Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christmas 'Tacks"

My old man had a heart attack the summer I was 14. In those days they had no clue how to handle a 39 year old man who’d had a massive heart attack. The old man damned near died. Dr. Graham took a drag on his cigarette and told Dad to “stay in bed for a year, oh yeah and quit smoking” so he did. The result he was bored, pissed and didn’t make any money. Zero. It was a tough time for all of us.

I grew from 5 foot 8 to 5’11’’ from the end of 8th grade to the start of 9th. All my pants were too short, my shoes didn’t fit and worst of all my size 8 skates didn’t fit my brand new size ten feet. Mom told me new skates were out of the question. I needed clothes, badly. That was what I getting for Christmas.
We had a helluva Junior A hockey team, we’d all played together since 6th grade. My pals and I knew we could win it all this season. Gary, Don, John, Dick, Roger and I believed it. I knew I needed new skates. I needed CCM Pro-Lites with the Tackaberry boot. They cost 125.00 in those days. Things, due to inflation over the years are about 7 times more expensive today and if you multiply 125 by 7 comparable skates today cost over $800. Get the picture?

My sister Margo came to me after Thanksgiving, she led me into mom and dad’s room and pointed out a CCM box on the top shelf of Mom’s closet. I took it down and there were my dream skates, the same skates the Pros wore, that the Sioux wore. I couldn’t believe it. We were broke! I tried them on, perfect fit.
The season started in early December with practices on the Central park ice. I suffered through the first one wearing my old skates. Thin socks didn’t help; my new feet were too big. The next day I put my old skates in the new CCM box and put the Tacks with my gear. I started wearing them. I could skate like the wind.
The first game, I blocked a shot, my new Tacks got a dent in the right front post. The 2nd game I got in a battle for the puck in the corner and the toe of my left skate lost a chunk of leather. I was wearing my Christmas present to three practices a week plus two games. I played pick up hockey on Saturdays and Sundays and at least one night a week went to public skating at the old rink at UND. The 3rd game, I blocked another shot and dented the post on the left skate. I had the skates rockered and sharpened at least twice a week. By Christmas the Christmas Tacks were well broken in and roughed up. The tree was up and the CCM box was wrapped and it had my name on it.

Our family routine at Christmas was Christmas Eve at my Dad’s parents, open our presents at home on Christmas morning and then Christmas Day at Moms’ parents. When we got home on Christmas Eve, I stayed awake until well after one. I razored open the CCM box and put the new Tacks in it and wrapped it back up. I had polished them the best I could. We opened our presents on Christmas morning, I waited as long as I could. I got new pants, shirts and sox. I had pants that fit for the first time in months. The last present, the CCM box wrapped in red foil paper was glowing like it was radioactive. I finally had to open it. I did an acting job that warranted an Oscar. My Dad asked to see my new skates, he looked them over and then said to my Mom, “Janice, I thought we got him new skates? These look like they’re used.” I confessed. My mother knew all along, she always knew everything.
It was a very good Christmas at a difficult time for our family. My grandparents helped make the new Tacks happen, mom had scrimped and saved.
Our team won Junior A that season.


  1. Wonderful story Bobby and you're right Mom's always know! geo

  2. Love this story. What a great Christmas memory!