Yet again, I’ve found myself staring at the blank page, struggling to find a meaningful subject to discuss this month. I considered handing the column off to Santa again. He did a fairly decent job last year, but alas, the man in the big red suit was not available. Something about supply chain issues. I also tried hitting up the Grinch, but he was too busy causing those supply chain issues, I guess.

So, I was forced to look a little deeper to find a subject worth writing about that is also worth your time reading. I’ve sat for hours this month, at my desk, steeped in frustration. I isolated myself, alienating those around me, until I began to resemble the infamous old miser from the Dickensian opus, “A Christmas Carol.”

It was then, I was visited by my own Ghost of Christmas Past, in the form of a voice in my head – a familiar voice. It was that of my dear, departed friend, Axel Holm, repeating what he’d told me at a Christmas event just two years ago: “Nogales’ history is full of great stories that are worth telling.” Then I went to work doing what I love – research! (Teenage me would be so disappointed in the man I’ve become.)

My laptop turned into a portal through time and space, sending me into the annals of history in search of Nogales’ Christmases of yore. Utilizing every resource at my disposal (Google), I was transported into the past. Dates and headlines of old zoomed by me. Mr. Holm was right; there is so much history in Nogales, and so many great stories worth telling. It was eight decades back, however, that I finally found something I wanted to write about this month.

There, buried in the internet archives of Arizona newspapers, I found a Christmas edition of this very newspaper, the Nogales International, dated Dec. 25, 1941. Intrigued, I clicked the link. At the top of the first page, right above the paper’s name were the words: “Nogales’ Home Newspaper… Published Where Two Nations Meet.”

Suddenly, I was transported to 1941. I was still very much in Nogales, and it still very much felt like home, but it was different in many ways. Smaller, of course. Buildings were different, too, though there were some very familiar things, such as Bracker’s downtown, the Bowman, JC Penney and the Wells Fargo bank. Citizen’s Utilities, the county’s former gas and electric company famous for its inability to keep the lights on through the late ‘90s, was there too. There was even a Christmas Day wedding down at St. Andrew’s.

It had snowed the day before, the first Christmas Eve snow Nogales had gotten in years. People were shopping on Morley, and fresh produce was coming in from Mexico. Not too far removed from life today in our little city.

Most notably, however, was the gray cloud of war that loomed over everything. It hadn’t even been a month since Pearl Harbor was hit by Japanese forces, pulling the United States into a war in the Pacific. Young men who hadn’t already been called into the military through the selective service program were hitching rides to Tucson in the back of Dr. Merritt’s rented station wagon to enlist. Mr. and Mrs. Alvarez’s son-in-law was stuck in New Zealand, unable to safely cross the Pacific Ocean back to the States due to the heightened threat of attack. And the Office of Civilian Defense was issuing instructions on what to do in case of an air raid.

It was a difficult Christmas – something we can relate to in many ways, I think. And yet, the community seemed full of positivity and light that Christmas, in spite of the looming gray cloud.

I returned to the present with a deeper understanding, and feeling a deeper connection to my community. Thank you, Mr. Holm.

If you’d like to see the Dec. 25, 1941 edition of the Nogales International for yourself and experience the same journey into Nogales’ Christmas Past, I’ll be posting all 12 pages on The Wright Idea Facebook and Twitter.

Merry Christmas, Joyeaux Noelle, Feliz Navidad!

(The Wright Idea is a monthly column created by Nogales author Joe Wright in honor of his father’s long-time NI column, The Wright Stuff. Contact him at josephw575@gmail.com.)

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