Dave Wood still has a vivid memory of how much his grandfather’s pocket watch meant to him when he received it more than 70 years ago in December 1946.
The story of the special gift is the winner in the 2017 Christmas Memories Contest sponsored by The Country Today. Wood, 81, of River Falls, wrote about his memory of the Christmas of 1946 in the story that was selected as the best contest entry by editors of The Country Today. About 30 readers submitted entries in this year’s contest.
Wood’s story is featured on Page 1A of this edition, and second- and third-place entries are placed on Page 1B.
Honorable mention selections will be printed in the Dec. 27 edition.
Wood said his mother died when he was 9 and he went to live with his grandparents in Whitehall. His sister went to live in Coon Valley with an aunt and uncle.
“I wouldn’t have survived without them,” Wood said of his grandparents.
In the winning story, Wood recalls his grandfather giving him a pocket watch to make a somewhat bleak Christmas special. He said he never got the watch to work, but it was a precious gift nonetheless.
“He was an old Yankee — he was very, very sentimental,” Wood said of his grandfather. “He was always giving me little stuff.”
Second place in the contest went to Inge Hawks of Spencer, whose story was titled “The Stars Tell the Christmas Story.” Hawks wrote about making the trip from Germany to America on a ship that left from Italy after World War II, and how her father assured her that the “same stars that tell the Christmas story in the heavens over Germany will be shining wherever we end up living.”
Third place went to Jim Zitzelsberger of Oshkosh, whose story, titled “Two-Gun Sue,” tells the story of how his then 4-year-old friend clocked her brother alongside the head with a toy gun she had received for Christmas.
The top three winners will receive $75, $50 and $25 cash prizes, respectively.
Receiving honorable mentions in the contest were Sheila Renee Dipprey of Comstock, with her story titled “Reflections of Christmas from an Ornament,” and Fred Olson of Dayton, Ohio, who wrote about “Keeping the Memory of Potatiskorv.”
Contest rules require that all entries be true stories.
The Country Today Editor Jim Massey said he has always enjoyed judging the contest.
“The stories that bring a tear to my eye generally make it close to the top of my list,” he said, “whether it be a sentimental memory or humor.”
Massey said writers are encouraged to enter in future years and to submit stories for the weekly Yarns of Yesteryear feature on the front of the newspaper’s Section B.
“The Yarns are one of the most popular features in our newspaper, and we are always looking for more contributors — not just at Christmas but throughout the year,” he said.
“We would encourage story writers to enter again another year. Please don’t be discouraged if you didn’t win — because believe us when we say the competition is always stiff.”