International Harvester Christmas

I’m privileged to have a quest writer for this article. Judy Snyder is also an author published by House of Honor. Her book Twisted Tales was released last June and can also be heard via Audible. I introduced Judy in a review of her book in a recent article on this blog. Now she tells of memories from her youth Take it away Judy, the article is yours ~ Rick

Back in the 60’s my dad was a machinist at International Harvester in Melrose Park, IL.  Every year the factory had this big open house/Christmas party for the employees and their families.

It would begin with a tour of this freakishly HUGE facility. I was just a little kid over excited by the idea we were going to see Santa, so this really didn’t make much of an impression on me, except everything seemed BIG, and Dad got to show us the area he worked which smelled of grease and oil. But then we got to the special showing area. To be honest, I don’t know if it was staged especially for us, or if it was always there, but there were all kinds of farming equipment on display, some of which we were permitted to climb and sit on.

Then we were all gathered into a big room that had a platform at the front. At the back of the platform you could see stacks and stacks of toys, with a few pens corralling balls and stuffed animals. In the center stood (gasp!) Santa’s chair! And off to either side were lit Christmas trees. Long buffet tables laden with food and drink lined the back wall, and in between were tables and chairs.

 Santa would arrive astride one of the smaller tractors IH built, waving at everyone. As he mounted the stage, I’m pretty sure our cheering would have rivaled any rock concert in volume – there were hundreds of us there (employment was around 20,000, but I think each sector had its own party).

 Each child, under 12, was given a gift and a filled mesh stocking from Santa when you saw him. These presents were not dime store trinkets. I remember two of the presents that I received distinctly, one was a doll that came with a layette, ‘magic’ bottle (it ’emptied’ when tilted then ‘refilled’ when upright) and a wicker bassinette. The other was a child’s tea set made of real china that even had its own tiny spoons. I also remember my older brothers getting a Spalding basketball and a Wilson football.

The mesh stockings were a real wonderment to me and my siblings. They were the only stockings we ever got – filled with dime store toys and that hard ‘Granny’ candy no respectable kid would eat, but for us they were treasure. Older kids (12 up) got a smaller mesh stocking filled with ‘better’ candies. (Remember candy cigarettes and Mary Janes?) 

During this, raffles were held for the adults. I don’t remember the prizes, except that my mom won a set of pots and pans one year, and my dad scored a set of IH coffee mugs paired with a high-end can of coffee once. IH tried really hard not to leave anyone out. If you left without something, it was your own fault.  I miss those days, of big corporations caring.

Thanks Judy for sharing. Here is a link for those interested in her book. It’s also available on Audible

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