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Siblings find bells from father's sleigh

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By Panzi Blackwell

Sally (Bergin) Behrends and her brother, Harold Bergin, remembered the bells their father used to put on his horses when they pulled the sleigh at Christmastime.

Although it was a common sight and sound in those days, a local newspaper in February 1936 referred to their father, John Bergin, driving his sleigh to town as a “spectacular sight.”

The newspaper article also stated that it was “a fine looking sleigh, all polished and ornamental, with two different sets of bells, one large set and the other smaller.”

Sally and Harold remember riding in that sleigh with their father, behind the horses adorned with the jingling bells in the wintertime, and especially at Christmas time.

Their dad died in 1944 and, as they had not seen the bells for many years, they thought they were lost in the past.

“Then, five years ago, these bells were found by my brother in the barn, in an old lard can,” Sally said. “We were so thrilled, because we thought they were gone.”

Although estimated to be well over 100 years old, the bells were in good shape, but the leather straps they were attached to were deteriorated.

“So he got them out and took them to Arthur, and had the Amish re-do them and replace the leather straps,” Sally said.

Sally remembers the old sleigh, also. “Dad kept it in an old garage and covered up. As kids, we would get in it to play, because it had velvet seats in it, really up to date,” she said.

“I don’t remember the year, but Joe Burtschi from Vandalia heard about the sleigh, and he bought it from our mother. So that was the end of the sleigh.”

The discovery of the thought-to-be-lost bells was like a gift itself, and they are enjoyed, along with the memories that accompany them every Christmas.

“We now share them,” she said. “I have them one year, and he has them the next year. It’s a little bit of memories.”

The bells also provide, besides shared memories, an even closer bond between Sally, who lives in rural Brownstown, in Sefton, and Harold, who lives in Hammond, Ind.