When I was a child growing up in the 50s my family always got a real tree at Christmas time. Usually about three or four days before Christmas, all of us, dad, mom, my brother, Sam, and my two sisters, Annie and Jean and I would climb into the car and my dad would drive us out to the Dairy Queen in Elm Grove, which at the time was located on Route 40 East where the Rite Aid parking lot is now. The Dairy Queen, of course, was closed for the winter, but we weren't there for ice cream. We were there to buy a live cut tree to take home and decorate it for Christmas. For a little kid, that was really exciting and the memory of it warms my heart to this day.
There were a couple of times I remember actually going out in the woods to get our tree. My parents, Clifford and Anna Swallow, were born and raised in Washington County in eastern Ohio near the town of New Matamoras. The landscape there is rolling hills and farmland. Sometime in the early 1940s, as a young married couple eager to find a new way of life instead of farming, they traveled north up the river to the "big city" called Wheeling, West Virginia, where there was an abundance of employment opportunities. Most of my mom and dad's older siblings had already moved to Wheeling. My dad obtained a job at Blaw Knox iron foundry and except for a few years he spent in the U.S. Navy serving our country during World War II, he continued to work there until he retired in the mid-1970s. But no matter how many years they lived in Wheeling, my mom and dad would still refer to the place that they grew up in Washington County, Ohio as "down home."