Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 17: Publications PMSS

CALENDARS: 1955 PMSS Calendar

TAGS: calendars, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Harlan County KY, fund-raising, promotional literature

The 1955 PMSS Calendar returns to an earlier calendar created in 1947 by Abbie Winch Christensen. The small painting by Christensen, who was a worker at the School during the boarding school years, captures the Spring bloom of mountain laurel and the iconic mountain cabin and path. It is a compelling image and it is not remarkable to see it return to illustrate another calendar from the School.

In the original 1947 calendar, a poem of Ruth Campbell accompanied the painting. In this rendition, the painting is accompanied by a well-known song often heard at Pine Mountain, “The Riddle Song.” The song, sometimes referred to as a lullaby, is indebted to an old English ballad, called Captain Wedderburn’s Courtship, according to the note accompanying it.

Song, ballad, lullaby, “The Riddle Song” is distinguished from so many mountain ballads that seem to find their subject in murder, deaths, and burials, and perhaps that accounts for its popularity at the School that tried to point students to a more gentle side of human nature rather than the pervasive fatalism.

Evelyn K. Wells, a former staff worker at Pine Mountain, a long-time member of the Board of Trustees of Pine Mountain Settlement School, and later faculty at Wellsley College, transcribed the song in her 1956 book, The Ballad Tree. However, the transcription, taken from Cecil Sharp‘s English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1932), does not conform to this version which is listed as a Kentucky folk song. Variants of Appalachian songs abound and within the repertoire of songs and ballads collected by Pine Mountain, there are variants a-plenty.