Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 25, 2015

Sharing favorite holiday memories

of Chattanooga Bar Assoc. members

The holidays are for memories – for recalling our favorite moments of the past, and for making new memories for the years to come. To celebrate this time of year, the Hamilton County Herald asked several members of the Chattanooga Bar Association to share their favorite holiday memories. As expected, a common thread is woven throughout all of the stories: some of the best moments are those centered around family and other loved ones. Grab a warm beverage and a box of tissues, and enjoy.

Jerry H. Summers

Summers, Rufolo & Rodgers

“The best Christmas story for the Summers family would have to be 1958, when our family moved into its own home in North Chattanooga. The down payment had been obtained by selling a 1958 four door Cadillac that had been won on a $1 ticket purchased by my mom from the Alhambra Shrine, which annually gave away a Cadillac to support its crippled children fund. Although I can’t confirm it, the car looks like the same one ex-judge Raulston Schoolfield was given by his many supporters after his impeachment on July 12, 1958. Our family sold the car to get the down payment for our home on Fernway Drive.”

Holly Powell

Mickles Law Firm

“My family from Mississippi came together every year for Christmas dinner. And every year, there was baked fruit no one ate. It became a running joke: Who’s going to bring the baked fruit? Who made the baked fruit? And why does it keep showing up annually when nobody ever touches it? My siblings and I used to howl with laughter over the baked fruit mystery.”

Bill Colvin

Cavett and Abbott

“Christmas 1998. It was our oldest daughter’s senior year in high school, and everyone was a bit wound up over it being the last Christmas before she went off to college. Chattanooga was hit with bad weather a day or so before Christmas, including an ice storm on Lookout. For the first time in our experience, we lost power for more than a couple of days. By Christmas day, we were running low on firewood, the house was getting cold, and everyone was disappointed at the lack of lights, especially on the Christmas tree. So what did we do? I told everyone to pack an overnight bag and for the girls to pack their swimsuits, and then we drove down the mountain and checked in at the Choo-Choo. We took our dog and two cats to my office in the 1st Tennessee Bank building, and after discussing the situation with the security guard, situated them in a bathroom. We returned to the Choo-Choo, went to our room, and the girls changed and ran off to the indoor pool. It turned out several of our friends and neighbors had done the same thing, and we ended up having a wonderful party. We checked on the cats and dog periodically, and cleaned up as necessary. What had started roughly ended wonderfully.”

Justin B. Faith

Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott & Cannon

“We typically do traditional Christmas gatherings with a dinner and gift exchange at my grandmother’s house in Kentucky, but one year, we decided to mix things up and do a cruise for Christmas. Of course, the cruise was great and very memorable, with stops at Belize, Cozumel, and the Grand Caymans Islands. But, because I had just turned 18, one unexpected added benefit that I didn’t anticipate, and a pastime I came to enjoy, was that I, being a newly minted 18-year-old ‘adult,’ was allowed to gamble on the cruise ship because we were on international waters. This was my first, but certainly not my last, gambling and casino experience. Bright lights, cool sounds, and the thrill of getting dealt rolled up Aces over Kings – what more could entertain a kid with a few dollars in his pocket? And, yes, I got lucky with beginner’s luck, playing a quarter slot machine that hit big with a $200 payout! It was truly a Christmas miracle that I was able to beat the cruise ship’s one-armed bandit and have some extra spending money to enjoy in the Caribbean.”

Elizabeth M. Hill

Patrick, Beard, Schulman & Jacoway

“For the last 35 years, I’ve spent Christmas morning in Kentucky at my parents’ home. When I awoke, there would be a stocking full of sweets and small cassette tapes, books, or magazines wrapped in tissue paper at the end of my bed. Santa would have placed it there the night before while I was sleeping. The first child to awake woke up the others, and we poured out our stocking gifts and shared them with each other, waiting for mom and dad to arise. We weren’t allowed downstairs until dad went down to make sure Santa had come. After he gave the OK, we’d rush down the steps to a lit Christmas tree, Christmas music, and presents under the tree.”

Tracy Cox

Markel, von Kessler & Cox

“A couple of Christmases ago, I took my grandmother, the late Willa Cox, to the traditional Midnight Mass Christmas Eve service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church downtown. She was 87 years old at that time. She passed away on October 12 of this year, and that was her last Midnight Mass at St. Paul’s among many I remember attending with her and my family as a little girl. My Mimi couldn’t get out much by this point in her life, but she wore her red coat and red wool hat and looked so beautiful, as she always did. She was delighted to be at that service, even though she needed assistance walking and getting in and out of the car. What a lovely memory for me to have this year as I celebrate Christmas for the first time in my life without her. I know that while I’m at the service this year, my heart will be filled with joy in celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the wonderful memories of my grandmother.”

Charlie McDaniel

Legal Aid of East Tennessee

“On the first Christmas I spent with my wife, Stevie, we were driving from Memphis to see my grandparents in Waynesville, N.C. It was pouring down rain when the timing belt broke on my car, leaving us stranded by the side of I-40 somewhere in Dickson County. A passing tow-truck just happened to see us, and offered to give us a ride to the nearest exit. There weren’t going to be any auto repair shops open until after Christmas, so there we were, my wife and I, spending our first Christmas together at the Hampton Inn off Exit 172. They upgraded us to a suite, which was thoughtful, and we found an open Chinese restaurant within walking distance for Christmas dinner. At the time, we told each other, ‘If we can make it through this, we can make it through anything,’ but looking back all these years later, it’s one of my favorite memories. That was probably the best Christmas I’ve had.”

Donna Mikel

Burnette, Dobson & Pinchak

“It’s extremely challenging to sift through favorite memories of my childhood and the magical holidays my children have experienced to pick a favorite memory. My children and I have been abundantly blessed. Perhaps that’s why the Christmas I spent serving the homeless stands out in stark contrast. I moved across the country to attend law school, and at times had to miss sharing the holidays with my family. During my last year of law school, I had the great fortune of serving dinner at the Salvation Army on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure I left any meaningful impression on those served, but they left a print in my mind that will not vanish over time.”

Sam D. Elliott

Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott & Cannon

“I lost my mother last year just before Christmas. The loss brought to mind a very poignant memory of a nighttime Christmas program in the early 1960’s at Soddy Methodist Church. (There were no United Methodists then.) She was superintending a group of Sunday School children during the program. I and the other children were singing a selection of Christmas songs, and I happened to be sitting next to her during the program. I particularly remember singing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ with her, and feeling especially close to her at that moment. Later, we had some excitement because a heavy snow had started while we were in the program, and there was a thrill from the snow and a hint of danger from the darkness and the slick roads going home. It was a perfect Christmas episode for a little boy, and ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ still invokes that feeling of closeness with her.”

J. Wayne Cropp

Baker, Donelson, Bearman,

Caldwell & Berkowitz

“My mind is flooded with wonderful Christmas memories! It’s the most wonderful time of the year for me because I celebrate God’s gift to man, his very own Son, Christ Jesus. Like many children, I was often enamored with the wrapping paper as much as the gift inside. I’m touched by memories of family and friends, and that it’s a time of slowing life’s tempo to remember those we love. One very favorite memory was the year I personally delivered Christmas gifts to a needy family. Like so many, we give to Christmas charities at this season, but this particular year, I was able to deliver food stuffs, toys, diapers, and staples to a mother and child who had no Christmas but for what we gave them. I arrived at sunset on Christmas eve to deliver gifts on behalf of the Chattanooga Jaycees, and I found there was no Christmas tree, there were no gifts wrapped for Christmas morning, and coal was burning in the pot-belly stove. They had nothing. The mother was truly thankful, and I was blessed by her tremendous gratitude. That Christmas still sticks in my memory.”

Jennifer Kent Exum

Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel

“I recall a very special Christmas Eve ‘visit.’ I was around six years old, and still very much a believer in Santa Claus. My extended family had gathered for a Christmas Eve dinner at my maternal grandparents’ house. The grown-ups were trying to round up all the children to go home, but we were too busy playing to mind them. All of a sudden, we heard sleigh bells outside the house. My young cousins and I froze in our tracks and listened intently. The sleigh bells were followed by heavy footsteps across the roof and much ‘prancing and pawing’ of what we knew were reindeer. We clamped our eyes shut and hoped that Santa would not realize we were not in our beds asleep. We begged to go home to our houses before Santa caught us, and everyone quietly crept out the back door to our cars. I later learned that it was my grandfather on the roof that frozen Christmas Eve. Although he died several years ago, I remember him especially at Christmas for the part he played in our wonderful ‘visit.’”

Mike St. Charles

Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel

“Like most, I’m sure, my Christmas memories revolve around family, food, and gifts – given, received, and wished for. Our family tradition is to gather at my parents’ house on Christmas day to share a meal, play games, and exchange gifts. A few years ago, several of us were playing ping pong at my parents’ when my nephew noticed some very old golf clubs in their basement. My mother is an avid golfer, as was my father, who died in September. They started playing around 1960. For various reasons, they’ve stored many of their old golf clubs and even old golf balls in the basement. My nephew commented on what it must have been like playing with the now antiquated golf equipment. The weather wasn’t too bad for a Christmas Day, so I encouraged him to find out for himself. The two of us grabbed three clubs and a few old golf balls, and drove to the golf course to play three holes. It was a blast and quite an experience – one we’ve repeated several times since.”

R. Wayne Peters

Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott & Cannon

“My dad was an avid quail hunter. Even when I was too young to carry a gun, he’d allow me to tag along with him over the fields and hills of rural Hamilton County and North Georgia. We’d often encounter some really poor families in our outings. On Christmas morning, my dad asked me to go with him to where we often hunted. I noticed he didn’t have his gun or the bird dog, but several baskets, each filled with fruit and a turkey. I’ll never forget the thankful reaction of several families when we knocked on their door and my dad delivered his gift baskets to them. It was from that experience that I learned there’s more joy in giving than in receiving! I don’t remember what I received under the tree, but I’ll always remember the special gift my dad gave me that Christmas morning.”

Paul Hatcher

Duncan, Hatcher, Hixson & Fleenor

My favorite Christmas memory is the one I’m anticipating next week. We have one daughter coming in from D.C. on Sunday and another coming from Nashville on Christmas day, both with their husbands. Our other kids and grandkids will be here, along with my brother’s and sister’s families, my mom, my wife’s parents, and assorted nieces, friends, and usual suspects. We lost a good friend this year, and we lost a much-loved sister-in-law. They will be remembered. Hand me a libation and give me a turkey to carve.

Craig Smith

Miller & Martin

“It’s hard to peg down a single favorite memory. It’s more like a collage of memories from my childhood. Ornaments, decorations, and lights; wrapped presents; trips in the car to grandparents’ houses; the smell of food cooking and cookies baking; the anticipation of getting the meal over with so we could get to all the wonderful presents under the tree. Above all, wonder and joy.

“There is one thing in particular that encapsulates those feelings. When I was four years old, it started raining on Christmas Eve just before we left for church, and it rained hard through the evening and into the night. I was upset and worried, not believing that Santa would be able to make it through. The next morning, I woke up to a living room teeming with presents, and the stockings filled and hung with the usual care. And under them, on the hearth of the fireplace, a single wet boot print, the sight of which filled me with the wonder, amazement, and joy only a child can fully understand and feel. While rational theories have crossed my mind since then as to how that boot print came to be, recalling that moment always reconnects me with a happiness and comfort I sometimes forget in the hustle of everyday life, even thirty-something years later.”

Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Best wishes for the holidays, and have a happy and prosperous new year – The Hamilton County Herald.