Don’t forget Santa Letter’s deadline is always the first Friday in December, Dec. 2nd.

Click on the Santa letter above for a free downloadable coloring page.

It’s time for Santa Letters again.
Santa Letters must be in by Friday, Dec. 2. These will be run in the Christmas Special edition. Please don’t edit them! We want them just as they are. Misspellings just make them cuter and show the developmental age they are. It takes one person 48 – 60 hours to type them all and only up to 2nd grade please. We don’t have enough room for more. Special needs
kids are excluded from the 2nd grade rule, of course, and may submit one. Also, please feel free to use your own Santa letter forms if you like. We plan to put any colored/artistic ones we get on the website right before Christmas.
You can snap a photo, scan in or screen shot it and email is and we’re are located at 210 S. Washington St., Livingston, with our news stand out front. Feel free to drop letters off at the office, but call ahead 205-652-6100. The front office is closed due to COVID-19 and we want to be sure to be there to take your letters. We’ll call or email and give the schools a reminder deadline week. Please let us know if you need to pick them up from the school.
Thank you!
Sumter County Record Journal

SSCC Holiday Happenings
Now in its twelfth year, Here Comes Santa Claus is sponsored by the Shelton State Ambassadors and allows students, faculty, staff, and community members to assist those in need. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 9. To learn how to help, contact Forrest Smith at Theatre Tuscaloosa’s The Great Christmas Cookie Bake-Off will run Dec. 9-18. Times and prices vary. Visit Theatre Tuscaloosa for additional information. Tuscaloosa CommUNITY Fest will be held at the McDonald Hughes Community Center on Dec. 10 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The event will feature local vendors, games and activities for children, live DJs, food trucks, and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament with a $2,000 prize. While the event is free, attendees are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy for local Tuscaloosa families. The College will be closed for the holidays beginning Dec. 23-Jan. 3. Regular hours of operation will resume on Jan. 4 with spring classes beginning on Jan. 10, 2023. For more information, contact SSCC Media and Communication at

The ugliest Christmas tree in the world – according to my grandson

By Madoline Thurn

Madoline Thurn reads The Ugliest Christmas Tree in the World – according to my grandson

War and poverty through the eyes of a little girl

Written by Bertha Pruitt, Gainesville resident
She was born in the backwoods of rural Alabama during World War II. She was the ninth child born to sharecroppers. Her earliest recollection is the fall of 1945. She vividly remembers the family being issued some rations and war bonds called “sugar stamps.”

Each month when the stamps arrived, her father and three brothers would head to town . to purchase the basic staples which were not raised on the farm.

This consisted of a sack of flour, sugar, coffee, and a sack of Uncle Ben/Carolina Rice. The cornmeal was ground from corn (grown on the farm ) and taken to the grist mill for grinding. Milk, butter, eggs and chickens were all raised on the farm.

They processed syrup from sugar cane. Farm life was pretty routine. One had to rise early each morning to feed the farm animals and milk the cows in order to have fresh milk and butter before heading off to work on the farm. If the family was not in the field by sunrise, they were considered lazy by their neighbors.
They were to work from sunup to sun down with a one hour lunch break. Children under the age ten were allowed to stay at home with their smaller siblings and do the entire household chores. In many cases, this also meant cooking meals for the family.

The children were allowed to go to school for approximately four or five months out of the school year (only when there was no work to be done on-the farm).

It mattered not to this young mind that the country was at war or that the “sugar stamps” were being issued by the government because of dire poverty. The one bright moment during this period was Christmas 1945 – one of her older sisters got married at their home. Preparations were always made in advance for the two-week long holiday celebration. The children were busy cleaning and sprucing up their home. The yard was swept with brooms made from dry, tall grass that turned into straw in the fall. The bark around the trees was white washed with lime and water. The children would go into the woods and break branches from red berry bushes to be used as decoration for the doors and windows, as few could actually afford Christmas trees. This was always done for the season. But this was not an ordinary Christmas; pigs were fattened for the kill along with chicken, turkeys and other wildlife that could be acquired from hunting – a learned profession for the men.

Dec. 24, 1945 was different. This youngster had never witnessed such an event taking place right before her own eyes. Neighbors and family were traveling near and far by foot, carrying baskets of food, cakes and pies that they had spent weeks baking.

The men were busy outside roasting pigs and brewing up big cast iron pots of gumbo soup called bunion in that area. One of the elders was playing the fiddle, someone was playing the drum (a tin can), while another was blowing the harmonica.

The children stood in awe, peeping from the corners of the house or hidden behind bushes to watch and hear. They were not allowed to get involved in grown-up frolic, especially with the men folk.
The day arrived for the big event. The stage was set up (two cardboard boxes) covered with handmade sacks. The children had gone into the woods and collected holly branches, which were set up on both sides of the stage. Everybody was dressed in their finest clothing. The bride, age 16, was adorned in “something new and something blue.”

She wore a turban, covering her unbraided pigtails, wearing a free-flowing skirt and blouse (all borrowed).
Finally the “stretch limo” arrived. This was a freshly painted wagon, pulled by two mules that had been carefully chosen and released from family duties for this great occasion. The groom descended from the wagon, wearing freshly starched and ironed jeans, a white shirt and shiney dress shoes, which were no doubt borrowed or given to him as a wedding gift by his land owner.

Reverend Brown had arrived very early on horseback, wearing a black Stetson hat and overalls. He carried his preacher’s robe and well – worn Bible. He had come early to get a head start on the food and drinks. He slipped into his robe and went around chatting with his charge (the people of the community) and eating everything in sight. Soon the ceremony was performed. The couple “jumped the broom” and the all-night feast was on.. The bride and groom climbed into the wagon and went throughout the community shouting, “merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

1945 was the age of innocence for this little girl. She knew not terror of war, the impact poverty played on one’s life, or the many unfulfilled possibilities. She had no contact with the outside world.

There were no newspapers or magazines. The only battery-operated radio was used strictly by the grown ups, to listen to ball games, or the Amos & Andy Radio Show. The children made mud pies or played games of hide and seek. Toys were made from cans and bottles that were thrown out or other things they could fashion from discard on the farm.

The holiday season brought their greatest joy. Celebrations began on Christmas eve and lasted through the New Year. Plans were made for each of the 12 days of Christmas. The children visited all their neighbors and relatives during this period to collect their gifts.

Often it would be a hand-made garment from one of the relatives, providing they could spare the materials from an extra feed sack or baked goodies from grandma.

Many years later, the little girl can now look back on her past experience with no regrets.
She feels that the exposure of her early childhood (having come up through the rough side of the mountain) has made her much wiser and much stronger. She can now take the dark times into perspective, knowing there will be a bright time tomorrow.

Keep Your Dogs and Cats Safe From Holiday Hazards

This holiday season, while you’re busy decorating, cooking, and wrapping gifts, remember to watch out for holiday temptations for your pets. FDA veterinarian Carmela Stamper tells how to keep your animals safe.

Stocking Stuffers and Pet Treats

If your dog received a stocking full of pet treats, make sure he doesn’t gobble them all up at once. According to Stamper, if he eats the treats whole, or eats too many at once, he may not be able to digest them. Unchewed pet treats can get stuck in the trachea (windpipe) or gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, and intestines), particularly in small dogs.

If your dog is in obvious distress from eating too much too fast, says Stamper, contact your vet immediately. Some telltale signs are drooling, choking, or vomiting.

Take note of timing. If a bone or chew toy lodges in your dog’s stomach or intestines, the symptoms might not be immediate. Hours to days later, he may vomit and have diarrhea, be less active, not want to eat, and have stomach pain. If the blockage stays there too long, your dog may become very ill. The worst-case scenario is when a hole develops at the blockage site, causing a life-threatening infection.

“When in doubt, contact your veterinarian, who may need to take x-rays or use an endoscope to see what and where the problem is,” Stamper says. Your dog may even need surgery to remove blockages in the intestines.

Tinsel and Ribbons

When decorating your tree and wrapping or unwrapping gifts, keep a close eye on where you leave your leftover tinsel, string, and ribbons.

“Your cat may find these decorations irresistible because they look like easy-to-catch, sparkly, and wiggly prey,” Stamper says. In fact, they can cause serious stomach and intestinal damage.

Symptoms may take a few hours or several days to appear, and include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and decreased activity. Play it safe by keeping tinsel off the tree and collecting all ribbons and strings after gifts are opened.

Holiday Plants

If you have holiday plants such as poinsettias, holly, or mistletoe around, take care. When you display (or dispose of) these plants, your cat may decide they’re good to eat, Stamper says.

Poinsettias, for example have a milky white, latex sap that can irritate your animal’s mouth and stomach and may cause vomiting and diarrhea. “If your cat has snacked on poinsettia leaves, you can help him by picking up his food and water dishes for a couple of hours to let his stomach settle,” Stamper advises.

The National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) states that the major toxic chemicals in mistletoe are lectins and phoratoxins. These chemicals affect the heart, causing low blood pressure and slowed heart rate.

“Fortunately for your cat, severe mistletoe toxicity is uncommon and usually occurs only if your pet eats a large amount,” Stamper explains. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, and odd behavior.

While holly isn’t as harmful, you should still discourage your pets from eating the berries and leaves, Stamper says. In both dogs and cats, the plant’s toxins can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and decreased activity.

Table Scraps

Resist the temptation to give your pet table scraps that are high in fat, such as fat trimmed from meat or skin from your roasted turkey or chicken. “In addition to the typical gastrointestinal upset, rich, fatty foods can cause a potentially life-threatening and painful disease called pancreatitis,” Stamper says. The most common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include vomiting, stomach pain, restlessness, shaking, diarrhea, fever, and weakness.

In cats, the symptoms are less clear and harder to notice, such as decreased appetite and weight loss.

And be careful what you put in the trash can, Stamper warns. Dogs, especially, are notorious for helping themselves to the turkey carcass or steak bones disposed of there. As with too many treats, bones can get stuck in your dog’s esophagus, or trachea. Sharp pieces of bones can also injure your dog’s mouth, esophagus, and stomach, and can cause severe internal injuries.

“Don’t forget, once dinner is done, dispose of the leftovers and bones somewhere where your pets can’t get to them,” Stamper says.

Other Human Treats, Including Alcohol

As many pet owners know, chocolate can be dangerous to your dog or cat. Chocolate toxicity depends on the type and amount of chocolate your dog has eaten, his body weight, and if he’s extra-sensitive to the toxic compound in chocolate called theobromine, Stamper says.

Moreover, the seemingly harmless mints common in the holiday season cause life-threatening problems for your dog if they contain xylitol, also found in food items such as candy, gum, some peanut butters, and baked goods, and personal hygiene products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash. Symptoms occur quickly after dogs eat xylitol-containing items, Stamper says. Vomiting is generally first, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar (hypoglycemia), such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse, and seizures. Check the package labels to see if they contain xylitol.

After eating chocolate, some pets develop more severe complications, including liver failure, bleeding disorders, and death. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate or xylitol-containing items, consider it an emergency and call your veterinarian immediately.

Finally, there’s alcohol. Depending on how much they drink, pets that consume alcohol can develop serious problems. The most common symptoms in pets associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages are vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination, weakness, decreased activity, difficulty breathing, and shaking. In severe cases, coma and death from respiratory failure (lungs stop functioning) can occur. “Don’t accidentally leave your eggnog on the coffee table,” Stamper says.

Laser toys: how to keep kids safe

The ACT Invites You to the Land of Narnia Just in Time for Christmas
Lucy Pevensie, along with her siblings Peter, Susan and Edmund, invite you to experience the enchanting land of Narnia, as The Actor’s Charitable Theatre (ACT) presents The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the historic Bama Theatre in downtown Tuscaloosa, Dec. 15-18. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday through Monday night, and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Sunday 7:30 p.m. performance includes admission to a 7 p.m. pre-show discussion with Dr. Scott Reynolds, lead pastor of North River Church, on the works and writings of C. S. Lewis Tickets and information are available at or (205)393-2800. The Box Office will be open one hour prior to each show time as well.

Many kids (and parents) who have seen Luke Skywalker battle Darth Vader with a light saber think lasers are cool.
What they may not know is this: When operated unsafely, or without certain controls, the highly-concentrated light from lasers—even those in toys—can be dangerous, causing serious eye injuries and even blindness. And not just to the person using a laser, but to anyone within range of the laser beam.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is concerned about this potential danger to children and those around them and in 2014 issued a guidance document (PDF 60K) on the safety of children’s toy laser products.
“A beam shone directly into a person’s eye can injure it in an instant, especially if the laser is a powerful one,” explains Dan Hewett, health promotion officer at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
Moreover, eye injuries caused by laser light usually don’t hurt. Vision can deteriorate slowly and, therefore, may go unnoticed, for days and even weeks. Ultimately, the damage could be permanent, Hewett says.
Some examples of laser toys are:
• lasers mounted on toy guns that can be used for “aiming”;
• spinning tops that project laser beams while they spin;
• hand-held lasers used during play as “light sabers”; and
• lasers intended for entertainment that create optical effects in an open room.

A laser creates a powerful, targeted beam of electromagnetic radiation that is used in many products, from music players and printers to eye-surgery tools. The FDA regulates radiation-emitting electronic products, such as lasers (including children’s toy laser products), and sets radiation-safety standards that manufacturers must meet.
Toys with lasers are of particular interest to the FDA because children can be injured by these products. Because they are marketed as toys, parents and kids alike may believe they’re safe to use.
For toys to be considered minimal risk, the FDA recommends that the levels of radiation and light not exceed the limits for Class 1, the lowest level in regulated products as defined by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).
Lasers used for industrial and other purposes often need higher radiation levels for their intended functions. But these higher levels are not needed for children’s toys—and if they are present, they can be dangerous.
Hand-held laser pointers—often used  in business and higher education to help illustrate presentations—have increased in power 10-fold or more over the last decade. And while adults may buy a laser pointer for use in work, kids often play with them for amusement.
The fact that lasers can be dangerous may not be evident, particularly to the children who inappropriately use them as toys, or to the adults who supervise them.
Laser Safety: Tips to Keep in Mind
Remember that laser products are generally safe when they follow the legal limits and are used as directed. But lasers can cause harm if not used properly. The FDA recommends the following general safety tips for consumers.
• Never aim or shine a laser directly at anyone, including animals. The light energy from a laser aimed into the eye can be hazardous, perhaps even more than staring directly into the sun.
• Do not aim a laser at any vehicle, aircraft, or shiny surface. Remember that the startling effect of a bright beam of light can cause serious accidents when aimed at a driver in a car, for instance, or otherwise negatively affect someone doing another activity (such as playing sports).
• Look for an FDA-recommended IEC Class I label on children’s toy lasers. The label says “Class 1 Laser Product,” which would clearly communicate that the product is of low risk and not in a higher emission level laser class.
• Do not buy laser pointers for children, or allow children to use them. These products are not toys.
• Do not buy or use any laser that emits more than 5mW power, or that does not have the power printed on the labeling.
• Immediately consult a health care professional if you or a child suspects or experiences any eye injury.

Watch how fast a dry tree goes up vs. a well hydrated tree…

If your winter holiday tradition includes an artificial or real Christmas tree, you need to be aware of the fire risks. The public buys more than 28 million live Christmas trees every year.* If your tree catches on fire, the fire can spread very quickly.
When you’re decorating with live trees, make sure you keep the tree hydrated. A dry Christmas tree that comes in contact with a flame can catch on fire in fewer than 10 seconds and spread fire and smoke throughout the home.
A few tips to keep your holiday decorations bright and safe:

Choose the freshest cut tree you can find. Check to see if the needles stay intact when you gently pull on a branch.
After making a fresh cut and placing the tree in a stand, immediately fill the stand’s water basin and keep it filled with water until you take the tree out after the holidays. Place electrical cords and lights away from the water.
Choose holiday lights that have a testing laboratory label attached, such as UL, and throw away any frayed or damaged light strands.
Place the tree several feet away from heat registers, space heaters, and fireplaces.

If you decorate with lit candles, make sure they are at least three feet away from the tree and 12 inches away from other decorations and anything else that can burn.

Fire is everyone’s fight. Learn more about holiday fire safety on the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) website: Follow USFA on Twitter at @USfire and on Facebook at

Holiday Food Safety

FDA gives simple steps to help ensure that harmful bacteria won’t be a guest at your festivities.

How to Cook a Whole Chicken or Turkey

USDA Food Safety 15 Sec -The only way to know food has been cooked to a safe internal temperature is to use a food thermometer.

Poinsettias: Caring for the Christmas Flower

By Justin Miller, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Poinsettias reign supreme as the main flowers of the holiday season. Also known as the Christmas flower, these beautiful plants offer a variety of colors that compliment any holiday decorations. During Christmas, red and green poinsettias are the most common. However, there are a wide variety of other colors, including pink, white, orange, marbled, pale green and cream. To keep poinsettias thriving through the holidays, there are few things people must do.
Chip East, an Alabama Extension commercial horticulture regional agent, said to have a vibrant poinsettia through the season, the first step is choosing the correct plant.
“When picking a poinsettia, choose one with colorful bracts but one that the blooms have not opened,” East said.
Bracts are the colorful leaves most people associate with the plant. The actual poinsettia flower is the small green or yellow flower in the center of the bracts. Plants should appear full, with dark green leaves attached from the colored bracts to almost the base of the plant. The leaves should be completely free of disease and insects.
Care and Maintenance
Poinsettias do not tolerate high moisture or shaded areas. After purchasing, place the poinsettia in a window seal when possible. They can be moved to areas for display when needed. They thrive in bright sunlight with moderate temperatures no higher than 70 degrees. However, if the sunlight is too direct, the bracts will discolor.
“If a decorative wrap is around the pot, remove the plant from the wrap before watering,” East said. “Allow the water to drain before placing the plant back in the wrap.”
The average lifespan of an attractive poinsettia is about two to four weeks, or with exceptional care, six to eight weeks. However, it is actually a perennial plant that could live for many years. If someone wants to attempt to reflower and maintain their poinsettia, it will need more attention than in the Christmas season.
“Getting a plant to reflower is difficult for the home grower but can be done,” East said. “Spending time to reflower a poinsettia would make a home grower appreciate the nursery that originally grew it.”
For more information on caring for Christmas poinsettias, visit or contact your county Extension office.