Reminiscences of Christmases in Pine Forest

By Dennis J. "Jack" Robinson

There were so many Christmases back there in my ancient past that is difficult to recall in any detail a lot of them. I remember with pleasure that my older brother, Don, (eight years my senior) would harness up one of our mules, let me go with him, and we would go over to the woods to find a suitable cedar tree to serve as a Christmas tree.

At home we would set the tree up in the "front room." I particularly remember how fragrant the smell of the cedar was! Our decorations, except for foil, were icicles, mostly homemade. It was fun to dress the tree up with them. We had no electricity in our home. The time frame of this was up to my tenth [c.1921-27] Christmas.

In addition to the tree, we also hung up our stockings on the mantle. Santa would leave us a navel orange, a delicious apple, several English walnuts, quite a few pecans, a few Brazil nuts, and  some almonds. Those were items we never had at any other time of the year. On the tree, I would get, maybe, a pocketknife, or a toy of some kind. My Grandmother Robinson, always sent me somewhere around a dollar's worth of pennies that I could spend as I wished. She saved pennies all year, and at Christmas-time sent some to each grandchild. That was exciting. You'd be surprised at what pennies would buy back in the middle twenties -- fishhooks, lines, sinkers, candy, tops, marbles, and so on. I remember Christmas at home was thrilling, in spite of the fact that, looking back now, we were very poor financially.

If this account of my early days doesn't run you off, I may later undertake to describe a Christmas program at Pine Forest School in about 1927.

. . . Jack goes on to relate the Christmas program at the school after getting some input from his cousin Doris Gray, who also grew up in Pine Forest and attended school with him.

You [Doris] made me realize that I did leave Christ out of my Christmas tale, but that was my fault in relating the story, not my family's fault, because we were all apprised of the meaning of Christmas, that is, the birthday of our Savior. We certainly were cognizant of that, and didn't take it lightly.

I am delighted that you [Doris] are willing to put on your "thinking cap" and help me to recall the events of the 1927 Pine Forest School Christmas program. That was a pretty long time ago, and my memory is rusty.

The biggest part was getting ready to put on the event. At the time I
think the school principal was Lonnie Turrentine. He contacted a local
citizen farmer who had the resources, and got him to harvest a large
cedar tree to serve as the school Christmas tree. The school house
faced the east. It had a corridor that ran through the center of the
building from the front door to the back door. There were two large
rooms on the south portion, and two rooms the same size on the
north side. The two rooms on the south side were separated by a
permanently constructed wall, but the other two rooms, the north
rooms, were separated by a removable wall. I think, when opened,
it would fold back, but I can't remember for sure how it was engineered. When a pupil first started to school he/she would be put in the front room on the south side. As he/she was promoted from year to year he/she would move on, eventually, to the back room on the south side; the to the back room on the north side; and then lastly, to the front room on the north side. I never made it to the front room on the north side, before we moved away. I think I failed to mention there would be several grades of classes taught in each room, that is, first grade would be on one side of the room; second grade would be in the middle of that room; and third grade would be situated on the other side of that room; and so on, for the other rooms.

Anyway, back to the cedar tree brought in by the local citizen farmer. It was a relatively large tree. The ceiling in the school building was, I estimate, twelve to fourteen feet high, and the treetop had to be lopped off to make it fit in the room. The tree was erected in the front of the north front room. The teacher's desk was displaced to make room. The tree was installed a week or so before the program, in order that the proper decorations could be made. The removable wall was taken down until after Christmas. The heavenly aroma of the cedar inspired everyone to get into the proper attitude.

Everybody was drafted to make paper chains, cut out pictures, Santas and Christmas scenes from magazines to decorate the windows and blackboards. Some commercial decorations were purchased, such as paper bells that opened out to 3-D configurations and Santa figures that opened the same way. By the time everything was added, the place looked mighty festive and exciting.

For each grade, all of the pupils' names were put individually in a hat, shaken up properly, and then drawn out to have someone to get a present for. In that way there would be a present for every child when the big moment arrived. a program was planned and rehearsed. There were talks by the principal and other teachers; there were readings, songs and a skit. It was politically incorrect back then for it to explained to all that the celebration was in honor of the birth of the Christ child, which was very much a part of the theme of the program.

Then there was the presentation of the Christmas presents. What a thrill of expectation! It seemed almost hours before they got around to finding my package. You see, all of the gifts were hanging on the tree, and were taken off one by one. My present was a good brand harmonica. I was very pleased with the selection, and enjoyed using it for a long time afterward. You see, I could go up in a field or over to the woods and play a tune on it without disturbing anybody. After all the presents were distributed, we were all wished happy holdiays; the benediction was said, and we were on our way to freedom until after NewYears.

This was taken from the exchange of e-mail messages that occurred in 1998. Jack was born in Pine Forest in 1917 and spent his early years there. Doris Josephine (McClure) Gray, Jack's cousin, was also born in 1917 Pine Forest and spent her early years there. Jack and Doris both attended school in the school house that was built in 1912 and is shown elsewhere on this site. story3