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Christmas Stories: Colonel Crockett’s Co-operative Chistmas

December 18, 2009

Rupert Hughes, author and (I assume) illustrator of Colonel Crockett’s Co-operative Christmas, has restored my faith in Christmas stories. It is heartwarming! It has lovely illustrations! It has the Unity of Christmastimes!

It also has a kind of  self-consciously uneducated narration that I didn’t exactly love, but I forgive it.

Most Christmas stories are set in, or centered around, particular homes — preferably old and/or cosy ones — but Colonel Crockett is about the people who can’t be home for Christmas: actors on the road, businessmen in the middle of big deals, families living out of hotels. People like the couple in A Versailles Christmas-tide, or the young men in The Romance of a Christmas Card in the years before they return home.

Colonel Austin Crockett (of Waco, Texas) is in New York on business one Christmas, and writes to his wife that, of the many times in his life when he’s been lonely — he describes most of them — being alone in a big city during Christmas is the loneliest. This is the first of two letters, both written to Mrs. Crockett, that comprise most of the story. There’s also a brief foreword and a briefer note between the two letters describing what’s happened in the intervening time.

Anyway, the first letter consists of Crockett describing how epically lonely he is in the city on Christmas, how many other people must be in the same situation, and how he will never spend Christmas away from his family again. Of course, the next year finds him in the same place, only this time, instead of being left behind in Texas, his family has been left behind in Italy — Crockett used some of the money he acquired by staying in New York the previous Christmas to take them abroad.

Even though he’s stuck in New York again, Crockett is resolved that he won’t be lonely again this Christmas, so he goes and rents out Madison Square Garden (this was apparently the second incarnation of MSG, which opened in 1890 and was demolished in 1925. It was designed by Stanford White, who was also shot and killed there). He spends about twelve thousand dollars throwing a gigantic Christmas party, complete with food, gifts, music, and after-dinner speakers, and somehow no one gets trampled to death or anything. 

There’s nothing really wonderful about the story, I guess — well, except the the Unity of Christmastimes — but it’s really nice all the way through, and basically exactly what it should be. And the illustrations are pretty great. The full page ones are good, but the L-shaped ones from the margins are better. Unfortunately, those are the ones I can’t seem to download, so you’ll have to take a look at  the ebook yourself.

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