By Doris Schroeder
Of all the magic events of this season, the one that stands out in my remembrances the most is the Christmas program. In all of my memories, from my first Christmas recollection to the present day, the program was an avid part of Christmas.
My first recollection of the program was when I was three and a half years old. That was the first year I really had to start thinking for myself and could no longer rely on my six-year- old sister who had been killed a few months before. My parents sat with me in the balcony of the church so I could see better and I watched with fascination as the older kids did the program.
By the next year, I was old enough to say my own piece and I practiced it over and over so I would not make a mistake.
Then we moved to the farm for a year and I attended the country school of Sunrise. That year I had two pieces to say, one at school and one at church. I was so afraid I would recite the wrong one at the church, so that is exactly what happened and I was so embarrassed. It didn’t occur to me that the audience wouldn’t have known it if I didn’t tell them.
When we moved to California for a year and a half, I had found a little church in which to attend Sunday School and of course, participated in the program. Christmas did seem different that year, however, we did not have the Kansas snowstorms and besides, our country had just entered war with Japan. I was still wondering what it meant for our country to be at war.
I was overjoyed when we moved back to the farm in Kansas. Although I had enjoyed living in California, I had told all my friends about Kansas and they would have liked to move back with me.
The next few years I thought were heaven to me. I got to attend the one room country school again and of course, the Christmas program was the highlight of the year. A little before Thanksgiving, the teacher would read us the plays we would be doing, assign the parts and then we could practice whenever there was extra time. We each had to copy our parts by hand (cursive writing} since there was very little technology in those days.
After we had done our lessons, we could raise our hand and ask the teacher if we could go to either the girls or boys hall and practice our parts. We practiced singing our Christmas hymns together every day.
The week before the program we would decorate the blackboards with colored chalk pictures. A member of the school board put some kind of special sawdust on the wooden floors and we skated around on them. This was to make the wood look nice for the program.
At last the program day arrived. We had a half-day of school in the morning and most of us girls went to school with a scarf tied around our heads. My mom would have washed my hair and then curled them around newspaper strips to give “Shirley Temple” curls for the program.
Later at home, we did the chores early and then drove up the hill to Sunrise School. The oil lamps that hung from the ceiling would be lit and the room took on a magic glow. The Board had put up a giant tree in the afternoon and decorated it. Of course, since the school was not wired for electricity we had no lights.
The roll up curtain in the front of the school would be down and our parents could read the advertisements…The Buhler Bank, the Grocery Store, the Nyal Store as well as others.
We students sat in the front rows at the school desks. At a signal from the teacher we gathered on the other side of the curtain and sang our first Christmas song as the curtain was manually rolled up.
The teacher announced the program numbers and we tried to act confidant as we gave our pieces, performed our plays (usually one about “The Light in the Window.” This was usually about someone lost in the snowstorm who sees a light as he tramps around looking for a place to get out of the weather. He sees this kerosene lamp shining in a window. He makes his way to the door and knocks. Then he comes in and is so grateful he saw the light in the storm. Usually the actors would then tell him about “The light of the world.” He is told how he can accept Jesus into his life and be saved.
Our program usually closed with the whole school singing one of the old Christmas hymns like Silent Night. The parents then clapped, but not too hard, since they didn’t want us to get a “big head” about our talented performance. The school board then went to the boys hall and came out with boxes of Christmas sacks of goodies and our mouths watered for the not-often given treats.
When it was all over and we had driven home to our farmhouse, we sat around the oilcloth covered table and talked about the evening’s events. It was always a wonderful time to remember The Christmas Program!
Doris welcomes your comments and can be reached at [email protected]