Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve past and present....

We seldom have snow here in sunny Florida.....but on the Christmas Eve, 1989, we had a bit of snow fall.  We also had a family tragedy, and learned that blessings come in many forms.

The following is taken from the magazine Signs of the Times...March 1990 edition.....

And early morning fire swept through the Freeman Electric Company, Panama City, FL, on Christmas Eve causing an estimated $350,000 damage.  It took 26 firefighters nearly three hours to quell the blaze, hampered by 2 -3 inches of snow and record cold temperatures.

Our family is often stubborn, always there for each other and the community and with God's help, resilient.  Here is more of the story as told in the magazine....

Despite the bleak prospects for Christmas, J.T. Duncan, owner of the electric sign company, (and my daddy)says that the assistance of the local business community - including help from rival sign companies - turned this mishap from personal tragedy to community triumph.

Freeman Electric Co. founded in 1936, was started as a neon sign shop by the late H.O. Freeman with the help of J.T. Duncan.  Since Freeman's death in 1980, Duncan, with his wife Margaret, (and my mama) has owned and operated the company.  

At the time this happened, my three brothers and one grandson worked in the business.

The immediate concern of my parents was the safety and welfare of family members and employees.  My mama was quoted, we're just so thankful that on one was hurt or killed.  

Mama also noted that daddy had spent the better part of his life building that company.

What strikes me the most, then and now, was how much my daddy was loved and respected in this community.  People came together and helped in whatever ways they could.  One local businessman donated the use of his building, rival companies offered the use of their equipment and right after Christmas, business was up and going again.

There were $60,000 worth of signs ready to roll out the door when the fire happened.  All of these signs - and the signs contracted before the fire - have been completed.  They were back in full swing!

There was an open attic in the shop that as children we sometimes (not often) were allowed to climb up to, to look around.......things were there that could never be replaced.  Copies of the magazine I've quoted from, from as far back as 1937 were all destroyed.

Some of my nephews Christmas "Santa" presents were there too. on Christmas eve, leaving the ashes of their business, some were out trying to replace gifts. There were heavy hearts all around.

I do not tell this story to be one of sad or woefulness, but of that what we thought might well kill our daddy, just showed his strength, and WHO his strength was, in a time of trouble.  His faith that all would be o.k. with God's help.

Some months later, they reopened in their brand new building, same location!  One thing that did not burn was the big safe in daddy's office.  I don't know what was in that safe, but probably some important documents!

Frankly, now that I think about it, I don't remember our actual Christmas day that year.

This is a portion of the actual article. 

That was Christmas past 20 years ago.  The business is still going, Daddy's gone on to heaven and we will get together as a family tomorrow and celebrate Christ's birth!

Last weekend, three of our kids were home, so we celebrated with them as they are gone in different directions.  One will come tomorrow and one is in California along with the grands!  So there will be more pictures!


Merry Christmas Eve to all and know that whatever befalls you, God is right there! 


Veronica Nakyewe said...

As the year gradually winds to a close, I look back when I met you in Panamacity this year! I also I take stock of the year and profusely worship and thank the Lord for His great love, kindness and mighty blessings experienced in the outgoing year. Truly Nancy, is God Almighty!!!! whose grace we’ve experienced a joyous, prosperous and fulfilling year, let us thank Him for the great blessings of having you as a friend
Merry Christmas
from Uganda!

Cathy said...

You made me cry. I will never forget that day and the next when our Daddy said "I don't need to win the lottery, I already have!" We six are so lucky to have been born to two wonderful parents. We truly can make it trough anything!!

Anonymous said...

As my Best friend and your baby brother has told me this story and referred to it many times throughout our friendship, I see Your Daddy through his eyes as a "Larger than Life" Man and the first to step-up and help others, this story is a testament to J.T. Duncan and the people he affected in your community. He has definately left large shoes to fill! Merry Christmas to the Duncan's and My wish for you all is a prosperous new year that Brings you all a little closer to the Legacy of J.T. Duncan.
Joey McIninch