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‘We still talk about the goodie bags’: Family recalls loved one’s holiday sweets tradition 

  • Terrie and Ellen Putnam Submitted Photo



Staff Writer
Saturday, December 01, 2018

NORTHAMPTON – For years, the Friday after Thanksgiving meant a special tradition for Ellen Putnam’s family. Ellen’s mother, Terrie Putnam, would give Ellen, her husband and their two children each a present: a Christmas goodie bag stocked with their favorite candies and snacks.

That Friday, they would typically drive home from Worcester, where Terrie lived, back to Northampton. Listening to their first Christmas CD and munching on the candy on the drive west was a ritual marking the start of the holiday season for the family. 

They were simple looking, a plastic grocery bag filled with treats, but the family looked forward to the long-standing tradition. 

“We still talk about the goodie bags,” Ellen said.

“The goodie bags were so her – I can hear the crinkling of the grocery bags in the back seat,” Ellen said.

Terrie, known to the family as “Nana,” passed away in 2015 and in memory of her and the beloved goodie bags, Ellen and her husband, Mark Dean, donated to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund last year and plan to donate again this year. Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the Toy Fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression.

Terrie’s tradition started when Ellen’s kids, now 21 and 23, were young. 

“For the kids it was pure heaven,” Ellen remembered. Unlike Halloween, the candy was not rationed. “Part of the fun was we did not monitor the goodie bags.”

“They disappeared in the back seat of the car,” Ellen added. 

Terrie could not drive and had limited mobility in her later years, but candy and small sweets were easier to access from places such as nearby corner stores. She also did not have a lot of money. Ellen recalled her as being frugal, recycling items like ribbons and bags – but not just during the holiday season. 

“She would get graph paper and put it over the crossword puzzle and sort of recycle the crossword puzzle,” Ellen remembered. Months later, she would do it again.

Terrie would add personal touches to the bags as well, like covering Ellen’s bag with vintage Christmas stickers. 

Terrie was a smart, articulate and spunky woman with a tough life, Ellen said. In the foster care system since age five, she grew up around Boston and moved around a lot. After Terrie’s husband died decades before her own death, she had more free time. 

She got involved in the tenants association at her low-income building in Worcester and in the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, an activist group for issues affecting seniors.

“That was the passion of her later years,” Ellen said. “She always said, ‘I’m for the underdog.’”

The Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund distributes vouchers worth $40 to families for each child from age 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett.

Berkshire Children & Families at 220 Russell St., Suite 200 in Hadley, MA 01035, verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; Faces, 175 Main St. Northampton; JCPenney, 341 Russell St., Hadley (store only); The ToyBox, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Target, 367 Russell St. Hadley (store only); Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; Wilson’s Dept. Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop/Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, P.O. Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made through Gazettenet at www.gazettenet.com.

Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com