At Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church. Although Easter this year will be unlike any other we have observed, we still can count our blessings and revisit joyful memories that we hold close to our hearts.
No Store-Bought Baskets for the Brandes Grandchildren
When Donna Bridwell was a child, the fun at her grandparents’ home started the Saturday night before Easter Sunday. Aunts, uncles and cousins from all over Texas returned home to East Bernard, Texas.
In the evening, each of the grandkids made a “nest” on the porch floor using clover and grasses for building materials. Donna recalls snatching a flower or two from her grandma’s garden to dress up her creation.
Easter was the most important Sunday of the year for her grandfather, Oscar Brandes. As far back as Donna can remember, he served as a deacon at East Bernard Methodist Church.
Before leaving for church on Easter Sunday, Mr. Brandes would solemnly line up his gang of grandchildren for inspection, starting with the oldest and ending with the youngest. A pat on the head from her grandpa and a kiss on the cheek from her grandma signaled to Donna that she had passed the review.
She never worried, though, because in her new Easter outfit Donna felt like a princess.
In 1948, her Easter outfit was a yellow dotted Swiss dress trimmed with white lace made by her mother. The annual ritual of creating the dress began at least a month before Easter Sunday.
After the Brandes family returned from church, the children were thrilled to find that the Easter Bunny had dropped by. He left colorful boiled eggs, chocolate-covered bunnies and fat yellow marshmallow chicks, along with little gifts, in the nests the children had created.
A bright red metal truck in the nest of her cousin, Bubba, caught Donna’s attention. As hard as she tried, Donna could not convince Bubba to trade it for her sweet new baby doll.
Some 70 years later, Donna, who lives at West Point, Texas, has learned to live with her disappointment!
Easter on a Legendary Texas Ranch
Christine McBride Morrison grew up on one of the largest ranches in the world. However, her family’s Easter celebration was surprisingly similar to those of many other Americans during the 1950s.
On the Saturday afternoon preceding Easter Sunday, Christine and her younger sister, Karen, and brother, Peter, dunked eggs in the various colors of dye using a little wire holder. After the Easter Bunny hid them on Easter Sunday, the kids went on an Easter egg hunt as soon as they got up. One year when the weather was bad, the Easter Bunny hid the eggs in the house.
Their mother saved the children’s brightly colored woven baskets filled with shredded green straw in the top of her closet from year to year.
Their father had searched for Easter treats under the very same Live Oaks (Encinos in Spanish) when he was a child. Mr. McBride was the ranch foreman of the Encino Division of the legendary King Ranch at Encino, Texas, a job first held by his father.
The McBride family attended church, including Easter Sunday Mass, at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, about a mile from their home. Christine and Karen always had beautiful new Easter dresses with matching purses and hats. It was mandatory in the Roman Catholic Church at the time for girls and women to cover their heads. Christine recalls that while the elastic that held their hats in place wasn’t particularly comfortable, the girls were accustomed to it.
Some years, Mrs. McBride made her girls’ outfits and other years she purchased the clothing when the family made an occasional trip to Corpus Christi, Texas. Visiting the city, a three-hour round trip from the ranch, was a rare treat.
On Easter Sunday, Peter also had a new coordinated outfit, sometimes complete with a bow tie. Mrs. McBride wore a fashionable hat and gloves with her dress or suit, plus high heels. She carried a dressy matching purse. Mr. McBride traded his work clothes for a suit and tie.
After church, the family went to their great-grandparents’ place for a big gathering of the McBride clan and a spread of delicious food that included contributions from all those in attendance. A favorite dish on the buffet table was deviled eggs made from the children’s Easter egg hunt. The tradition continues.
Christine, who lives near Ellinger, Texas, still prepares her mother’s recipe. When she sets the dish on her family’s table every Easter Sunday, for a split second Christine is transported back to her home on the King Ranch at Encino, Texas.
Here Comes Peter Cottontail
For Denise Woodyard, memories of Easters past are filled with pretty bonnets, ruffled dresses, lacy socks, black patent shoes and goodie-filled baskets.
When she was a youngster, Denise, who lives near La Grange, Texas, would awake on Easter morning and race to the kitchen. She was delighted when she found the Easter Bunny’s telltale tracks on the table.
Later, Denise’s family would attend Rose Garden Methodist Church near their Houston home. Afterward, they would head out to their grandmother’s house where the aromas of baked ham and apple pie would meet them at the front door.
Denise and her sister, Janet, often were joined by two cousins from Beaumont, Texas. The four of them would run all over their Granny’s yard hunting for eggs to fill their baskets.
When Denise became the mother of two sons, she sewed Easter outfits for little Paul and Casey. The boys would proudly wear them to Northline Mall in Houston to have their Easter pictures taken with a giant stuffed bunny.
It also was customary on Easter Sunday for Denise and her family to visit her sons’ grandparents. There they shared laughter and Easter egg hunts with their cousins. What fun!
By the way, Denise carried on her dad’s tradition of leaving tiny Easter Bunny footprints on the kitchen table. Discovery of this evidence delighted Paul and Casey as much as Denise had years before.
An Easter to Remember
Joycelene Thomas Odum of Katy, Texas, looks back on Easter Sunday when she was a child and smiles. She can’t help but wonder what her mother’s hens must have thought when they saw their eggs dyed different colors and hidden in the bushes in the front yard.
When it dawned on Joycelene that the decorated eggs she collected had been boiled and were ready to eat, she carried the saltshaker from the kitchen in her Easter basket. After gathering a few, she’d stop and have a delicious snack.
Although Joycelene can’t say for sure, she thinks her mother, Geri, probably joined her because she was always young at heart.
Joycelene particularly recalls the rent house where she and her family were living at Easter 1941. Since their father, Emil Sr., worked in heavy construction, they moved wherever he could get a job. Joycelene and her little brother, Emil Jr., played in the citrus orchard that backed up to the Edinburg, Texas, property.
Since gifts were rare treats for the Thomas kids, when Joycelene received an amethyst ring for her birthday, she was over the moon with excitement. The first thing she did was bury it in the orchard to keep it safe. You guessed it – she never saw the ring again.
For Joycelene, Easter is the highlight of the Christian calendar, a season that becomes dearer to her with every passing year. Her favorite Bible verse is: Jesus said unto her I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. John 11:25.
Even in these trying times, He is with us. Don’t lose heart. Keep the faith.
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