1939 COMMUNITY Fair Day

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 16: Celebrations, Special & Annual Events
By Topic: Celebrations


TAGS: 1939 Community Fair Day ; Community Day ; Dorothy Olcott Elsmith ; ice cream ; cattle ; poultry ; health exhibits ; food stands ; mountain families ; prize steer ; hogs ; calves ; county school students ; ballads ; folk dancing ; Abner Boggs ; ‘Singing’ Willie Nolan ; stage plays ; hog-calling ; Barbara Wilder ; sheep ; county farm agents ; lunch tickets ; Harlan County ; 

Narrative by Mrs. Dorothy Elsmith

[Excerpt from 1939 LETTERS/REPORTS TO BOARD by Glyn Morris, pages 8 – 12]

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We are always glad whenever a member of the Board of Trustees can come to Pine Mountain for a visit. Mrs. [Dorothy Olcott] Elsmith arrived in time to help us with Community Day, and has kindly written the account which follows.

“Mr. Morris has suggested that since I happened to be at Pine Mountain for the fall Community Fair Day last Saturday that I append a Board member’s account to his report. ‘Happen’ is hardly the word for to reach here in time I drove 300 miles over North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky mountains in a day from Brasstown. Darkness clamped down upon me with that unexpected mountain suddenness so that I had to drive the last stretch from Harlan town and up and over Pine Mountain in the dark. Never did the lights of the School shine out in kindlier welcome.

“Fair Day broke cold with a wind from the north just as the trucks with chunks of ice, fifty gallons of ice cream and racks of cold drinks arrived. The boys were driving the last poles in the stockade for the cattle and hammering the last wires onto the poultry coops. The doctor and nurse were setting up their health exhibit with baby scales, charts, pamphlets and a basket of borrowed quintuplets. The…

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…Exhibition food counter was gay with sourwood branches if in unconscious proximity to the cattle pens. The whole playground presented a very festive gay transformation and by mid-morning there were from 350 to 400 friends of the School milling about the grounds. Down the road from both directions mountain families, barefoot boys, babes in arms, cows and cattle came trailing in from creeks and hollows of the valley. One prize steer was driven l5 miles over the mountain into his exhibition quarters. The School’s monumental hog, hauling its keeper behind him came lunging down the hill, accompanied by the two three-week-old prancing calves, Perry and Theodore. Soon the pens were filled and all through the day afterward tall mountaineers were literally hanging on the palings in rapt contemplation of the fine points of these indifferent creatures on exhibition. Shades of Bordens of another Fair.

“School buses from Big and Little Laurel, Evarts, Loyall and other nearby county schools poured out their boys and girls and soon they were Durham Reeling and Circassian Circling along with the Pine Mountain children. The poor piano was switched by truck from School House porch for ballads to playground for dancing and back to School House…

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…for more ballads. Yes, Abner Boggs was there with his ‘Lolly Toodum Day,’followed by two little Boggses of the third generation singing ‘Willie Weaver,”Gay Deceiver’ with due solemnity. The School sent a special escort to bring down ‘Singing’ Willie Nolan whose dramatic rendering of Barbara Allen and Sweet William was to me the most authentic and appealing part of the day’s program. But the audience caught the flavor and enjoyed the familiarity of the old favorites dramatized charmingly by some of our children, on the School House porch. Then they picked up their chairs and filed into the auditorium where a play written for this day called ‘The Pink Ribbon’ was presented by a group.

“How many of you ever heard hog calling? After some persuasion by Mr. Morris, the audience warmed up to the occasion and, with Old Aunt Till leading, half a dozen, one of them little four-year-old Barbara Wilder, filed up on to the porch and called the hogs or called the sheep, each in his or her own peculiar idiom. I know now why Mrs. [Alice Joy] Keith, when she first came, wondered what that train was that whistled down the valley at a certain time early each morning.

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“Handing out the printed programs gave me the chance to mingle with the crowd. I talked with county teachers and principals, parents of our School children, some of whom had never been down to the School before, a county farm agent, a group of friends from Berea who had left there at 5:30 that morning. I discussed modern education for half an hour with One of the onlookers who I discovered afterward was the local snake handler and covered some points in religion with a primitive Baptist. The School sold for five cents tickets a lunch of potato Salad, sandwiches, hot dogs, coffee (most welcome). The buildings were open for inspection and in the Industrial Building, there was an exhibit of crafts and one of mountain antiques. I was astonished to hear that Harlan County had no county fair, that stock like this had never been collected and exhibited before. It was another instance of Pine Mountain’s leadership in the community. Another example of its out-going rather than in-growing spirit was the invitation it extended to some 35 of these neighboring school children to stay for a soup and ice cream supper and then more folk dancing. There were some 200 on the floor, the largest number Laurel House has ever had but not one child had to be spoken to or reprimanded in any way and I was very proud of the courtesy and competency our children showed all through the day.

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“The spirit of the day sings in the in the lines of this ballad sung several times under the infectious leadership of Mr. Newcomb, a new member of the music staff.”

“The sun is a-shining to welcome the day

Heigh ho! come to the fair.

The folks are all singing so merry and gay

Heigh ho! come to the fair.

All the stall on the green are as fine as can be

With trinkets and tokens so pretty to see

So it’s come then maidens and men to the fair

In the pride of the morning.

So deck yourselves out in your finest array with a

Heigh ho! come to the fair.”

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