Writer remembers spirit of Christmas past

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 10, 2009

By Victor Farrah
For the Salisbury Post
Christmas Day 1957 was a most memorable and lovely holiday. My wife, Nioma, and I (with sons Vic who was 3 years old, and Brad who was 18 months old) were part of a magical Christmas adventure.
Gladys Wright, chairman and CEO of Inter-City Trucking Service and John Wahl Cartage, had decided to give her niece, Betty Baird, a 1958 Impala coupe for Christmas. At that time, I was employed as truck manager in Michigan at the Ver Hoven Woodward Chevrolet dealership. Mrs. Wright’s companies were our most loyal accounts and bought from us frequently. She was demanding but fair, and expected efficient and reliable service for the price she was willing to pay. She never argued about a fair price we always quoted, and I was able to keep her account from 1950 until 1960, when I left Detroit to relocate to Meadville as a new Chevrolet dealer.
Gladys’ sister had died and left two daughters in her care, and Gladys literally became a devoted mother to both of them. In September 1957, Gladys called me about a plan for me to consider, which she wanted to discuss over lunch that was a frequent occurrence for us. At the time, she was in her late 50s and I in my early 30s; and she treated me as she would her own son ó always very considerate and understanding.
We met for lunch at the Fifth Wheel Club, where most of the executives of the trucking companies from the Detroit area went for a relaxing cocktail and dinner. Gladys was excited about buying a new Impala sports coupe, fully equipped with air-conditioning, power windows, power door locks, air suspension, power steering/brakes, etc. It was to be a blue car, which I was to deliver to her home on Christmas morning. Also, I was to drive the car with Nioma and the children, as if it was my company demonstrator car. The car was to be a surprise Christmas present for her niece, Betty Baird, who was living with her at her Steel Avenue residence. (The other niece had married and was living in the Detroit area.) The 1958 Impala was an enormous success in the marketplace. I placed the order immediately and the car arrived approximately on Dec. 15, and I believe I was more excited about this plan than anyone else concerned.
Christmas morning was dismal and wet and the rain fell steadily. Nioma and I drove in two cars ó I was driving the new Impala, with Nioma following in my company car. We parked around the corner of Steel and 7-Mile Road. Then Nioma and the two boys transferred to the “Christmas car” and we drove to the front of the home of Gladys and Betty Baird. I was supposed to deliver a Christmas present to Gladys, and we were invited to stay for coffee and cookies.
As time passed, Betty was observing my new “company car” through the window. By that time, the rain had stopped and Betty, Gladys and I went out to inspect the new car. Betty remarked, “Vic, what a beautiful car, and I love the color!” I invited her to drive the car around the block and, naturally, I received an enthusiastic “OK.” We had a brief ride and when we parked in front of her home, she said, “That was the nicest car that I’ve ever driven.” At that instant, Gladys put her arm around Betty and said, “Merry Christmas, dear; this car is for you.” I cannot recall being so overwhelmed by a flood of happy emotions. Betty began to cry and so did I, because it was one of the most wonderful Christmases in my memory ó a Christmas story about a loving, doting aunt for a beloved niece.
That experience in 1957 will always remain as proof of the true Christmas spirit.
If you’ve got a Christmas tale to share with Post readers, e-mail it to news@salisburypost.com or send it to P.O. Box 4639, Salisbury, NC 28144.