The sun is shining brightly upon the hills today, while a soft wind blows warm breezes across the land. There are blue shadows on Pilot Knob where the trees stand tall and leafless, and the pine trees stand out in brilliant green. Maybe this is our Indian summer, or could it be the lull before the storm?
After the Thanksgiving holiday was over, the principal of our grade school began having us practice for the Christmas program. We were granted the use of the Methodist church right below the schoolhouse, and every afternoon we tramped down the hill to rehearse. We just took it for granted then, but how gracious it was for them to allow us to use the church. I'm sure there were times we tracked in mud, but we never heard a complaint.
Every child had to have a part in the program. Whether it was in a skit or a play or just to recite a poem, everyone had to participate. We had sheets strung on a wire for curtains, and it was a coveted task to pull the curtains. Mr. Hinkle felt that it was good training to learn to speak in public, and although we may have missed afternoon lessons, we learned something more valuable.
I can see those rough little boys, with their dungarees and clodhoppers, standing on the stage twisting their hands in their pockets. We would drill Larry at home, over and over, until I still remember some of the poems more than 60 years later. He recited, "Little girls should speak'em, because they think it's fun, to be upon a platform, stared at by everyone. Little boys do speak'em, but oh, I'm telling you, if they all feel like I do, they're glad when they are through." He bowed, and turned to walk off the stage. Running back, he recited, "Oh dear I was forgetting, what I came up to say, I'm wishing each one present a merry Christmas Day."
We went through torment helping Larry memorize this poem. I don't know if he remembers it or not, but it is etched on my brain. Of course some of the students would start to recite, become overcome with stage fright, and forget their lines. They would stand there, red-faced and stuttering, until someone coached them from behind the curtain.
The annual school Christmas program was a big event. People came from miles around, until the church was packed full and many standing in the aisles. We always had a big Christmas tree standing in the upper corner, covered with decorations and gifts. One year, we had Santa Claus appear and give out the gifts. Early in the month, we drew names (each name written on a slip of paper and placed in a box to be drawn out by each child.) The only way you could draw again was if you got your own name.
We bought our gifts at the five and ten cent store -- nothing expensive or extravagant -- a box of hankies or a little bottle of perfume. Remember Blue Waltz perfume? Or Evening in Paris? It was a letdown when you received a pocket comb and you'd bought someone else a French harp.