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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Most Memorable Christmas

Blessings, Family, Holidays
Author: Mark
Friday, December 4, 2015
8:14 am


Fifty years ago today, on December 4, 1965, when I was twelve years old, our family home in Gooding, Idaho, burned completely to the ground – three weeks before Christmas.  My mother wrote the following article to describe both the gut wrenching feelings we experienced and the wonderful, miraculous things that transpired over the next few weeks.  Indeed, for our family, Christmas 1965 was our “Most Memorable Christmas.”  

You can download the article in .pdf format here.


My Most Memorable Christmas

A true story by Dixie Gardner Dixon

The whole family had hurried around all day to get things ready so we could attend the basketball game between Gooding and Boise at the Gooding gymnasium. Dusty, our oldest daughter who was a freshman at Gooding High School, had to be at the school early to play her cornet in the pep band, so we left the house about 7 p.m. A phone call and a quick trip back into the house to turn out the light in an upstairs bedroom detained us briefly, but then we were off for what turned out to be the last trip away from our old log house about five miles west of Gooding, Idaho.

The ball game turned out to be a thriller. Gooding defeated Boise. However, during the third quarter, about 8:50 p.m. an announcement came over the loud speaker for Ken Dixon, my husband, to “Please come to the front door.” He left and I stayed with the children. Moments later I was summoned too, so I left the children together and went downstairs.

There stood Ken and one of our nearest neighbors who said abruptly, “Your house, it’s burning. It’s all gone.” We looked at each other. We were speechless. He had been on his way home from a meeting when he noticed the fire. When he arrived on the premises about 8:40 p.m., all four walls were ablaze. The doors and windows were all out. He didn’t even stop but drove around the yard and headed back to town to find us, stopping briefly at another neighbor to notify the fire department.

By the time we reached home, the fire department was there – and cars and people by the dozens. I stood in the gate looking, just looking. Never before had I felt so empty. There was our dear old log home that we all loved so much ablaze before my eyes. Vivian Pope, a dear friend and neighbor, was there. She had thought of the new little turquoise blue coat I had just finished making for our youngest daughter, Jill, who was three years old. “Yes,” I managed to reply, and a gleam of light shown through the tears, “she has it on.” Then I looked down and, sure enough, I was wearing the new coat I had just purchased a week or two before.

When I came to my senses I looked up and noticed the bed springs from Jill’s bed in the hall standing on end and showing through the high window just in front of the gate. And just to the right and up on the house a ways was De Ann’s old tricycle that the boys had hung up on some old wires as a joke. One of the firemen was trying to yank it down with a pole.

Ken and I walked hand in hand around to the front. There, through the big front bedroom window was framed a picture I’ll never forget. The grotesque, gnarled strings of our piano stood upright for a short time enshrouded with brilliant yellow, orange and red flames of fire. The silhouette was there, and then gone, crumbling before my eyes.Everything that we had collected over the fifteen years of marriage, our furniture, clothing, basement full of food, records, pictures – everything was gone. Everything, except our most priceless possessions, our seven lovely children who were safe and sound at the ball game. There were our three sons: Mark – 12, Chad – 6, and Bret who had turned 5 on his birthday just the day before; and our four daughters: Dusty – 14, De Ann -10, Janeen – 6, and Jill – 3. How grateful we were.

That is how it all started, that Saturday night, December 4th, 1965. Christmas was just three weeks away and here we were with nothing but each other and the good warm clothes that we were wearing. At a time like this it seems that your mind goes numb and it is hard to think without your mind wandering and wondering “what to do” and “where do we go from here.”

We stayed and watched the fire for a while and then Ken’s brother Verl took me back to town to the children. Ken remained there, to see what he could help with. Luck would have it that Mother Dixon had a big upstairs and lots of bedding that she kept on hand when her ten children and their families came home to visit. We would stay with her until we could find a home of our own.

Before we went to bed a friend who was a widow with seven young children, even younger than mine, came to bring us a lovely heavy quilt. Another young friend and mother of three youngsters – she, too, widowed just weeks before, came with a beautiful blanket. They wanted to share their meager belongings with us.

When the long sleepless night finally came to an end, we arose to a beautiful crisp winter day. The sun was shining and I’ll always remember the feeling of warmth and comfort it offered.

This was one Sunday that our family wouldn’t be in church where we were accustomed to be. The bishop and his wife weren’t there, either, for they took us to Jerome to the LDS bishop’s storehouse where they outfitted the whole family with two or three changes of clothing – top to toe. A fellow church member who owned a men’s clothing store outfitted Ken with school clothes. Neither he nor the children would have to miss a day of school. Mark’s deacons quorum gave him a new white shirt, tie, and dress pants. Dusty’s young women’s class had a shower for her.

Monday night there was a shower for us at the church. It was just like another wedding reception – except for the added years, grey hair, and children. The gifts were lovely, and there wasn’t a thing that people didn’t think of- food, dishes, pots, pans, bedding, cooking utensils, games for the kids, rugs, pillows, lamps – everything to make a home cozy and comfortable. Everyone must have given until it hurt, and it wasn’t just our friends. It was everyone, many of whom we still haven’t met. Money and good wishes came from everywhere. We couldn’t possibly use all the clothing and furniture that was offered.

Within a week we moved to a small two-bedroom house that our neighbors, the Millers, offered us, rent free. It was about two miles away from our old home and would be close so Ken could do chores and feed the cattle without having to drive too far.

Now we could think of Christmas, which was getting closer. It seemed that things worked out as if they were planned. We were happier than we had been for some time. Greetings from people on the street were sincere and from the heart. Even a Christmas tree was given us – and decorations! Why we couldn’t think of getting all those shining bulbs on one tree. That year we even had a big tree that stood on the floor. Other years we had settled for a small one that could be kept up out of the reach of the younger children. It was especially fun decorating that tree – all those new ornaments and all.

I was president of the ward Primary at the time and I remember walking down the hallway during class the next week. The door to the Guide Patrol room was ajar and I noticed the unusual subdued tones, the whispering and occasional chuckle of the ordinarily loud boisterous noise common to boys of that age. I peeked in to find them busily and happily making a Christmas wreath like they do each year for some elderly couple, shut in or other needy family. Nothing unusual, but when the boys saw me, they quickly pushed the door closed. I didn’t think too much about it until we arrived home that evening and found their beautiful red crepe paper and pine cone wreath hung on our door with a piece of white paper attached with a Christmas message and the names of all the boys in the class scrawled on it. Tears of joy filled my eyes and Chad said, “What’s the matter, Mommy?”

Another time De Ann, who was in the fifth grade, and a friend were asked by their teacher to go down town and pick out a Barbie doll and an outfit that they thought a “niece, about their age, might like.” They chose a blonde “Barbie” with a lavender and white striped gown with a white straw hat and bag to match. When the class opened their Christmas presents at their school party – what did De Ann receive? You guessed it – her gift from the class was that same doll that she had picked out herself. There wasn’t a niece at all.

The family was involved in the usual hustle of Christmas parties and programs. Nothing was sad or gloomy this Christmas season as I had expected it to be the night of the fire. I do remember that we had a problem hiding all the packages and trying to keep secrets. The house was so small that there wasn’t room under the beds and there weren’t any closets to hide away presents as before. Somehow we managed, though, and Christmas Eve found everything ready for Christmas – even the red felt stockings that I had made bearing the names of our little brood on the tops. We went to town to get the last minute things that I always forget and when we returned, we found the kitchen floor piled high with boxes of nice warm clothing, canned food, toys, fruit cake and candy. There was something for each of us – from the faculty at the schools where Ken taught and the children attended. One box stands out in my mind, because it was the same brightly decorated jack-in-the-box that had been used in the Christmas program at the school just a few days before.

I don’t really remember too much that happened on Christmas Day, but I’ll never forget these and other events leading up to it. Our hearts are full with thanksgiving for the blessings and happiness that came to us at that time. There wasn’t just one Santa Claus that year – there were many.

All of my life I have been taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and I still believe this. But then, somehow, I learned that it is blessed to receive, too. In our humble way, we had received a bit of friendship, love, and understanding from those who wished to share the “True Spirit of Christmas” with us. Truly on Christmas Day 1965, in our little community at least, there was “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” 


My Best Friend!

Author: Mark
Sunday, May 10, 2015
8:22 am

Happy Mother’s Day Claudia, love of my life, mother of our children, compassionate Saint, my best friend!



Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Author: Mark
Sunday, May 10, 2015
7:25 am

Happy Mother’s Day, my dear mother Dixie Dixon! You have always been such a great inspiration to me.  I so much appreciate your Christlike love and devotion to Dad and your family, your resolute commitment to Christ and his restored gospel, your undying love for all around you, your sense of art and beauty, your upbeat attitude and your continual advice to me, “Just do your best!”  But words alone cannot come close to expressing the depth of love I have for you!

Happy Mother’s Day!


PS. A picture of you alone isn’t quite complete. So here is my favorite picture of you and Dad – without rabbit ears!

Copyright © 2014, Mark G. Dixon. All Rights Reserved.
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