'To me, it was the most beautiful gift I'd ever seen'

SEATTLE -- Most of us have holiday memories that make us wistful. Maybe they're stirred by certain Christmas carols, decorations or traditions.

But for an 89-year-old Fall City woman, she becomes nostalgic whenever the red kettle campaign kicks off.

"We saw the way people were living, in piano boxes with fires in front. This is America," said Lorraine Trout.

Trout lived through the dust bowl days and depression.

"My dad was a mailman during the depression, but he was a gambler so we never had any money," she said.

She learned to give as a girl and never stopped.

"The way I see the culture now really tears up people my age," Trout said.

People pulled together back then.

"You didn't ask if black or white, Democrat or Republican. People were in trouble and you went down to help them," she said.

On birthdays and holidays, Trout didn't dare ask her parents for presents they couldn't afford.

Mom bought clothes -- not toys -- for Christmas, maybe a sweater, bathrobe -- gifts Trout didn't rush into the streets to show off to other children.

"They were bringing out cars and dolls, and I remember I stayed in the house a lot during Christmas day," said Trout.

Trout turns 90 on Christmas Eve. But burned in her memory is the Christmas present she received in 1933 and the sounds of the Salvation Army Band.

"The Salvation Army was giving away toys to kids," she said.

Trout lined up with other children waiting to see Santa, who asked for their names and ages.

"And he'd say, 'Girl, 10.' So some guy'd run up and give him a package , and he'd hand it to you. And he handed me a package, and it was an embroidery set. And to me, it was the most beautiful gift I'd ever seen," said Trout.

Nearly 75 years later, Trout lights up remembering the little scissors and thread..

"Man, I could hardly wait to get home and start embroidering," she said.

Now she starts each day studying the Bible before work as a full-time Safeway deli counter. Every month, part of her paycheck goes to the charity that gave her the gift she'll never forget.

Trout hopes all those coins in the kettles will give a child a Christmas they'll always remember, too.

"Not a lavish one, but that they can get a toy," she said. "They can get something like I got that set. Man, that was something."

On Friday, the Problem Solvers will team up with Fred Meyer for our annual Toy Drive benefitting the Salvation Army. Those who wish to donate can drop off new, unwrapped toys at Fred Meyer stores in Tacoma, Lynnwood and Issaquah, as well as at Fisher Plaza between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.