We are now beginning the first full week of December and Marjorie and I have just installed our small Christmas tree with all its decorations. The angel on the top of the tree is near 90 years old and some of the decorations which belonged to Marjorie’s mother, Kathleen, as well are over 100 years old. We hung both our stockings in hope that Santa will treat us well for being so good.
Then we brought down the manger set and Marjorie put a white tablecloth over the card table and set the manger building on the table and carefully took out all the man figures and animals in and around the stable. I built the manger stable in 1961 for Marjorie when we moved into our new home and we have put it up every year since.
After completing the arrangement of the stable and all the figures, we both sat down and started to reminisce about past days when we were in grammar school. We both decided that the beginning of the first week in December our schoolteachers at grammar school would start work on our annual Christmas play and all those wonderful Christmas songs.
We both recall that our teachers would work with us children one or two hours singing over and over these great Christmas carols and reciting our parts in the Christmas play.
When we both look back, it was so much fun to work as a group of small children. Our teachers and the parents would make outfits or costumes for us children to wear in the Christmas play. When I think about our teachers, they put so much effort into Christmas at our school.
Then the second week, our schoolroom Christmas tree was brought into our room and sat on a tree holder by the school custodian. Our schoolteacher would ask us to have our parents pop some popcorn and have us bring a big bag full to school so we could string it and make large strings of popcorn for garland to put around and over our tree.
Then at the same time my parents would be making items for the PTA, which were sold at the annual Christmas fair at Franklin Grammar School to benefit school programs.
Mrs. Blin Allen, the school superintendent’s wife, used to make these stuffed Raggedy Ann dolls, which everyone wanted. Then Mrs. Dora McBride made these stuffed black rag dolls, which also sold well. My father would make six candleholders from birch bark logs, which always sold. Other items which sold very well were boxes of fudge and other candies, potholders, and real nice handmade aprons.
At the same time, us children who went to St. Andrew’s Church Sunday school were going through the Sunday school program for the Christmas Eve event. There were such wonderful times when we were children, which bring back so many wonderful memories.
This past week, I met a classmate at a local store and she brought up the subject of bygone Christmas programs at grammar school and at church. This is why we are rewriting a few past memories about this subject.
The PTA also sold many balsam wreaths with decorations and truly made with loving care. They also made balsam door pieces with large red ribbons and balsam centerpieces with a candle in the middle of the centerpiece. The fresh smell of fir balsam would fill the schoolhouse rooms for a few days.
These were carefree days when we were young and really had the time to enjoy each other in all of the Christmas events. Our children today are under a lot of social pressure and so much outside news and TV and Facebook and all the computer games and social media. We both like to get outdoors on good days and enjoy the fresh air and talk and listen to our local friends and hear what they are thinking and what ideas they have to talk over with us.
We both recall back in 1972 when grades one through four at Franklin Grammar held their Christmas play at the Congregational Church. What a beautiful sight it was to see all these young faces lined up and marching into the church in single-file line. Their faces were full of joy and their eyes sparkled with delight and excitement. Then what a pleasure it was to hear each child recite their parts. Their young voices were so clear and full of energy when they all took part in singing some of the Christmas songs. Their young voices filled the church and all the hearts of the people who came to watch the Christmas event.
It has been 45 years since that Christmas show but the memories still linger in our minds of that joyous evening with all those children’s voices.
One of the older boys recited the Christmas story that begins with, “It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a sound was made.” This is one of those stories my wife and I still enjoy each Christmas season.
My wife and her mother, Kathleen, would always bake a large number of Christmas cookies and frost them in different colored frostings and how all the children would take one or two at a time. These cookies were cut and baked in shapes of stars, trees, horses, and snowmen.
Once in a while, I will see one of my son’s classmates and he will ask if my wife still bakes those types of cookies for her grandchildren on Christmas events. I often tell them that Robert’s wife, Stephanie, now makes these cookies with her daughter, MacKenzie, and sends us a box full for Christmas. We both enjoy these sugar cookies with a hot cup of tea or coffee in the evening. These are old Christmas family traditions passed down over the years.
Then another event the whole family took part in was the making of about four dozen caramel popcorn balls. After popping the corn and placing it in a real large container to cool, my wife, Marjorie, would make the caramel sauce, and when it was ready, she would pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn. Then we would all butter our hands and roll the popcorn and caramel mixture into round 3- or 4-inch popcorn balls. After cooling, we would wrap each ball in plastic wrap. We both remember how all the schoolchildren enjoyed these caramel popcorn balls.