The 1918 Flu That Almost Stole Christmas

Janella Hendon of Dublin, Texas sent us the following special memory. The Neva in the story is her mother who would have been about seven when the story took place.

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Neva and Oma Barbee

The Barbee Family always celebrated the Christmas Season with love, magic for the children, parties and fun! Dee Rufus would climb to the top of a cedar tree and cut off a well shaped branch to bring into the house to decorate – he did not want to destroy a tree that would later be needed for shade and firewood.

A large stalk of bananas, a very special treat, would be hung from the ceiling where everyone could just come by and pull off one to eat. The Jolly Old Elf dressed in red would sometimes appear to crook his finger at any children who were talking and too excited to sleep!

However, the flu epidemic in 1918, was took a terrible toll on the family. All had been seriously ill; Walter Hiram ran a fever, which left permanent damage; Dee Rufus was so ill, he was delirious. They thought Dee was dying! He would later say he felt he was going when he heard Lena scream and remembered he had to get to her. (She was the sister that was just younger him and in the country tradition, when she was born, she was assigned to him to be responsible for her care.)

He fought his way back to consciousness.

When Christmas time arrived no one expected any celebration at all. However, when they woke the next morning, Santa had come to visit! The stalk of bananas was hanging from the ceiling. The tree was decorated with popcorn balls, seed covered in tinsel that had been saved from chewing gum wrappers, garlands of berries and popcorn.

The stocking were filled with homemade candies, nuts, and popcorn balls. At the top, of each stocking was a small toy – stuffed dolls for the girls and hand carved cars/trucks for the boys.

Dee and Alma Barbee

Dee and Alma Barbee’s daughter, Neva, always treasured this Christmas as one of the best she ever had! It was certainly the one that was sealed in her memory.

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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