Saturday, November 30, 2019

News of Great Joy

Jones School Students Rehearse For Christmas Program, December 17, 1959 image
1959

In classrooms throughout the nation,December marked frantic use of scissors, glitter, and paper in schools everywhere. Teachers reluctantly set out the peppermint paste, letting chaos take its course. And then...


Influenza and Christmas frenzy drove the pace.

Each classroom reflected garish joy and vacant student desks as days counted down to one big event: Annual Christmas Pageant.  If ever there were a bigger event, the community did not know of it.

The District Music teacher, Mrs. Harris, traveled to every school before settling on this one school to perform that year's pageant.

Mrs. Harris was relentless in her expectations and doling out various roles as fear hung in the air while performers marched to her music. Seventh and eighth graders became The Holy Family with younger students filling out as angels, elves, and sugar canes.

Influenza began wiping out the Holy Family and shepherds.  But Mrs. Harris did not break step or sweat; Mrs. Harris drafted the best of the next grade down.

In sixth grade, all girls were hoping,  Please oh please let me be Mary! Their hearts, minds and eyes pleaded.

Briefly, Mrs. Harris laid eagle eyes on a few, but moved on.  Those girls would remain angels that year.  The pageant took place with Holy Family intact, but still running fevers, while Angels waited in the wings, scratching silver garland halos. 

Day after Pageant Glory, angels' desks were vacant,  each absentee sick with influenza. A few elves were out as well.

I was always one of the angels, although I know I would have nailed Mary's character perfectly.  

Please note that this memory comes from a then 10 year brain.  I discovered that "Mrs. Harris" was kind and a very good teacher.  She taught us all how to read music, and as a result I learned to play the piano, due to her strong teaching.


52 comments:

  1. It is interesting how childhood memories stay with us. I have similar ones. Some can be so strong. I wonder about the things that I have forgotten.

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    1. I find all it takes to stir up those old memories are just a few photos, songs, something on media. Then it all comes flooding back.

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  2. I remember our Christmas pageants being at church, not at school. But my memory may be faulty after 50+ years. I remember soloing with "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

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    1. Good for you! Our churches attendees did not have enough children for such an event. Instead the adult choirs, none too large either, sang carols.

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  3. My Mrs. Grill was your Mrs Harris. It wasn't reading music but Mrs. Grill could instill the love for poetry. I loved this story. I was trying to remember back to '59. We had a yr. old baby and lived in Biloxi, Mississippi. I remember 1947 and the school play that year. I loved the read and the memories of the Angel that 'knew'. THANKS
    Sherry & jack

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    1. So very glad that you had that memory. Fun times.

      Angels know more than one would think.

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  4. If only we didn't have to grow up. I look back and remember painful situations, but I knew or took for granted everything would turn out for the best. All was under control.
    I sang O Holy Night in the church choir one year.
    THANKS...NOT... for bringing this back to my memory. lol It must have been very painful for the listeners.

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    1. I am sure your parents were very proud of you!

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  5. Who amongst us 1950's grade-schoolers can't identify? I can almost smell that paste and feel the scratchy headpiece. (At least you weren't subjected which in high school to playing the part of a nun in the Sound of Music!)

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  6. Hi Susan - we had flour paste ... and it certainly didn't taste of peppermint - the luxury of being an American!! I don't remember ever acting in a Nativity play and sadly singing was not one of my fortes ... but can see your remembrances. Fun to read - cheers Hilary

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    1. The famous paste of my era was that paste. It was always solid-ish, smelled and tasted of peppermint. who knows what was in it, but all children ate a fair amount of it over the years.

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  7. Echoing Hilary.
    We spent the time making (badly) Christmas decorations.

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  8. Did you make those rings of construction paper to make chains? I bet you did.

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  9. Thanks for giving my memories a good kick-start. One of my favorite grammar school Christmas memories was the year our class celebrated as though it were colonial times. We actually made taffy in our classroom! It was so much fun pairing up and stretching and folding that stuff. Didn't taste all that swell, but we sure had fun doing it.

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    1. That was a wonderful activity! Creative teacher!

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  10. I can't recall any period of time in my school days when there was any vast outbreak of kids being out due to illness. But then, maybe those were the days that I missed going to school as well.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. With so many anti-vax parents out there, give it some time for a mass outbreak.

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    2. Most likely, Lee. No meds, no precautions came from the health services.

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    3. Adam, you are so right. It is one state away from being an outbreak. If the parents only knew what could/would/will happen if measles, chicken pox, et al spreads. I had both as a child, measles was brutal.

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  11. Thus you always have an understudy or two. You would have made a great Mary, i just know it.

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  12. At least you made it through the pagent. Brutal flu that year, it sounds like.

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    1. It seems to me that every year had a nasty flu spreading through the school.

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  13. I'm extremely disappointed that in these days of over-the-top PC Christmas in schools and kindergartens is largely forbidden, lest some from another culture feel "insulted". I really don't see why they should be. It's "our" culture to celebrate Christmas and children in schools should be allowed to continue, with those from other cultures also explaining and celebrating with the rest of the class. imagine a classroom where all students celebrated all the different cultures and beliefs. No one would be left out and everyone would learn something new. What fun.

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    1. You stated it well. Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa are honored and students learn about them. But Christian Christmas is not allowed. In fact, "God, Jesus, shepherds.." were not to be talked about. We used to have a Christmas music sing-a-long, but that was stopped.

      PC Christmas is redacted. The 1959 Christmas pageant was a thing of the past.

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  14. Sounds like fabulous memories. :)

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  15. Sure ones that stick out indeed. I don't ever recall them doing that here though. Just christmas songs and such. Yep, many sure got nailed with the flu though.

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    1. We always got the flu at Christmas. There was always someone sick over Christmas.

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  16. The flu can put a damper on the season.

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    1. Oh yes. I wonder if the teacher was hit as well?

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  17. Replies
    1. She taught me to read music and chorus in high school was great. Hooray!!

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    2. I love Facebook. It recently helped me to reconnect with my first wonderful music teacher from kindergarten and first grade. I still remember, and use, his mnemonic for tuning a ukulele.

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    3. I have found old classmates from my H.S. years. We have all aged. Dang.

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  18. I bet you were a fabulous angel -- and I know you could have nailed Mary big time! Mrs. Harris sounds like the kind of teacher we all wish to have had and hope the generations behind us do. It's a wonderful memory and beautifully written!

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    1. Thanks, Jeanie! It is a great memory. Can still feel the garland halo tickling my head.

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  19. Nativity plays are such a good tradition. Pity not many schools in the UK do them these days.

    God bless.

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    1. I fear the Nativity plays and pageants are fading into black and white, old paper photos era. It saddens me; it takes away from the memories I had.

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  20. They say you always learn the most from the hardest teachers. Never worked for me that way, though. I was beginning to wonder if your story date was 1959 or 1920 for a while there...

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  21. We never had a Christmas play, and by the time my boys were in school, they had a "Holiday Program." The last title I remember is "Kookaburra's Christmas Down Under." Neither of my kids ever had even a bit part, though not for lack of attending tryouts after school. They were just part of the general chorus. Of course, even THAT didn't work out very well for the youngest...

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    1. Kookaburra's Christmas Down Under? What an awesome thing to have. Yes, the chorus is a great place to be. Your youngest?

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  22. Wow, Susan, your childhood memories are so different from mine. We had a Christmas pageant at church, but not at school. At school, we sang Handel's Messiah.

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  23. I don't recall events of this type taking place when I was at school as a young boy. Different school systems, different emphasis I guess. We did have a junior debating society, however.

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    1. I was part of the Speech and Debate society. My part was in the speech competitions.

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  24. I can recall events fifty years ago with great detail, but not so much what I did yesterday. Typical! Love your memory.

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Go ahead...it won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!