The story below was published in the Daily News and the Rushville Republican on Dec. 18, 2000, not long after I had commenced writing a weekly column for the two papers. I thought it might be fun to see it in print again thirteen years later.
Yes, ‘twas the night before Christmas and I remember it quite well, considering the fact that it was sixty-eight years ago. Picture if you will a little house in the boondocks some three miles east ofWestport. Inside, in the dim light of a kerosene lamp, a small boy sits sleepily on his father’s lap. Themother Jessie and sister Eileen are also in the room. The dad is reading from a worn little book entitled”The Night Before Christmas (A Visit From St. Nicholas)” by a fellow named Clement C. Moore. It is a wonderful, cozy family scene with the woodburning stove making the room toasty warm in spite of the cold wind that blows in through the cracks in the old house.
Outside, the hound dogs are snug in their houses--no coon hunting this night, although the dad is a premier outdoorsman, trapper and hunter. The radiator on the Model T has been drained, so no worry about it freezing up and bursting.
The entire family has gone out in the afternoon to cut a cedar tree. They needn’t go far, as cedars are plentiful at the home place just east of Sand Creek. The Christmas decorations have been brought out for another year’s service. The red crepe paper garland has faded to a pinkish color and on portions of it the crepe paper has long since fallen or worn off and only the string remains. Of coursethe house has no electricity hence no Christmas lights.
The year was l932 and the family was poor in a way that cannot even be explained to today’s citizens, with the exception of the remaining seniors who lived during that grim period. The dad labored in a stone quarry, in the day before any safety equipment or regulations, and often came home bloody from being hit by flying rock during blasting.
Of the four members of that little family, only the boy remains. But to that boy, Santa Claus (the real one) will always look just like the one pictured in that “The Night Before Christmas Book” and no modernized substitute is acceptable. For the same reason, poor Rudolph can never have a place in Santa’s team, which is made up of “eight tiny reindeer.” Well remembered is the feel of the dad’s lapeven though the dad, who was a young man then, has been gone for forty years.
If you get a chance this Christmas season, sit down with your kids and read them the original Clement C. Moore poem. It’s very short, will take only a few minutes out of your busy life, and they may well remember it for a lifetime.
In 1933, the year following the above story, the same little boy became locally famous for his performance in the Rodney Separate Baptist church Christmas pageant. His part was to recite the first stanza of the same famous Christmas poem. Apparently the family had discussed evidence of a rodent problem at home, for the boy stood on the dais and bravely recited the famous words:
“Twas the night before Christmas,
When all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse t__d.”
(Rhymes with word)
I’m told it brought the house down and I know it became part of family lore.
While I’m on famous church performances, I might as well tell you about another incident involving the same kid at three years of age, same church, the occasion being the Mother’s Day recitations. The boy, obviously not cut out for a career on the stage, said his piece thusly:
It’s Mother’s Day,
And I’m here to say,
I love my dad!
My mother never let me forget it.
Best Wishes of the Season from...