Christmas Lights

Grandma Mann and the Christmas Show

When it comes to recalling Christmas memories, like all who might read this who have their own, I have mine. What follows is one of my fondest because of what I did for my Grandma Mann.

She was in a nursing home in Carrington, ND, my home town, which was also the home town of my wife at the time, Mary Ann.

Her name was Clara Mann, and she was my mother’s mom.

Time now was the early 70’s, her husband, my mother’s father, Frank had died in 1967, and she was left alone, and she ended up in a nursing home in Carrington. There were no such things as assisted living, or such things back then, and even if there had been, she wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

I was working at KXJB Television in Fargo, and when December rolled around, I took it upon myself to produce a short slide show for the afternoon talk show that featured Jim Adelson and Sally Hilleboe.

I took my trusty Nikon F2, along with a couple of star filters, and began driving around Fargo-Moorhed and taking pictures of Christmas lights. I shot slides of everything, house decorations, close ups of Christmas decorations, city lights. I walked West Acres Mall taking photos of all of the color and light of the season. My wife and I spent many nights driving around the two cities as I tried to capture on film the magic that was the season.

I was using station film, and I wasn’t worried about cost, so I overshot taking hundreds of photos, knowing that sometimes it takes 30 photos to get the one you want.

After I had developed and mounted all of the slides, I began to put together the spot for Adelson and Hilleboe’s show, and chose Andy William’s version of “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year,” to use as the musical background to the slides. The show on their afternoon show took only about 2 and a half minutes, but it went well. You’ll have to remember, this was in the early 70’s, before videotape and computers, so I was working with what we had. It was basically a slide show on Television, primitive, but at the time effective.

That being done, I wasn’t satisfied at such a short showing, so Mary Ann and I sat at home with a Kodak Carousel slide machine, and a recorder that could program the slide show. We added a few more songs, besides, Andy William’s song and ran the length of the show out to around ten or twelve minutes. Then we had to decide what to do with it.

We were going to Carrington for Christmas that year, as we did those days, and somehow the idea came to take the slide/tape show along, We thought we could show it to our parents. But then, somehow the idea of showing it at the nursing home came up. When we got to Carrington I checked with the nursing home and told them what I had in mind, and they were excited to have it done there. Most of the residents there were in their 70’s, 80’s and beyond, and would have had no chance to see the lights of Christmas presented in such a way. My Grandma Mann had never even been to Fargo. My Grandma had really never had much of anything, except taking care of Frank, and feeding us when we were young and at the water plant where they lived. We always felt her a bit strange, but as kids do, they just accept her for what she is.

It was just a day or two before Christmas, and it was set. We went to the nursing home and prepared to put on the show for the residents. Mary Ann and I brought the Kodak Carousel and the recorder, and they had set up a screen in the commons area so everyone would have a good view.

Then they came in. They came in walkers, wheel chairs, with canes, and found places to sit to watch the show. There were more women than men, but it mattered little. What was evident they were there to see a show that was being brought to them by the grandson of one of their own.

We dimmed the lights, and the show was on. Andy William’s voice as others filled the room, and the lights and images we had brought, filled the screen, and all of their eyes were glued to that screen.

The show, took more than ten or 15 minutes, and when the final notes faded and the last slide dimmed and the screen went black, there was absolute silence. Not one hand clap. They all sat there, silently for a moment, and we wondered what was going on. Then the administrator said, “They don’t want it to be over, can you show it again?” Then it came to me, this was a magical night for them, most who had never seen such sights, and they didn’t want it to end.

We started it over again, and this time when it came to the end, there were smiles everywhere, applause, and thank you’s coming from the residents, and my Grandma Mann was a real hero that night for bringing her grandson to the show.She was all smiles that night, and as happy as I had seen her in long time, and that made me smile.It made me smile that I was able to give her something that no one else could have, and it made her happy.

When Mary Ann and I left the home that night and walked into the cold December night, it was with satisfaction that we had brought some of the lights and the magic of Christmas into the lives of those who hadn’t seen much of either lately, and seeing the smiles and knowing how they appreciated it,well, it made us feel pretty good.

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About Bob Kallberg

Retired reporter. Concentrating now on recounting Joanie's 12 year battle with cancer, a battle she waged with extreme courage, determination and an indomitable spirit, that, for me, serves as an example.
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