Old-Fashioned Christmas in Atlanta
By Jasmine Willis
ATLANTA — A gentle quiet comes over the community every year right before Christmas time when everything slows down for the old-fashioned holiday event.
EJ Cottrell Memorial Library holds A Historic Christmas event every year since 2013. This year it landed on Dec. 20 in the sleepy little town. The community and library staff all come together right before Christmas to wish everyone the best for the new year ahead, have historically accurate foods, and reminisce about childhood memories.
Brenda Yeoman, We Wear History co-founder, said she loves to be an ancestor from the 1700s named Rebecca every year.
“The old-fashioned Christmas is my childhood. We grew up in the cowboy era. It’s a Wonderful Life was always my favorite Christmas movie,” she said. “My favorite childhood Christmas memory is when I got my cowgirl outfit. I was 7-years-old. We had an old rail fence outside our home, and we went out and sat on the fence pretending it was our horses. Belinda (Schuler) and I did everything together growing up. We always got the same gifts for Christmas. Once we became teenagers we drifted, but once we were single moms we got closer again. We went back to spending every moment together like when we were kids.”
“We lived in the village as single mothers and walked everywhere together. We had a lot of the same interests. We would talk about everything. We would study all the old architecture, and noticed we had a lot of old buildings in town. We got very interested in the history, and did a lot of research on old time things,” Yeoman continued. “We started by doing ink drawings. Belinda did these beautiful eight-by-ten ones and I did really small ones. Belinda started us on paintings, and she would do them on the pools in motels. I would do them on the windows in stores. Belinda has always been the glamor girl, and I like to be the farmer’s wife.”
Yeoman added the sisters have decided there may no longer be a We Wear History club in the near future. Since it has come down to the two of them it is harder to keep the club going.
“I have a few more Rebecca programs to do in Wayland, but I don’t know what to do from there. It is hard to keep this going with it just being the two of us most of the time. We have made a lot of very good friends since we started this about six years ago. We went to so many places, festivals, nursing homes, and old stores,” she said.
It all started with the sisters and Stacy Gilson. From there the group gathered Hope Decker, Mary Weidman and Veronica Weiand. When the group began it was about what everyone was interested in bringing to the table. From there it became about history, dresses, and bringing joy to others all over the region.
Alden J. Vose, a local artist and patron, said he wanted to create something beautiful for the sisters to hold onto.
“He was very interested in what we were doing. His sister sells his work in a gallery out west. He is a photographer who makes digital paintings out of the photos. He wanted to do a whole series on We Wear History. He had all the girls come in with all of our dresses we have made over the years. Belinda and I made so many we had to keep going into the bathroom and change in and out of them. He had a big back drop in the children’s room we all stood in for the photos. We had many different eras to wear, and he told us we would get a copy of them to put up in the library,” Yeoman said.
Belinda Schuler, library director, said she wanted to wear her 1920’s Flapper era dress for the first time this year. This is the most modern she has ever gone with We Wear History.
“The year I got my stroller is my favorite childhood Christmas memory. I was about three years old, and mom would always give us the big things unwrapped. She would make us wait out a minute until she turned on the Christmas tree lights. There were two strollers next to the tree with baby dolls in them. It was the best present ever. Mom always made sure Brenda and I got everything equal whether it was toys or snacks,” she said.
Yeoman recalled the small-town they grew up in McConnellsville, NY. It was near Camden, NY in the Syracuse area. Yeoman talked about what it was like growing up in a small-town and how she carried on with that in Atlanta.
Tayonna Kinney, Belinda’s daughter, talked about the importance of We Wear History to her aunt and mother.
“We have lived here for about ten years, so since my son was about eight months old. I have always loved watching my mom dress up in these beautiful old clothes. Aunt Brenda and mom dressed up in Camden for something historic once when I was about 2-years-old. I have a vivid memory of mom wearing this beautiful black dress,” she said.
We Wear History will remain in the hearts of all who have enjoyed it over the years. It adds a bit of wonder to the community. It gave us insight into how women and men dressed over the centuries and the feeling of being in that time period.