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The Folks Who Bring You Christmas . . .

It’s finally Christmas morning, and another hectic holiday season is almost over.

Santa has come and gone, and most of the colorful wrappings are torn from packages that were under the brightly decorated tree. The stockings that were hung by the chimney with care lie discarded on the floor.

Preparations for Christmas dinner are under way, and the smell of roasting turkey wafts from many a kitchen. Thoughts turn to family and friends who will gather later.

All but forgotten are the crowded parking lots, the long lines and the rest of the nerve-racking hustle-bustle that goes with the season.

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Also far from most of our minds are the people who helped bring us Christmas--the store clerk who painstakingly helped select that special tie or cologne, the delivery man who banged on your door each time a package arrived, the nice woman who hand-packed a box of candy and waited patiently as you made your selections.

Most who provide services to people during the holidays have worked long hours and have had little time for Christmas preparations for themselves.

“I have one day off before Christmas, and I haven’t even bought one gift,” said a harried clerk in a women’s clothing store last week.

“We’ve been open until 11 every night. I didn’t want to work this much.”

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Following are a few examples of people who made Christmas a little brighter for others this year. Their stories were compiled by Times staff writers.

The candy merchant: Doris Dennis has been custom-packing sweet dreams for nearly 50 years. ‘I can pretty much tell what people will order,’ she says.

There’s chaos in the candy shop. The line of customers is 32 people long, snaking its way to the cash register. People with their arms akimbo look like human Christmas trees, decorated with brightly wrapped boxes of prepackaged chocolates--in 1-, 2- and 3-pound assortments--tucked under their limbs.

But step behind the counter at See’s Candies Quantity Order Store No. 2106 in Reseda, and into the domain of Doris Dennis, and it’s a different world. Dennis, who first worked for See’s almost 50 years ago, and the other women in white pack each box by hand. None of that ready-made stuff over here. This is where you point out one of these and two of those until you have a whole box filled with just the right amount of Mint Krispys, Bordeaux, Tipperary Bonbons, Divinity Puffs and California Crunch.

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Behind the angled glass display cases with their rows of footed candy dishes and doilied platters, it is organized . Dennis knows the layout by heart. On the right, you have your milks, or milk chocolates. On the far left, you have your darks. And in between sit the truffles, all 11 varieties, your summer softs, and the nuts and chews.

Dennis, 70, is an intermittent employee who has managed two stores in a career with See’s that started in 1941. Now, she works the holidays only and won’t be back until Valentine’s Day.

“I can pretty much tell what people will order,” she said last week. “The Europeans like marzipan and ginger, the Southerners like the pecan rolls and pecan buds, and Americans, they like milk chocolate.

“I venture to say I’ve tried every one,” Dennis said, including a new item: Peanut Butter Patties. “It’s nice when we get a new one in. They never had peanut centers. I think someone in the family didn’t care for peanuts.”

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With her white hair and black-rimmed glasses, Dennis resembles Mary See, whose portrait watches over daily transactions from behind the counter. Dennis glides back and forth from the stockroom to the counter, pausing to wrap a gift or pull 30 striped red sugar sticks from a drawerful of multicolored candies.

She’s told her doctor that she gets all the exercise she needs at work. “I love the activity. For eight full hours, you’re going steady. The doctor says this kind of walking doesn’t do you any good,” she said with a smile. “What do you think?”


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