorite sixth grade class, and we spent the night recalling all the crazy activities we shared.

I was 23 years old and they were 12. I had been teaching for a year-and-a-half, but we had been on split session, so theirs was the first class I had for a full day. Teaching all the subjects to them at a time when there were no core standards or teaching for the tests, meant I was free to combined subjects and integrate learning in ways that is impossible today.

Extemporaneous lessons based on classroom conflicts or impromptu research about the snake that one of the boys found on the way to school filled our days.

At the reunion, Louie Caruso sat by my side as he did in sixth grade. Tricia Giberson still is the most expressive person I have ever known and Kellie Earling Adamucci will always be “Little Kellie” to me. It was good to see two of my sweeties, Bobby Torres and Jose Taverez. Two guys who made my job easy as a teacher because they never stopped smiling. It was also nice to talk with Anthony Sceia, Charlene Mossop Zito, Irene Fragola Russo, Darlene Ferry Ward, Patti Santora Franz and Kim Colucci Cappuccio.

My students spent the evening talking about how I taught them the Stroll to the record Blueberry Hill the day before our 1950s dance. They reminded me of our Roman Feast complete with bedsheet togas, going to the circus, camping at Paradise Lakes for environmental studies, walking to the lake with rakes to clean it up for Earth Day, riding our bikes to Weymouth to see the ruins, the winter ski club at Snow Mountain in Pine Hill and acting out television commercials for English class. My students gave me a wonderful gift; a night I will always cherish.

Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to

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