What is the definition of a small town? Is it determined by statistics and demographics? Is it a place where neighbors are nosy and gossip abounds? How about a place where there are no stop lights and maybe just one little church where everyone in town goes on Sunday mornings?

By Trish Morgan
For the News Tribune
Some of you know that I am a contributing author for Allegany Magazine. Each month, Shane Riggs, editor, gives me the theme for the next issue - and I crank out an article with the theme in mind. Allegany Magazine comes out at the beginning of each month throughout the year, and copies are available all throughout the area.
The following is the long version of my first article that I wrote for Allegany Magazine. It was called "Christmas of Cavin," and a condensed version was published in the December 2017 issue. I have posted the story below. Forewarning - it is a little long, so grab a cup of coffee and a couple of cookies, even play some Christmas music!!
What is the definition of a small town? Is it determined by statistics and demographics? Is it a place where neighbors are nosy and gossip abounds? How about a place where there are no stop lights and maybe just one little church where everyone in town goes on Sunday mornings?
Today, I am travelling back to my childhood. A time when I was 12 years Maryland,  - a town which at that time had a population of about 3,000 people. The town was the largest of a little area called the Tri-Towns - where you could just walk across the bridge to Piedmont, West Virginia, or travel up the road about a mile or so past Westvaco (now Verso) to an even smaller town called Luke, Maryland.
Christmas time in the Tri-Towns for a young girl aspiring to grow up and make her way into the world was truly a magical time of the year. There were the colorful strings of lights down the main streets, strung from telephone pole to telephone pole. My dad worked for the cable company for most of his working life, and he would get his cable truck and work with some volunteers in the town to string up those lights. As a little girl, I thought my dad must be something real special to be able to put up those lights.
Everyone in town knew what it meant when those lights went up! The Christmas parade would soon be traveling down the main streets - and the strings of lights would be lit up once the parade began. What a thrill that was for children and adults alike! The fire whistle would blow to signify the parade was about to begin in Piedmont, and then the lights would be turned on. And soon, the parade would make its way along the parade route.
My brother and sisters would be downtown waiting for the parade - knowing that candies were going to be thrown out to the kiddos along the way - and when the candy was thrown by the handfuls, children scattered everywhere to see what treasures there would be. Suckers, bubble gum, chocolate coins...little pieces of deliciousness! It was torture for my brother and sisters, though, because Dad said we could not eat our goodies until we got home. But, the pocketed treasures were soon forgotten for a time, because in the parade there would be local bands, girls dressed in sparkly Christmas costumes and twirling batons, firetrucks, lots of decorated floats, Christmas carollers, and at the end - Santa Claus! I had, and still do, have such a love affair with all things music, so the bands playing Christmas songs while they marched in unison - that made my heart swell.
The Tri-Towns Christmas Parade was the kick-off to an exciting holiday season. There were hundreds and hundreds of people who would line the streets - from Piedmont to Westernport. The streets were bustling with rows of people, three rows deep, and it seemed like everyone in the Tri-Towns was there. All of the businesses in the towns were decorated and lit up with colorful lights, a
we kids knew that Santa Claus was coming in about four weeks to deliver lots of presents - marvelous!
I can remember that the Christmas shopping season was as exciting as it got! Once a week, our family would travel over to Piedmont, where there were scores of people on the streets, strolling around and looking at window displays and lights. The highlight of any visit to Piedmont was getting to go to Murphy's - a store that sold everything a child desired.
There was the Cut-Rate, where on Saturdays, as I entered the early teen-age years, my friend Candy and I would often venture. French fries and gravy beckoned, and the Cut-Rate had crushed ice and fountain Fresca - and to me, that was heaven. On Saturdays, many families were out shopping, and stores lined the sidewalks in both towns.
In Westernport, I loved Wagner's Drug Store, where a really nice lady named Patsy would treat us pre-teen girls so sweetly and make us feel so grown up. I will remember her always. Wagner's had Reeds' candies, and to this day, the butter rum is one of my favorites. They also sold delicious homemade milkshakes, and when we were lucky enough to indulge, it was special indeed.
Dad would take all of us kids to Springer's - where John Springer fixed up the best chili dogs anyone ever had in their lives! Springer had cold sodas in a water cooler, and his cheeseburgers were to die for! It was my favorite place to eat as a child. Many people called it Wimp's, but as a precocious young lady, it didn't seem dignified to call someone Wimp. So, our family called him Springer. And the best thing about Springer? HE LIVED ON OUR STREET...RIGHT DOWN THE STREET! We lived right down the street from one of the most famous people in town!
There were so many businesses in the towns, and people walked everywhere. You would see entire families bundled up in their dress clothes and coats and hats and mittens, and we walked. We often stopped in at Peter's for penny candy. Back in those days a dollar went far!
Kenny's Market was the best store in Westernport, and BIll Kenny would cut meat to order. Kenny's also had a delivery service, so you could call up and place your order, run up a tab and pay at the end of the month. And, milk was delivered to your door, placed in aluminum boxes.
Our towns were full of many churches. We had a taxi service, bars and taverns, a fancy dress shop in Piedmont called The Style Shop, the cable office in Piedmont, dentists and doctors, Teeny's Barber Shop, Fred's Barber Shop, Boal and Fredlock funeral homes, a public swimming pool in Piedmont (the Westernport Pool would come later), and lots of grand old homes that lined the main streets of town.
Luke had the Devon Club, and this place would turn out to be quite the teenage hangout. When they closed their doors years later to make way for Westvaco expansion, it was a sad, nostalgic day indeed. Devon Club milkshakes, hamburgers and bowling - when they paid workers to set the pins...for some reason, I found that quite fascinating!
As far as Cavin family traditions (Cavin was my maiden name), my mother and father made sure Christmas was the most beautiful time of the year in our home. Mom loved to bake, and as a child, I can remember all of the sweet goodies she made for the season.
Lots of sugar cookies were made from scratch - Santa Claus, stars, stockings, bells. She would make the dough, roll it out, use her cookie cutters and bake the cookies. Once they cooled on the cookie racks, she made a sugary white glaze, and painted each cookie by hand using toothpicks...hundreds and hundreds of them! Then, we kids got to help (sometimes) to decorate each cookie. There was colored sugar glitter and sprinkles, and each cookie had a specific design. Through the years of those cookies, my favorites varied, but to this day, I remember each one and how extraordinary I thought my mother was to create these year after year.
As for the Christmas tree, it was always real. Dad put the tree up downstairs in the rec room, but there would be no decorations or lights on it until Christmas Eve. Santa would take the time to decorate the tree after he brought in the gifts, and when we came down the steps in the morning to open our presents, the tree would be such a beautiful sight!
Later on, when I thought I was too old for such things, at age 16, my parents permitted my boyfriend and me to decorate the tree. That year when I was sweet 16 at Christmas, I felt so grown up because my parents trusted us to make this tree beautiful so my siblings could marvel at the beauty of it.
Backing up to the weeks before Christmas, though...these were exciting days. Our town always had a house decorating contest, and Dad loved the idea of creating a design to showcase our new home and of course, try to win. It seemed we were always competing with the John Martin family in Central Addition. One year, we would win the contest, then another year the Martins would win. It was all such fun! We went all out. Dad had a different design each year, and I got to design and create the "Merry Christmas From the Cavins" sign. I thought I was hot stuff. Dad trusted me to do it right, and believe me, it had to be perfect! I worked with cardboard, white poster board, pencils and rulers, and yes - lots of glitter. Even today, I love glittery things, especially glittery, beautiful Christmas cards!
During the season, there was always the hope for snow. It seems that back in those days, there was so much more snowfall and we kids in the neighborhood wished for snow everyday! To this day, I still love when the snow falls, love to walk in the pouring snow, even like to shovel - some!
Back in the day, when it snowed, the town did not really treat the roads quickly. We kids would start about up the hill, at the Jim and and Joyce Morris home on Green Street, and then sled ride all the way down Green Street to Central Avenue. It was a long walk back up the hill, but for those seconds of a fast slide down the hill with no cars in the way - a perfect December day!!!
School was also a place where I enjoyed the season. There was always the Christmas program to rehearse for, and in art class, we got to make secret gifts for our parents. In 1969, I can still remember most of the Christmas program at Westernport Elementary. Mrs. Beck chose Alexa Chaney (now Fazenbaker) to sing "O Holy Night"...and she would have to sing it in front of the whole school and our guests. She was one of my best friends, and I was so amazed when she sang that song. I had never heard ANYONE sing like that before in my life. She was magnificent!
Our home was always filled with music, all year round, but especially during the holidays. Mom and I would play four-hand piano, and she would play at home many times throughout the season. If we weren't playing the piano, Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass was blasting on the stereo as we decorated the inside of the house with Christmas cards, garland and lights.
Music makes Christmas, don't you agree? The melodies, the hymns, the Christmas carolling with our church youth group. The sounds of long ago Christmases will forever ring in my heart. My mother instilled the love of music inside me, most likely before i was born. Singing and playing instruments...there is nothing like the sounds of music...and the sounds of Christmas stillness.
My grandmother also lived in Westernport, and on Christmas Eve, she would come up for dinner and stay overnight. She would sleep in my bedroom, my brother would sleep in his own room upstairs, and my two sisters and I all slept in their bedroom upstairs. We did this for so many years, but I can't remember when it started. I guess my parents wanted us all to be upstairs so they could decorate the tree downstairs and put out all of the presents. So, the sleeping arrangements were made, and we knew there would be an early bedtime - even if you weren't sleepy. We were not allowed to make any noise; we had to speak in whispers. And, we had to listen for hooves on the roof and bells on the reindeer.
But before bed, there was the traditional red and green Christmas dinner. I don't recall having anything else on a Christmas Eve ever...at least not as long as I lived at home. There was tomato soup, grilled cheese and a delectable red and green jello dessert with a cream cheese filling between the layers. And, if I recall correctly, we had cherry red Kool Aid to drink. A simple meal, but it was tradition. And it was the perfect prelude to a Christmas morning with a beautiful tree and lots of presents to open! The last thing before we settled, grudgingly, into bed, Dad would read "Twas The Night Before Christmas,” and we kissed our parents and Grandmother goodnight.
We even had Christmas morning traditions. We kids would always be awake first. In fact, we hardly slept! One of us kids would go over and wake up Dad, who would SLOWLY get up, go start a pot of coffee, and then wake up Grandmother and Mom. Grandmother would just wait downstairs in the rec room, and she would make sure all of the lights were lit up on the tree. Dad would take coffee down to Grandmother, and then he and Mom would sit in the kitchen and drink coffee and have a cigarette. We kids were dying to get down the steps, but the adults just had to have their coffee and cigarette! Oh, those cigarettes (just awful).
We all stayed dressed in our PJs, and waited for Dad to tell us we could come out to the living room. It seemed like an eternity! I would just wonder how in the world someone could take so long to drink a cup of coffee!!!
When were allowed to come down, there was the production of Dad going down the steps by himself to see if Santa came. He would put on quite the show, and we kids were ready to scream with anticipation! Dad would finally say that Santa came and brought presents, and Mom would go down to join Dad and Grandmother. Mom, of course, had to get her camera ready to take a bazillion pictures! I used to complain so much about her picture taking, but now, there is documented evidence that there were tons of happy things that happened our lives.
Finally, we would get the call to come on down the steps. FINALLY! We kids opened one gift at a time, taking turns and Mom taking pictures with us kids holding our gifts. There were always things there we wanted, but not everything. But, it was okay. In those days, you could spend hours and hours looking through the Sears Christmas Wish book...imagining all things you would love to have. But, somehow on Christmas morning, it didn't matter that everything we wished for was not there. The wrapping paper, the stockings, the hand-written letter from Santa, the little toys in the stockings, and the usual Slinkys, Barrel of Monkeys, Pick Up Sticks, jacks (oh how I loved to play jacks!) and a big box of Pearl DeVore's homemade chocolates and a huge box of pretzel rods. Those were special treats we would enjoy for weeks to come!
We kids got to play with our new toys, our dress-up costumes, our doll babies and soldiers, and then in the afternoon, we would go to Horse Rock in Westernport to visit Granddaddy and Aunt Gertrude. I loved these visits because they, too, had lovely homes, and Aunt Gertrude and I were sort of kindred spirits. She was a quilter, and she had the most beautiful quilts. They were intricately stitched and appliqued with expert quilting. Next door, we would visit Granddaddy, and under his tree, he had all kinds of musical and moving toys. I loved making all of that noise with the characters clanging their cymbals and Rudolph singing with his nose all lit up. Those toys were a kids' paradise!
Granddaddy always gave us one large gift, and it was always something really special each of us wanted. As a child, I was always impressed with the fact that even though we didn't see him very often, he seemed to know exactly what we wanted! Of course, that is through the wonder of a child's eye on life.
Granddaddy had those Ann Page fruitcakes and crunchy little buttery cookies, and even now, those treats are always part of my holidays. The cookies were not homemade, but they were so pretty! Sitting in little cookie wrappers, siting there with their different sizes and decorations...just the perfect little bite.
Small town Christmas? I suppose there are many of us who have similar traditions and stories. Mine are nothing fantastic or even unusual to others who read this story. But, they are MY family traditions. And, another generation of Cavin family traditions are carried down with my two sons and their four children. We bake, we go to church, we sing Christmas carols, we take pictures (and videos), we read "The Night Before Christmas," Santa leaves notes with their stockings. And, each person in my little family in our little corner of the world, creates new traditions to add to the old...and life goes on. Over-flowing, abundant, significant, memorable.