Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

TOP STORY>>Christmas celebrated with jobs, loved ones

IN SHORT: Somebody is always on call at the animal shelter or working at the Waffle House so others can celebrate.

Leader managing editor

Spending the day cleaning up an animal shelter isn’t what someone usually has in mind as an enjoyable way to spend Christmas Day.

Cheryl Rainbolt-Wood said she tried to make the best of it.

As an employee of the Jacksonville Animal Shelter, Rainbolt-Wood was on-call on Sunday, meaning she had to spend Christmas Day cleaning up the shelter, which included feeding the animals and hosing down the kennels. She also had to respond to any animal-control calls that the city might have received.

Surprisingly, no calls came during Rainbolt-Wood’s shift.

“I wasn’t busy at all,” she said. “Basically, we were closed, but I was on call and I expected a call or two. But I didn’t get paged one time.

“Considering I had to work, it wasn’t that bad of a day.”

Rainbolt-Wood has one of only a few professions that call for working on Christmas.
Mary Whitlow has another.

As manager of Jacksonville’s Waffle House, Whitlow was busy on Sunday, serving everything from pork chops to eggs to chili to grits, to a constant rush of customers. “It was really busy,” Whitlow said. “It was definitely Christmas. It was an all-day thing. The place was constantly full and people were waiting all day. We always have extra staff on hand for Christmas.”

Wanda Martin, manager of the Waffle House in Cabot, echoed Whitlow. “It was an awesome day,” Martin said. “We had triple our normal business.”

Waffle House is one of the only chain restaurants open 365 days a year.

“I know we got a lot of phone calls, with people asking if we were open,” Whitlow said. “We’re open every day and I think if everyone would have known that we may have been even more busy. We don’t get snowed out, iced out or blacked out.”

Whitlow said most customers were in a friendly, holiday spirit, making it easier for restaurant workers.

“The people who came in seemed to be in better moods than normal, I guess because it was Christmas,” Whitlow said. “It makes it easier for the employees who have to come in and work. I’m really lucky to have employees who don’t mind working on a day like Christmas.”

A lot of happiness with friends and family was the common Christmas theme of many area residents, while any negative aspect of the holidays was minimal — at least in comments gathered by The Leader.

“Getting to see my family who I don’t get to see that much was the best part of Christmas,” said Amanda Wawak of Cabot.

“Spending time with my family and everyone getting together is what I enjoyed most,” Debbie Place of Austin said.
Tim Snell of Cabot and Tim Reed of North Little Rock said spending time with their families was also their favorite part of the day. The worst part of the holiday?

“All the travelling,” Reed said.

“I’ve had a cold,” Rob Rodgers of Jacksonville said.

A woman going shopping at Knight’s grocery store in Jackson-ville said her holiday was dampened by the death of a close friend.

George Webster of Jacksonville said his favorite thing about Christmas was the food he had.
“The chicken and dressing with gravy was good,” he said. “The low point, though, was that we didn’t have any presents this year.”

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim appreciated the nice weather. In 2004 many families were stuck away from their loved ones due to several inches of ice and snow leaving roads too hazardous to drive.

“Christmas was very good this year,” Swaim said. “I had the pleasure of having all my immediate family home.
“The weather was nice and we had plenty of food. It was a great day.”

Staff writer Sara Greene contributed to this story.