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Citizen Spotlight: Elmore County’s Betty Barrett Shares Christmas Memories


4-H Regional Extension Agent


Sometimes words cannot match our admiration or emotions. Words just are not adequate.

For a writer to lack words is a challenge. I have written this several times but it has fallen flat each time for me. You see, some people are better than words can paint a picture. Mrs. Betty Barrett of Elmore County is just that.

She is a beautiful picture of love, grit, grace, and history raised right here on a farm in rural Elmore County. She was born in 1933 and lived near Holtville. Her memories of Elmore County are something for history books. You see, she grew up in an era that many of us cannot imagine.

Her memories of riding in a horse-drawn wagon to share gifts and fruit with neighbors at Christmas are filled with love and happiness. A happy and much simpler time in life, she could not just choose one Christmas that was the best.

She and her family were always excited about Christmas. Looking back at Wetumpka, she remembers many clothing stores, a grocery store, and two theaters. The theaters were where she and her high school sweetheart, Neely, would often go. Married for 63 years she has some very fond memories of Saturdays in town. Her family had one of the first battery-operated radios in the rural community. She said on Saturday nights, neighbors would come to listen to the Grand Ole Opry. Although the signal did not come in clearly, they always listened. 

Mrs. Barrett and I chatted a few times about her life and Christmas. She told me that for her, Christmas wasn’t about the gifts but about family. Her memories of a live Christmas tree adorned with handmade ornaments and chains of popcorn are vivid and much different than her Christmas tree today. Life was so different; her childhood was in the era of the great depression.

A rolling grocery store on a wagon would come by to trade or for families to purchase goods.  She recalled that it came by weekly and her mother would trade eggs for things her family needed. There was an ice truck where they would purchase a 50-pound block of ice for their icebox. They did not have the modern convenience of electricity.

A few things that she shared with me to set the scene of the time she grew up were using a wash pot to wash clothes, drawing water from a well, cooking on a wood stove, and using a cast iron to iron their clothing. 

Four generations of the Barrett family have farmed and raised cattle in Elmore County. She is so proud of her family and the tradition of farming. It is hard work but so rewarding. She is the Chairman of the Alfa Women’s Committee and enjoys helping children in any way she can. She collects pop tabs and turns them into the Ronald McDonald house annually. This helps families have a place to stay at the Ronald McDonald house when they have a loved one who is sick. 

She has fond memories of always having Christmas in the Barrett’s family home with their three children Melinda, Jane, and Neely. Every Christmas morning, she would make a full breakfast with homemade biscuits. The biscuits were always special. One year, she kidded that she would replace them with doughnuts and it caused a fuss. She got a good laugh out it. This Christmas the home will be 118 years old. So many amazing memories. 

Mrs. Barrett has not been to town this year. She has stayed home to avoid sickness and Christmas just isn’t the same. Yet, she has decorated her home and cherishes her memories holding them close.

She has four Christmas trees up in her house and 30 ceramic Christmas boots on her mantle. Each boot represents every member of her family. She has three kids, six grandkids, and thirteen great-grandkids that she loves dearly as well as one on the way after the new year.  She is extraordinary and she sets a high bar for those who look up to her.   

Merry Christmas Mrs. Betty Barrett – Elmore County is a better place because of you.