Sally Carroll shares childhood memories of Christmas

Roseanne McKeeJ-C Correspondent
Sally Carroll shares childhood memories of Christmas

Sally Carroll, who turned 98 in October, moved to Pawhuska with her family when she was three years old and she has lived in Pawhuska ever since. She sat down recently to share her childhood memories of Christmas.

Pawhuskans are well acquainted with her through her business, Sally’s Sandwich Shop, which has been at the same location in downtown Pawhuska since 1950.

Her family was originally from Mexico and had moved throughout the United States because of her father’s job. However, when they arrived in Pawhuska, her mother, Luz Elias, suggested to her dad, Felipe, also known as Philip, that they stay in Pawhuska on a permanent basis.

Luz Elias liked the Osage people and felt accepted by them. Felipe Elias agreed and they decided to stay. He got a good job maintaining the city cemetery in Pawhuska, where he worked for the balance of his career, Sally said.

Once school age, Sally attended public school for a year and then the Catholic priest suggested to her parents that Sally and her seven siblings attend the Catholic School in Pawhuska.

Her parents told the priest that they did not have the money for tuition, which cost a dollar per month, but the priest said that the children could work to earn their tuition. On that basis her parents agreed.

At the age of seven, Sally began working in the Catholic Church’s kitchen. There was no school lunch program, but there was kitchen work to be done preparing meals for the six nuns who lived at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Sally said she enjoyed the work and learned many cooking basics there.

Sally attended the Immaculate Conception Catholic School through eighth grade graduation, when she began working full-time in the restaurant business. To this day, she still runs Sally’s Café four days per week on Tuesday through Friday with tamales on Tuesdays, fish on Fridays and hamburgers and homemade pies every day.

When asked about Christmas, Sally said that her parents did not have Christmas traditions before they came to Pawhuska, but the priest gave them some guidance by suggesting that they hang stockings on Christmas Eve.

“We didn’t know whether to put our own stockings or somebody else’s, so we put our daddy’s stockings out.”

“I don’t remember how old I was but there were our stockings hanging. I imagine the priest helped. I remember the apple and the orange and the nuts and we were so tickled. We had pecans. That’s what Father told us to do, and so we did that.

Throughout her childhood, her parents chose not to have a Christmas tree because “they didn’t believe in it,” Sally said, but they always had the Christmas stockings as the priest had showed them.

“I lived on 12th street. That rock house on the corner is where we lived,” she said.

Sally recalled one December when a tree appeared on her family’s doorstep. She was between the ages of six and ten at the time, she said.

“There was a tree on the front porch when we opened the front door, and I said, ‘there’s a Christmas tree laying on the front porch!’ And everyone went around to look at it and to touch it. ‘Where did it come from? I don’t know.’

“Well, there was three boys that lived down the street from us and one of them was Gene Hamilton. And he always come by the house to see us. I don’t know which one of us he had a crush on, maybe all of us, but anyway, he’d come.

“I said, ‘Gene, you know there’s a tree on the porch.’ I said, ‘We don’t have anything to decorate it with. We don’t know how.’ He said, ‘I’ll show ya.’ I told mom, ‘He says he’s gonna buy the stuff’.”

Although she appreciated the gesture, Sally’s mother, Luz, didn’t want a little boy to take on that responsibility.

“So mom said we couldn’t have [the tree] in the house and we put it on the porch. The tree didn’t have a stand, so we just leaned it up on the porch On the tree we put whatever we found and a string of paper, we made little strings and we put ‘em up and it was fun.”

Her father and brother built a small white house behind the rock house, where Sally lived for a number of years as a young adult.

While living in the little house, Sally did not have her own Christmas tree, but her parents began having a tree in the main house by that time, she said. “We all gathered there at their house and it was fun.”

It was not until she moved into her current house on 10th Street, that she began having her own Christmas tree, which was real.

Sally said she has set new hours at the café: Tues. – Fri. from 9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Located at 614 Kihekah Ave., Sally’s Sandwich Shop will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day, but otherwise open as usual, so plan to stop by for a visit!

Sally says she is often at the café on Saturdays and Monday mornings to clean and prepare for the next week, so friends and customers are welcome to stop by and visit then too.

Sally Carroll will also be featured in the winter edition of Bartlesvill Magazine, to be distributed in early January.