The Christmas tree at Travis Park. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

A country song about hard times sparked a memory for Rivard Report reader Janie Alonso. Tennessee musician Dolly Partonthe most award-winning female country artist of all time, will perform at the 3rd Annual Benefit Concert at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 8.


Cleaning my kitchen floor, I leaned against my broom and listened to Dolly Parton sing sweetly on the radio “I’ll be fine and dandy, Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas.” Talking back to her through the radio, I said, “Oh, Miss Dolly, I know what you’re talking about.”

The song lyrics transferred me to a sixth grade Christmas party at Locke Hill Elementary School in 1966 in San Antonio. The week before the party I gathered enough courage to ask my  mother to buy a Christmas present for the gift exchange.

For a family of 10, a request for any present was a waste of breath; the answer was always “no.” We didn’t even try. But this was my last year before junior high, so I dared to ask. To my surprise, my parents agreed but they could only spend a small amount.

I was glad when they bought the Lifesavers Sweet Christmas Storybook that had six rolls of different flavored lifesavers. My favorites were peppermint and butter rum. If they were mine, I would have taken each roll and hidden them away from everybody else. They could have lasted until the end of the Christmas break.

The day of the party I proudly took my present to school. After recess, our teacher gathered all the presents together and numbered each one. Everyone drew a number. The final two presents were on the table. I had the last number. Another girl got the second to the last gift. She shook it first, listened, and then slowly opened it.

Inside was a beautiful, gold-colored necklace. Dangling from the end was a rounded container that looked like a small bingo cage. Several rhinestones moved freely with each shake of her hand. She walked around showing it to all the girls. Isn’t it beautiful?” All the girls agreed.

And who could blame them? It was the most beautiful necklace I had ever seen. It sparkled like jeweled rainbows. It mesmerized me as it swayed back and forth like a glittery cobra.

My number was called and I got the last small box. It was wrapped with red tissue paper and I tried to open it quickly. I just knew it was another beautiful necklace. I promised to take care of it and never let anyone borrow it. In my excitement, my fingers fumbled trying to get at the golden prize.

And there inside the small three-by-one inch box were two small wrapped hard candies, one peppermint and one butterscotch. I stared at them, hoping to change them into a necklace. I blinked once, twice, three times – Yes, they were still candies.

I could feel my eyes starting to water and my lips starting to tremble. The floodwaters were right at the dam. I was so counting on this gift to be special as it would be my only Christmas present.

A sweet girl’s voice brought my head up“I hope you like your candies!” she said. Her smiling face was shining brightly like the rhinestones on that elusive necklace.

Looking at her, I could see that she was very proud of her gift. “Yes, thank you,” was all I could say. At that moment I realized there were others poorer than me and this would not be our first or last hard candy Christmas.


Dolly Parton will bring a “Hard Candy Christmas” to the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts for the third annual Benefit Concert at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8 in the H-E-B Performance Hall. This event is sponsored by the Will Smith Foundation, H-E-B, and Group 42. and will benefit the NEXT Education Initiative

Ticket prices for Parton’s Pure and Simple concert start at $95. VIP packages – which include premium seating for the concert, a Downhome Dixie Dinner, the post-show Moonshine Shindig, and a valet voucher – start at $800. Visit the Tobin’s website or call 210-223-8624 for more information.

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Janie Alonso

Janie Alonso is a long-time San Antonio resident. She is a member of the Mujeres Writers Group and enjoys poetry readings around the city.