Our local historian Bruce Whitaker has been as reliable a columnist as a newspaper could ever hope for. Month after month, year after year, he puts time and effort into researching his topic and always (and we mean always) gets it in before deadline. That’s why, this issue, Mr. Whitaker gets a month off. A bad cold and a busy month is all. He’ll be back next month.
So we took the opportunity to reach out to a few people in our community and ask them to recollect a time of “Days Gone By.” We focused on Christmas, naturally, a time when we hold onto cherished traditions and memories that remind us of the joy and wonder of being a child during this merry season. The two “recollections” are of childhood experiences during Christmas right here in Fairview.
Please enjoy these memories from Susie Hamilton and Charlotte Ann Harrill. May you be blessed with the childlike joy and wonder of the Christmas spirit this season.
A Clarke Family Christmas
by Susie Hamilton
On Christmas morning our tradition was always the same. We all had to eat breakfast and after breakfast we lined up at the study door each with a bag for our presents and when we all were ready we marched into the study. We had a wonderful great aunt, Aunt Wiggy, who was usually with us and our Uncle Monty, my father’s
brother. We opened our stockings first, oldest to youngest. Everyone had a stocking — even the adults. They were always full of presents from all sorts of different people. Our parents concocted these joke presents and wrote notes from all sorts of people on the presents in the stockings. One can imagine that this took a long time with eight children. Usually someone stepped on Aunt Wiggy’s toes and she complained bitterly. Opening Christmas presents sometimes took several days because it was a slow process — each of us taking a turn. For the first ten years of my life my grandfather, Mr. McClure, was also with us. He made everything fun. I really don’t know how my mother and father ever managed to produce such wonderful Christmases. I know my mother often stayed up most of the night. My father would go to bed at some point but he gallantly helped my mother for hours. Because I was the oldest, by the time I was eleven I began to help my mother as well and I’m sure my brothers and sister did as they grew older.
Another farm tradition was Christmas eve; we always had a big farm party for all the people who worked on the farm and their families. Santa Claus appeared all dressed in full regalia and sat everyone on his knee — grown ups as well as children. He told lots of jokes and asked everyone how good they had been and made everyone laugh. This really took most of the afternoon but we children loved it because there were always lots of desserts. We always had fun trying to guess who was dressed up like Santa Claus. The tradition continues and we still have Christmas Eve visits from Santa Claus at Sherrills Inn. Santa still teases everyone and puts the children and the grownups on his lap, some things never change….
Christmas was always a great event for my grandmother, then my mother and now for all of us children. But the most wonderful thing about Christmas is the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the gift he gave to us by coming to Earth to save us. Everyone have a happy and blessed Christmas, a special time to share with your family and friends.
Spring Mountain Church Christmas Play
by Charlotte Ann Harrill
The year was either 1946 or 1947 and I was two or three years old. I clearly remember standing up on the piano seat and reciting my first Christmas play greeting. Sixty-five years later, I still remember all the excitement as well as the greeting:
“I ain’t very big, I ain’t very tall, I just want to say Merry Christmas to all!” (yes, I know that “ain’t ain’t a word” but that was before us southerners were corrected on our proper English, or lack thereof).
Tradition had it that the Sunday before Christmas, Spring Mountain Baptist Church held their Christmas Play at 7 pm and everyone in the neighborhood who had children and youth attending that church was invited to “fill the pews”. After an opening song led by Song Leader, Burgin Marlowe (my father), the Card Class (ages two to five) went first. Then long portions of the Bible story of the birth of Christ were recited by The Junior Class (ages six to sixteen).
Next, the lights were dimmed and the curtain was pulled back. The curtains were really long pieces of gray and later, blue material that were hung on a wire which stretched across the pulpit area at the front of the church. The play that was chosen might be the Christmas story, taken out of The Bible as Luke’s account. Other times it was a story about a family that was having a hard time. As the family realizes that Christmas Eve is approaching, the true meaning of Christmas would be presented…the curtain would close and you could hear all the props being moved and children whispering.
The curtain would open and there would be Mary and Joseph, standing around a wooden hay trough with hay and a baby doll “wrapped in swaddling cloths”. Mary had on her mother’s blue bathrobe with a blue scarf wrapped around her head and Joseph was always in a brown bathrobe, a brown or tan towel over his head and a piece of rope tied to make his head piece look like a turban. From the piano came the notes of “Silent Night” and voices of little angels (at least for that night) sang every verse of “Silent Night”.
“Hark the Herald, Angels Sing” brought out the girl chosen to be the angel dressed all in white with coat hanger and tissue wings. Before the song was finished, all the rest of the performers came on stage as shepherds dressed again in bathrobes and towel-made turbans and carrying stick as staffs. As “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was sung and eyes were wiped the song changed to “We Three Kings” and the lights in the sanctuary were turned on to watch the three oldest teenage boys come down the aisle in nicer and richer looking bath robes and home made crowns on their heads. Each of the teen boys would carry a box. One looked like a treasure box (someone’s small jewelry box), another was a vase or jar decorated in shiny paper and the third gift for the Christ child was usually another box.
The play was finished and all involved would take a bow and everyone would clap their hands. Then Reverend Lonnie Jenkins would be asked to “say a few words” — the word “few” wasn’t one he knew — but after his sermon the excitement would turn to Treat Bags. This was a long time tradition for the church to share with everyone who came to the annual play. Brown bags filled with apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, tangerines, nuts and a small bag of hard candy. Then either the Chairman of the Deacons or the Sunday School Leader would stand and thank those who had worked with the kids all year.
At every Christmas play, I would feel “the Christmas spirit” as the First Christmas actors came on stage — even after I was grown and had children of my own the same feeling would come over me.
If you need the Christmas Spirit be at Spring Mountain Church this year — that special feeling is still there!