Christmas with Robert Taylor and Family

The following excerpt is from …but I have promises to keep, My Life Before, With & After Robert Taylor, by Ursula Thiess, Xlibris Corporation, 2007, pages 154 & 155.


German Christmas Tree

My German heritage of celebrating Christmas rather dominated my family, and my husband was beginning to see it through my eyes.  Until the introduction of what this season really meant to me, he had looked at it as commercialism rather than a holiday to be enjoyed. But once he appointed himself Santa Claus to his children, his whole attitude changed.

Beatrice Nebraska airport in front of his Beechcraft plane.(Gage County Historical Society)

Robert and Ursula Taylor and Ruth Brugh (his mother) ca. 1953.

As was my tradition, in the early evening of the 24th, we had our big Christmas dinner, usually surrounded by family and close friends, which was sometimes enhanced by neighborhood caroling.  This whole, loving procedure of Santa-deception was carefully rehearsed and orchestrated.  With the full support of our guests, we imagined the sound of tiny hooves and Santa’s happy face smiling down at us.  The Christmas tree was always put up the day before and stayed behind locked doors until our meal was finished and Mr. Claus appeared.

1961 Wyoming

Terry, Robert, Tessa and Ursula Taylor in 1961.

I don’t know long it took our two, smaller children before they started why Daddy excused himself and disappeared just before dessert each year. Santa Robert would run down to the gate, a considerable distance from the house, ring the bell, and, through the intercom, deliver his first “ho-ho-ho” message.  He then had conversations concerning general behavior with his young audience, who seemed slightly intimidated by the rumbly voice on the other end.  This meant happy entertainment for the rest of the diners, which always included some of our friends, Art and Barbara, and sometimes Bob’s mother and mine when she was visiting from Germany during the holidays.  Even though our two mothers spoke different languages, there was definite communication between them, as we observed them laughing quite a lot.

Robert and Ursula Taylor in 1954, the year they married.

Robert and Ursula Taylor in 1954, the year they married.

Michael and Manuela were great Christmas-boosters for their smaller siblings–but also the first to tell Terry that Santa was fake.  He had a hard time dealing with that initially, but once he came to terms with the disappointment of having lost out to cold realism, he effectively guided his younger sister through that period with imagination and suspense.

While we all sat down to visit our dessert, Dad returned, usually rubbing his hands, saying, “It’s cold here. Do you think it’s snowing outside? Maybe Santa is due for a visit.”

a mid-seventies shotof Bob's family: Manuela, Tessa, Ursula and Terry; courtesy of Terry Taylor

Manuela Thiess, Tessa, Ursula and Terry Taylor in the mid 1970s. (Photo property of Terry Taylor).

“Oh, no,” the children would excitedly tell him, “you missed him again, Daddy.  He was already here! He talked to us and he said he put a sack of toys by the door.  Can we go now and see?  With great effort, they pulled the fragrant sack (courtesy of the horse grain company) into the living room and came face-to-face for the first time with the glittering tree.

Our giant, fieldstone fireplace threw out waves of warmth and comfort.  Holiday songs were heard throughout the house and the small of fresh pine was everywhere.  It was a time of magic and hopefully will be remembered by my children as such.


About giraffe44

I became a Robert Taylor fan at the age of 15 when his TV show, "The Detectives" premiered. My mother wanted to watch it because she remembered Mr. Taylor from the thirties. I took one look and that was it. I spent the rest of my high school career watching Robert Taylor movies on late night TV, buying photos of him, making scrapbooks and being a typical teenager. College, marriage and career intervened. I remember being sad when Mr. Taylor died. I mailed two huge scrapbooks to Ursula Thiess. I hope she got them. Time passed, retirement, moving to Florida. Then in 2012 my husband Fred pointed that there were two Robert Taylor movies that evening on Turner Classic Movies--"Ivanhoe" and "Quentin Durward." I watched both and it happened all over again. I started this blog both for fans and for people who didn't know about Robert Taylor. As the blog passes 200,000 views I'm delighted that so many people have come by and hope it will help preserve the legacy of this fine actor and equally good man.
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6 Responses to Christmas with Robert Taylor and Family

  1. Oh what a wonderful story! I so well remember Christmas 1959, the year I had his horses, when he came to the house with the biggest box of candy I had ever seen upside down under his arm. What wonderful memories. Thanks so for sharing these.


  2. giraffe44 says:

    Hi, Martha. The more I find out about Mr. Taylor, the nicer a man he seems to be. What a shame that his children had to grow up without him. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Judith


  3. dianne345 says:

    I think the second photo (posted previously on your blog not long ago) was taken in 1953, before the Taylors were married, when RT had a short break from filming “Knights of the Round Table” in England & he arranged to meet Ursula & his mother in Nebraska. Note the beard.


  4. giraffe44 says:

    You have both sharp eyes and a good memory. I’ll change that to 1953. Thanks for writing and Happy Holidays!


  5. giraffe44 says:

    Fred’s hearing gets better all the time. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


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