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LIers enjoy Christmas in the 1950s
A picture of an 11-year-old girl in a holiday dress posing with her sister clutching a porcelain doll, hangs from a wall at the entrance of an exhibit at the Southampton Historical Museum.
That girl is Mary Cummings, an archivist at the museum, posing in a family photo with her younger sister, Laura, on Christmas Day in 1950.
The museum’s exhibit, “A 1950s Christmas in Southampton,” is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. until the end of December.
Admission is $4, but free to museum members and children 17 and younger.
“Of course, my family had a tree and after we opened up all our presents, there was still one present that was a big deal hidden in the closet by our parents,” said Cummings, 73, of Southampton. “One year, I got an accordion and my sister got a parakeet.”
The exhibit, housed inside the Rogers Mansion on Meeting House Lane, gives visitors an opportunity to look back at popular Christmas gifts, fashion and decorations during that decade.
As a child, Cummings remembers decorating ornaments with her family and holding onto the ornaments to put on the tree the following year, which she continues to do to this day.
“It was a different time,” she said. “As kids, we were more easily pleased. A lot of our toys looked cheap like our plastic dollhouse with plastic furniture.”
Visitors walk into a re-creation of a 1950s living room with a decorated tree on Christmas Day. Borrowed photos of Southampton families on Christmas Day also hang on the walls.
Tom Curtin, who grew up in the Bronx, remembers playing with one of his favorite Christmas presents: a red fire chief pedal car. He saw the same toy displayed in the exhibit.
“I remember riding around my house, pulling the string and ringing the bell when there were ‘emergencies,’” said Curtin, 57, of Rocky Point. “I thought it was the coolest present.”
Barbara Bergman grew up in Levittown with five siblings and remembers Christmas in the 1950s like it was yesterday.
“Someone in my family would play Santa and we believed it was really him,” said Bergman, 63, of Rocky Point. “At that time, you believed in Santa a lot longer than kids do now and kids were more appreciative for presents they were given. It was a much more innocent time.”
Every two years, Michele Pasciuti moved with her family because her father served in the Coast Guard, but her family traditions on Christmas were never left behind.
“I remember it all. I got a warm and fuzzy feeling when I walked into this room,” said Pasciuti, 61, of Brightwaters. “When I was young, my mother stitched a stocking together for me to hang and I remember baking gingerbread cookies with her. It was a much more simpler time and family was everything.”