independent

Friday 24 October 2014

Christmas in Mallow and not a battery in sight

EUGENE COSGROVE RECALLS THE SIGHTS, SOUNDS AND SMELLS OF CHRISTMAS PAST IN MALLOW

Published 06/12/2012 | 12:24

CAN you remember children's favourites such as the Magic Robot, Flying Doctor, Monopoly, Hornby Wind -Up Train and Tracks, Ludo and the like? If you do you are pushing on in time.

These were most welcomed toys in times past at Christmas time in Mallow and not a battery to be seen.

Christmas in Mallow was colourful and friendly and one of the greatest attractions was the enormous electric train set which was positioned on the front window of O'Meara's Shop for all openmouthed children to enjoy for hours with the compliments of the O'Meara brothers. Stations, signal cabins and even toy people stood on platforms awaiting their train. Everything was so detailed it was magical.

Santa Claus' visit to Collins Arcade was also a big draw for the youngsters of the town.

In the 1950's and 1960's everyone attended Church services at St Mary's and St James' Churches and the highlight for this writer was early Christmas Morning Mass, fasting from 10pm the night before as receiving the Eucharist was a major tradition in those days.

At Mass we were greeted by the four Mercy sisters from the nearby Holy Spirit convent and on their departure for the few steps back to their convent Sister's Michael, Rosarie, Enda and Imelda - who have now passed to their Eternal reward - wished both parents and children well for the day.

After Mass it was back to Fair Street for a bowl of porridge and the cream from the milk bottle top before the mission of enjoyment with the toys began.

The Rango Kid, Roy Rogers and so many more western heroes lived on all the streets in Mallow as the young boys set off for their cowboys and Indians fun. The streets were filled of the smell of sulphur gun caps and guns and holsters were wore proudly while ' Winchester ' rifles were also popular.

In those days there were no elaborate shops to browse through toys but our parents were quite content to go to Ardley's at the Bridge or O'Meara's and Thompson's on Main Street. T

he Ardley brothers also supplied the huge Christmas tree which stood on the park just below their shop. Unfortunately, it came to grief on one or two occasions due to strong winds and heavy rain but able hands were always available to erect the lighted tree back in to its position.

The Christmas dinner was full of tradition and one item which stands out in this 60-year-old brain was O'Brien's beautiful fizzy red lemeonade with a tint of raspberry to add that touch of Christmas cheer.

An era when the TV set was a rarity, the old Pye radio was switched on at 5pm for the BBC Radio 2 presentation of the Christmas Day Special of 'Pick Of The Pops' presented by my hero over many years Alan 'Fluff' Freeman.

On St Stephen's, my group of friends made a lame effort when it came to the Wren calls. We knocked at homes where people knew us and we generated a few bob between us to fund our trip to the Above and Below cinemas during the festive season (the Above was the Capital Cinema on Fair St, owned by Bill Robinson, and the Below was The Central Cinema, owned by Eddie Donovan, down near the Clock House).

Christmas in times past did not have Ipods, DVDs , Giant TV Screens, Internet or computers but it did bring love, respect and enjoyment, which can never be bought.

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