The Best And Worst Of Christmas


It was the best of Christmasses, it was the worst of Christmasses.

And all of the local notables below agreed to share them with us.

It's happened to all of us: the one present under the tree on Christmas that, when you were a kid, made your eyes bug out while involuntarily hollering, "Wow! Look what I got!"

And then there's the evil twin of that moment: the gift that made you think, "What on Earth was that person thinking," right before you tossed it into the pile of junk you'd been amassing for your next yard sale.

Here are some of Payson's best-known residents, reflecting on their best and worst memories of Yuletide package unwrapping.

Bryan Siverson Payson councilmember

Best: "A .22 rifle. I was 13. My oldest brother had been shot in the leg in a hunting accident a couple of years earlier, so my parents were really reluctant to get me a rifle. But they finally broke down and got me one. My brother getting shot in the leg didn't phase me. I didn't want him ruining my fun!"

Worst: "A case of Slim-Fast. It was one of those gift-exchange things. That's a pretty bad Christmas gift."

Jim Spencer Payson councilmember

Best: "My first bike. It was red with high-rise handlebars and all the bells and whistles were there in 1957. Like Martin Luther King, "I was free at last."

Worst: "A resupply of ammunition and C-rations somewhere on the Vietnam/Cambodian border in 1969."

Gordon Gartner Payson police chief

Best: "When I was 12 years old, my uncle gave me a brand new baseball glove, and it was the first time I ever got anything brand new in my life. We'd always get hand-me-downs, and I was like the third boy. So my baseball gloves and all of my shoes and everything else were hand-me-downs which is fine. But it was kinda neat having something brand new for a change.

"I remember a few years later, a kid stole the glove from me, and I caught him and I ... it wasn't very pretty. But I kept that glove for years."

Worst: "I got some terrible ties about three years ago. We had a (department) Christmas party, and they loaded me up with some of the ugliest ties I've ever seen. I think they were trying to tell me something. I know they went to the thrift store and bought them. The worst thing is, I actually wore some of them."

Barbara Brewer Payson councilmember

Best: "Every year that all three of us me, my husband, Sam, and daughter Amy are happy and healthy and together"

Worst: "It was a pink polka-dot 'skort,' a combination or shorts and a skirt, that my mother-in-law bought me. It was in a size 2X, which I did not wear, and it looked like a clown outfit. It was horrible. I started crying. And that was only about eight years ago!"

Stan Brown Rim country historian

Best: "The best Christmas gift I ever received is the reason for the season; God coming to us in human form."

Worst: "It's nonexistent. I have never received a 'worst' Christmas gift. I've loved every little thing I've ever had. I've never received anything I couldn't use or didn't appreciate. Sorry to be so Pollyanna."

Bethany Beck Payson Parks and Rec coordinator

Best: "A beautiful puppy named Toby."

Worst: "There really is no such thing as a worst gift, if the intentions are good. But I did receive a gift with bad intentions once from (Roundup staffers) Jerry Thebado and Katy Whitehouse. It was a hideous Avon decanter that looked like a woman in an 1800s dress. Her torso twisted off to reveal the lid to the perfume bottle. That has since gone on to become a traveling white elephant gift."

Dick Wolfe Payson vice mayor

Best: "My best Christmas was our first one in Payson in 1992, that's for sure. It was just delightful being up here. We decorated and I put about a zillion lights on the house to try and win the (chamber of commerce's) lighting award, but I came in No. 3.

"I'm a real Civil War buff, and that year my wife, Marilyn, got me a first edition of General Grant's memoirs. It's a real treasure to me. Someone had made (a lot of margin notes) in it, and at first I was mad because they'd written all over the book, but reading it I realized it was written by a Civil War veteran contesting some of the facts like, 'I fought in that battle and this isn't what happened.'"

Worst: "The worst Christmas I had was in 1943 I was very young, of course, make sure you print that. We had just moved from Ohio to Avondale, Ariz., and because the war was going on, we couldn't buy anything. We had no Christmas tree, we were living in government housing, and I wanted a machine gun. But the only thing my parents could get me was a wooden machine gun. That was pretty bleak."

Tom Kaleta CEO of the Rim Country Chamber of Commerce

Best: "My son was born just before Christmas, 29 years ago. That would be by far my best Christmas gift ever."

Worst: "In the late '70s or early '80s, I bought a home in Florida, and we went there for the holidays. They had a hurricane. We were there watching water come through the windows at the hotel we had to stay in, because we were told to get away from the home. There was water coming into the lobby through a crack in the windows. That was a pretty bad Christmas."

Russell Judd CEO of Payson Regional Medical Center

Best: "As a child, it was an electric slot-car race set. As an adult, I received from a sister-in-law in Alaska fresh Alaskan king salmon, king crab and fresh fish."

Worst: "I've always been good and never got any coal. Well, one time I got a 12-inch miniature fake Christmas tree ... for Christmas! An old friend sent it to me. I haven't talked to him for a lot of years."

Jim Gannarelli Manager of the Mazatzal Casino

Best: "My mother passed away a couple of years ago January, and we hadn't expected her to live through that one Christmas. That was probably the best."

Worst: "All gifts from my sister-in-law. One year she gave me a tin of stuff you use to clean your golf shoes. That wasn't exciting. Another year I got socks. She really goes all out for me. I think she buys her Christmas presents at MacFrugal's."

Sharesse Von Strauss Director, Rim Country Museum

Best: "My grandfather gave me a beautiful letter just before he died, wishing me good things on my path."

Worst: "Someone once gave me a giant chocolate Santa. I don't eat chocolate, and I think it's a really cannibalistic, bizarre practice to eat the head of someone who is an icon of merriment."

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