The ghost of a longtime Weston resident returned to his hometown in December 1978 to bring Christmas cheer to local school children.
Charles Elliott, a former storekeeper in the small Eastern Oregon town, started a Christmas celebration during his life to bring Christmas to local boys who may have gone without. Elliott, who had no children of his own, started by inviting a few local boys to have dinner and open gifts at his home. But each year he found more kids whose families were struggling to provide a happy holiday. The annual event eventually outgrew Elliott’s home, and he continued the party at the local Catholic Church.
Shortly after Elliott’s death in 1963, the community learned he had left money in a trust fund to be used each year for the dinner — enough money that the party was expanded to include students from neighboring communities whose names were suggested by their schools. The chosen were bused to Weston, and no expense was spared.
“Spend all the money,” the administrator of Elliott’s estate told Lena Blomgren when he called to arrange the 1978 party. She rose to the challenge with a cadre of other local volunteers.
Nearly 115 children from Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston were greeted on their arrival on Dec. 18 and shepherded into the Weston Community Center for games. Dinner was served in the basement, consisting of two turkeys, three hams, mashed potatoes and gravy, and kid-friendly veggies like corn and carrot and celery sticks. The highlight of the meal: three gallons of olives. “We used to fix dressing and salads,” said Mrs. Bob Johnson, a volunteer, “but the kids never ate them.” Dessert was ice cream and homemade, decorated cookies.
Following dinner, each child received a gift with their name on it. Hints had been provided by teachers, and volunteers wore a steady path to local merchants to fill all the requests. Popular with the girls were dolls, of course; boys tossed Nerf balls and plastic footballs, and basketballs dribbled along the floor. Teenagers sporting new scarves and games helped the younger kids figure out their toys. And little ones had a chance to whisper their Christmas lists into Santa’s ear.
By 7:30 p.m., the children were heading home and volunteers, including the youth group from Brethren Church, were setting things to rights again. But no one was complaining.
“We go home feeling good,” said Blomgren.
Renee Struthers is the Community Records Editor for the East Oregonian. See the complete collection of Out of the Vault columns at eovault.blogspot.com