A Christmas Cat Tale
Karen Dugan Holman

As the holidays approach, our own childhood Christmas memories, no matter how old we are or far away from home we may have roamed, there is a small part of us that longs to return to those happy days we spent in Broken Arrow. This story, full of life lessons, is a Christmas memory shared by my Mother, Gretta Dugan.

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, circa 1950-ish:
In the words of my Mother:

I lived on a dairy farm out Lynn Lane Rd. This was a great environment for Snowball, my large white Persian cat and I to grow up and explore. The road to the farm was barely a gravel road and our driveway was packed dirt. In true Oklahoma form, there was a dusting of snow, freezing temperatures and bitter winds.

A very good looking boy I had known most of my life asked me to the Christmas Dance at the gymnasium/cafeteria at Broken Arrow High School. I was excited, as he was quite popular and handsome. We had always been friends, but never dated. This night was to be my first car date. My Mother took me to the Katy Depot on Main Street to catch a train to downtown Tulsa for a full day of shopping, which included lunch. I found the perfect red velvet A-line dress with a large taffeta bow in the back. I also bought black patent platform shoes with ankle straps—sure to make me taller. My Dad was not overly thrilled about the high heels or the cost of my ensemble.

Mom rolled and tied my hair with socks, resulting in perfect, smooth curls . . . not to mention a corresponding headache. To my surprise, Mom placed her pearls around my neck. Then my joy cratered to dismay, as my parents agreed I needed to wear rubber goulashes over my new shoes to protect them from the Oklahoma weather. I was mortified as I tugged them into place. My date brought me a wrist corsage, a red rose surrounded with baby’s breath, matching my dress perfectly and helping me forget about the hideous goulashes.

My parents sent us on our way and we were by appearances, the perfect couple. The dance was full of excitement and romance. We slow danced to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and Ralph Blane’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” You know, Ralph is from Broken Arrow?

Heading home down Lynn Lane, we turned into the farm and suddenly the car shifted quickly to the right, down into the ditch, throwing me onto his side of the bench front-seat of his parent’s car. Did you know, back then, there were no seat belts to hold you tight? I cried out as I saw a white blur through the fogged windows—which I thought was the snow outside. I quickly realized it was my Snowball. He laughed and said “darn, I almost got that cat.” My voice froze in fear and dread of what I might find. I threw open the door of the moving car. He tried to grab my arm, but connected with the pearls instead. One-by-one the pearls fell to the floorboard. He yelled at me as I jumped out, but nothing he said mattered much, and, in fact, his good looks had suddenly disappeared in my mind. I grabbed my Snowball and ran into the house, screaming all the while. I felt no life in my best friend (Snowball) and was crushed that my “dream-date” was not the dashing date I agreed to accompany.

My Dad grabbed Snowball and wrapped her up in a blanket, laying her to warm by the fire. She was barely breathing although there were no noticeable injuries. I laid by her side throughout the night. There was no mention of the pearls, just a lot of whispering between my folks.

Snowball woke up, moving slowly for a few days. My agony seemed to last longer than Snowball’s. When we returned to school after Christmas break, an envelope was on my desk with most of my Mom’s pearls. The note inside read, “my Mom said I should apologize.” Can you imagine that he had to be told to apologize? So, remember, never judge a book by its cover because, as always, it’s what’s inside that matters. Right always prevails in the end, and don’t forget it. – My Mother.

Mom shared this story with a dash humor, although it was clear she was sending me a life-lesson or two. She was small in stature, but stood up for what was/is right, and courageously fought to better the community she loved. For over 35 years, she taught at Broken Arrow High School, and adopted many students as her own. As President of the BA Historical Society, she helped implement the building of our museum, thereby preserving our cherished memories of Broken Arrow for all-time. Our community is a kinder, more compassionate place because of her commitment to serve, and her legacy lives in the hearts of the thousands of students and citizens of Broken Arrow (and other communities) that her heart touched. The Christmas season is a time of reflection and hope. What kind of legacy are you leaving for future generations?

For those of you that rescue, volunteer and protect our community, I wish you a very blessed and Merry Christmas. You make our city stronger. Remember, just as my Mother portrayed, it isn’t the size of the dog, it’s the size of the dog’s heart that is important. Open your hearts this Christmas Season, and consider giving the animals in need in our community a warm, loving, and safe place to spend the Holidays.

If you are looking to adopt a pet or volunteer, please check out the Broken Arrow Shelter. If you want to gift a pet to a special person, please include them in the selection and preparation!


  1. Lyndal McMillan

    Mrs Dugan was one of the most beautiful people I have ever meet. I thank the Lord above for being privelaged to have her as an educator . She was a great friend to the young people of Broken Arrow and also raised three wonderful daughters . I always loved to listened to her stories because they always taught a lesson .

  2. Tracey Matlock

    I also had Mrs. Dugan as a teacher at BAHS! Never knew this story! She taught with my Mom and Dad at BAHS as well. She was one of a kind, and I will always remember her! I adopted my “China” at the BA animal shelter last October. I am thrilled that her daughter is a part of saving the voiceless souls that we are blessed with!

    Tracey Grass Matlock

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