For the past century, Violet Antisdel never felt like her birthday on Christmas Eve played second fiddle to the holiday season celebrations.
But even after almost 100 years, friends, family and the staff at Crest Haven Care Center in Creston were able to surprise her with a small party with cake and ice cream Monday afternoon.
Though Violet’s sweet tooth hasn’t changed, the transformation of how to celebrate the holiday season in 1913 — presents, technology, travel distance and even the weather — doesn’t compare to the 2013 holiday season.
Violet grew up on a farm about five miles outside of Corning.
In order to go to school, she rented out a room in Corning each week for $1.25. Her father would drop her off on Monday with a week’s worth of supplies and return on Friday afternoon to take her home.
As a child, she said her favorite present was getting her first doll that you could put to sleep and had hair.
“I can’t remember asking for something that I didn’t get,” Violet said. “I knew it was my birthday and we were going to have Christmas and boy, I couldn’t wait to have double gifts.”
After graduating from Corning High School, Violet married Cecil Antisdel in a ceremony broadcast over KFNF Radio (now KMA Radio) in Shenandoah.
“It was just something different,” Violet said. “The auditorium was full of people because they had said we were going to have a wedding that afternoon. Most had never, ever even heard of us.”
Cecil and Violet moved to a farm outside of Prescott near the Adair and Adams County line where they raised cattle and chickens.
The family sold cream and usually 30 dozen eggs each Saturday in order to buy their groceries for the week.
“We would hurry and get the chores done so we could go to town on Saturday night,” Violet said. “That’s when we got our groceries in the big town of Bridgewater.”
After retiring from farming, they worked a couple of years checking in campers at Lake Icaria before moving into Creston in 1983.
Birthdays and holidays
On Christmas Eve — and Violet’s birthday — the family would go to the evening church service.
“When we came home, Santa Claus had already been there,” said Violet’s daughter, Lamona Bilderback.
The family would always celebrate the birthday with cake and Christmas Day dinner would have other sweets like pie.
Violet’s son, Larry Antisdel, said in their family the dessert was always a big portion of the meal.
“If you didn’t have dessert, you felt like, well that was a stupid dinner,” Violet joked. “You’ve got to have dessert.”
Lamona said each year was centered around one, maybe two gifts for Christmas and birthdays.
One of Lamona’s favorite presents was a sled. One of Larry’s most memorable gifts was a used bicycle.
“To me, it didn’t matter that it was used,” Larry said. “I remember trying to ride it in snow like this, but it didn’t work so well. I ended up riding it to country school that summer.”
Presents were not just important to the recipient. The whole family took pride in being able to provide gifts for each other.
When Larry got his first horse, Chief, it was an big moment for everyone in the Antisdell family.
“We were just as proud as peacocks because we gave you (Larry) something the other kids had,” Violet said.
Weather and family
With the threat of more snow in the forecast today, Violet recalled a winter that was so bad, the family was snowed in for two weeks and had to take down fence to finally reach the road.
“She had to call the county supervisor and engineer and they came up there to plow us out and the Caterpillar wasn’t big enough,” Larry said.
“We scooped and scooped and scooped to get out,” Violet said. “People don’t believe that in this day and age.”
When the family was able to break through the drifts and travel freely, they had weekly dinners with the grandparents.
“One thing she was always famous for was her (homemade) noodles,” Lamona said.
Lamona said today it is much harder to get the entire family together with distance and multiple family gatherings.
But no matter the distance, threat of weather or type of presents, Violet never let little things dampen her excitement for her birthday or the holiday season.
“We didn’t know any different, we thought we were living a great, normal life,” Violet said. “It would just be interesting to see what the generation would do now if we went back to way back when.”