Editor's Note: Jim Townsend grew up in Tama and wrote this seasonal story for The News-Herald. He is referring to the Cherry Mansion, located on North State Street here. He now lives in Urbandale.
In December during the 1950's there appeared a magic Christmas wreath on Grandma Cherry's front door. At first this seemed to be quite strangewhy did she put this special wreath there? In those days neighbors and friends always came to the back door; save for the occasional visit by the pastor, a yearly call by an encyclopedia salesman, or a hobo who was tipped off about a friendly house and a warm meal. Back doors were rarely locked, keys were left in cars overnight, and you were a stranger but once in any home in town. That's just the way it was.
But it seems as though Grandma Cherry knew what she was doing. The wreath was handmade consisting of a sturdy wire frame with individually wrapped "hard candy" firmly attached to the frame. There must have been about a million pieces of candy in this festive Yule display. Attached to the wreath was a long ribbon with a pair of scissors dangling at the end.
The front porch of the Cherry Mansion is enhanced in this photo illustration to accompany the article.
The first person to spot the wreath was Tommy Townsend while out on one of his many discovery adventures. The wrapped candy combined with the scissors sent an invitation screaming at him. For days he would be flush with candy and he knew better than to tell his brothers about the delicious find.
Later he would include Brian Neil in raids on the wreath. This led to Kirk Van De Walle and Keith Lazar joining in the fun. Once the secret was out more children in Tama began to make daily visits to Grandma Cherry's front door. It seemed the wreath would be almost depleted at day's end.
But like magic, the following day, the wreath would be full again to the amazement of all the revelers visiting the front door. The wreath would be replenishedevery morning until Christmas Day.
No one knew for sure how this happened but the kids did spot reindeer tracks behind the carriage house where the horses were kept. They also saw rather small foot prints in the snow!
Mrs. Cherry loved Christmas and children. Although the wreath has not appeared in over 50 years the spirit of the wreath still resides in TamaI am sure.
(Author's note: Townsend is now retired in northern Iowa, Van De Walle is retired in Arkansas where he plays golf and sits in his Cracker Barrel rocker, Neil finds himself in High Finance in Chicago and Lazar is the president of a bank in Washington, Iowa. These boys get together each year and tell South Tama High School stories while playing golf and lying about their scores.)