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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to the letter you printed from Calvin S. Holm, Thiensville, Wis., referring to people who succeed in spite of the fact their parents could not afford to help them with finances for schooling or much of anything else. I, too, was a Great Depression child. I have a true story that I hope you will print in order to pass along the message that help is out there if you pray and hope:

MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS

It was December 1932. In those days, $1 was a lot of money, and $5 was a fortune. We lived on a farm in the Colorado Rockies, 5 1/2 miles north of a small village called Divide.

The town consisted of a combination post office, general store, filling station, and an upstairs residence for the owner's family. There was one other filling station, perhaps five or six houses, a schoolhouse, and a community hall where neighborhood meetings, country dances, etc. were held.

The schoolhouse was a two-room building with two teachers. One room was for grades one through five; the other was for grades six through 10. There was a barn where we could tie up our horses, with a feed box in each stall for a lunchtime oats snack for the horse. There was also a watering trough nearby.

I rode horseback to school every day, with my kid brother on the back of the saddle. It was cold at times.

Christmas was coming and things looked very bleak. I knew there was a benevolent organization in Colorado Springs called the "Mrs. Santa Claus Club" that gave warm clothes to poor people. So I stole a penny postcard from my mother's stationery (yes, a prepaid postcard cost 1 cent at the time). I addressed it to the Mrs. Santa Claus Club and told them about our cold horseback rides to school. I asked if they had any warm clothes, shirts, pants or jackets for my 6-year-old brother or me. I told them I was 9, and said if they happened to have some toys for my 1-year-old baby brother, they would be very much appreciated.

The day before Christmas, we got a notice from the post office that there was a large box addressed to me. Dad picked it up. It was from the Mrs. Santa Claus Club. When we opened it, I could not believe what was inside: warm jackets, pants, shirts, underwear -- all the right size for me and/or my kid brother. There were also small blankets for my baby brother, and to top it off, toys for each of us.

My parents were elated, and my mother forgave me for stealing the postcard. She said, "I think God knew what he was doing."

In addition, the two teachers at school had procured, at their own expense, a present for each kid in the school: a pair of lace-up boots for each boy, and a pair of fur-lined overshoes for each girl.

So, Abby, that's the story of the best Christmas I can remember -- thanks to a very benevolent group of people and two generous schoolteachers. -- RETIRED ENGINEER, KIRKLAND, WASH.

DEAR RETIRED ENGINEER: I couldn't get your letter in before Christmas, but thought my readers would enjoy it even a few days later. Thank you for sharing your touching story, and for the reminder that most of us can make the holidays a little brighter if we choose to. Since sometimes their parents are unable to do so, many children depend on it.

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