Overstreet said it is hard for this generation to understand the tough times people experienced in the 1930s and '40s.
There were eight children in his family who lived with their mother, Hattie Lee Overstreet, during the 1930s. Their father worked in Cincinnati and left the family without a fixed income. He rarely was able to send money to the family.
Christmastime for the family usually was bleak and dismal. "We didn't have electricity in our house; the coal oil lamp provided the lighting at night. I never heard of an artificial tree, so that meant going to the woods each year to search for a live tree for Christmas. Our family didn't own a saw, so we had to use an old dull ax to chop down the tree. I made a tree stand that we used, but I never could get the tree to stand straight. There always seemed to be a knot where we chopped the tree down and created a problem in placing it in the stand."
Mrs. Overstreet, who was part Cherokee Indian, was a frugal woman. She saved decorations from the good times in the 1920s. The family did not have lights nor ornaments to hang on the branches.
The decorations included strands of red and green rope and tinsel. A star made of tin foil was placed on the top branch. "When the tree was fully decorated, the only thing we could see were the strands of rope, tinsel and star," he said.
"We never had presents under the tree until Christmas morning. Santa Claus brought each family member only one or two gifts and we were very glad to get them. "My mother always said the same thing each year when she was asked what she wanted for Christmas: 'I hope and pray that none of us are sick at Christmas, and that we all are well and happy.'"
Overstreet has thought many times since reaching adulthood that the world would be better if everyone had the same philosophy as his mother.
Worst and best Christmases
Overstreet said the worst Christmas he can remember was in 1936, when the family spent Christmas with their Uncle Albert and Aunt Polly on a farm nine miles from Liberty.
He does not remember why they spent Christmas with their aunt and uncle, but said it may have been because there was no food, coal oil or wood to heat the house in town. "I was too young to consider any of this but the main thing I remember is that Santa Claus did not bring any presents that year," he said. "The only things he brought were fruit, candy and a nut (almond) that was shaped like a small orange slice. I never have liked that kind of nut since that Christmas."
His relatives tried to make Christmas enjoyable for the Overstreets, but he was too young to appreciate it and the disappointment of that Christmas still haunts his memories.
While the Grinch stole the 1936 Christmas, Overstreet remembers when times were better during the holidays.
The Methodist and Baptist churches, two blocks from the Overstreet residence, always provided a bag of candy for children who attended the Sunday morning service before Christmas.
"We always looked forward to receiving the candy, as it was one of the few times of the year we got any candy. I can remember me and my brothers, Ray and Bobby, bringing the precious treats of candy home from church. The bags of candy were provided for children by merchants and the well-to-do families in town."
The Overstreet brothers were thankful for the gift and gladly made it home with the little, brown bags filled with orange slices, grocery mix, chocolate-covered cherries, peanut brittle and peppermint candies."
School also played a part in Overstreet's Christmas memories during the Great Depression. "There was a time when a large majority of the population knew that the reason we celebrated Christmas was because it was the birthday of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," Overstreet said. "It was a time when we knew that 'Jesus was the reason for the season,' and we did not have people telling us we had to take down certain decorations because they were too much of a religious nature."