December 1, 2022

Christmas Time on St. George Island Remembered: Lena Denny

St. George Island
Photo by Bryan Swann

The excerpts below are from Who’s Who of St. George Island, by Mary Gale Adams, April 1994, St. George Island, MD.

St. George Island is positioned 6 miles up the Potomac River from Point Lookout, MD, and traditionally home to some 200 families. Almost up to when these oral histories were compiled, in 1994, most families were supported by commercial fishermen and used boats for commerce and as avenues to travel around the Chesapeake Bay. — Jack Russell, brother to Ms. Adams

Lena “Baby Lena” (Poe) Denny, 1935-2010

My father was Albert Franklyn Poe and my mother was Eva Estelle (Knott) Poe. I was born July 22, 1935. My brothers and sister: Webster, Robert, Roland, Franklin (Toadie) and Myrtle.

When young, everyone played marbles, shot BB guns, played with bows and arrows, went swimming, ice skating, used sling shots, went crabbing and rode bikes all over the Island.

Christmas was always very special. I remember the huge Cedar tree decorated so beautifully on Christmas Eve night. It didn’t have electric lights but had every other decoration you could name. It was beautiful.

Cakes and pies were stored in the back bedroom under the bed where it was good and cold. There was homemade root beer, eggnog and lemonade as well as candy, apples, oranges and nuts. We had a turkey, stuffed ham, fried oyster cakes and a variety of vegetables for our Christmas meals.

Every night during the Christmas season the table would be set with all the drinks, cakes and pies for the enjoyment of family and friends. This was a custom on the Island over the holidays and every family did the same.

Here is my recipe for Holiday Eggnog:

Ingredients: 3 gallons of whole milk, 2 or 3 cans of evaporated milk, 1/2 gallon of whiskey, 1/2 pint of rum, 1/2 pint of brandy, 1 small bottle of vanilla (or more) and a few dashes of nutmeg.  5 lb of sugar, a pinch of salt and a dozen eggs.

Start by separating the dozen eggs, (yokes in one bowl and whites in another) hand beat the yokes and add a quart of milk. Heat this mixture without boiling it, stirring constantly, cooking just enough to kill the egg taste. Beat the egg whites stiff. Put the remaining 3 gallons milk and the evaporated milk in a big pot and heat. Add the heated yolk mixture slowly , stirring constantly. Then add the sugar. We use almost 5 pounds, but if you don’t want it that sweet, use less. Then add the beaten egg whites.

Next, pour the booze over all of this and keep stirring so it doesn’t curdle. Stir constantly while adding the vanilla and nutmeg, and pinch of salt.

Get it good and cold and you can serve it right away and you will then have a “Blissful Christmas.”

Submitted by Lena Denny.

For more histories of St. George Island, visit Fins + Claws’ Leader Member Page. Visit Fins + Claws on Facebook and please share with your social media sites.

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