KATHERINE B. WRIGHT “Glimpses of a Pine Mountain Christmas” 1921

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 16: Special and Annual Events
Wright, Katherine B. “Glimpses of a Pine Mountain Christmas”
New-Church League Journal, Vol. XXII, No. 3, December 1921

Writing for the international New Church-League Journal, Katherine B. Wright, a Pine Mountain Settlement School worker, captures the activities and more importantly the essence of the Christmas season at Pine Mountain Settlement School in December of 1921.

The Journal says of her article that she tells the story “… unconsciously, — of the carrying on of this school which makes such a Christmas possible — compels our respect and interest.”

The article is part of the promotional campaign for the Institution and Ethel de Long Zande opens the article with a direct appeal that well describes the region today as in 1921.

“Poverty you find, lack of knowledge you find, conditions needing to be corrected, still, here in the Kentucky mountains are a people inherently fine, their native vigor unspent, their mental and spiritual resources so great that they bring hope to America.”


CONTENTS

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During Christmas week at Pine Mountain, Laurel House children listen to carolers ; On Christmas Eve, children select and cut down a tree to trim and give to a neighbor, Aunt Sal ; On Christmas Day, carolers sing in the early morning and children receive stockings with gifts ; the Nativity play is presented at the School House, attended by neighbors ; children return to school after a week’s vacation ; an appeal to make the hope a reality before it’s too late ;

Page 38 — EXCERPT from Editorial Page [wright_glim_xms_004]

about the author ; about Appalachian Mountains and the people who live there ;


 GALLERY


TRANSCRIPTION

Cover [wright_glim_xms_001.jpg]

The New-Church League Journal
Volume XXII, Number 3, December 1921

CONTENTS

Two Christmas Poems
by Joseph C. Lincoln

Glimpses of a Pine Mountain Christmas

A Presidential Message to All the Leaguers

“We are Accomplishing Absolutely Nothing”
by Frank E. Wright

Published monthly (August and September excepted) for
The American New-Church League by
Saul Bros. 626 Federal St., Chicago, Ill.
Subscription price per year in advance:
U.S. and Canada $1.00; Foreign, $1.25;
Family plan, 75 cents; Single copies, 15 cents


Page 36 [wright_glim_xmas_002]

Glimpses of the Pine Mountain Christmas
BY KATHERINE B. WRIGHT

“Poverty you find, lack of knowledge you find, conditions needing to be corrected, still, here in the Kentucky mountains are a people inherently fine, their native vigor unspent, their mental and spiritual resources so great that they bring hope to America.”
Ethel de Long Zande.

A mountain so high that it seems almost to touch the Christmas star in the darkening sky; so high that it makes Laurel House in the valley seem small. In the upland pastures sheep are huddling against the night, while in their stalls the cattle low as they rest. within the big hall at Laurel House the flames of a Yule log light the eager, lifted faces of a hundred children. The children’s faces are lifted to catch the distant strains of a carol. It is the “Holly and the Ivy” the older girls are singing somewhere in the balcony shadows. The fire, too, seems to hear, for it crackles and leaps, suddenly lighting the oak rafters. The voices are clearer now, and out of the
shadows into the light come the carollers. Like white, Christmas angels they are up there singing and festooning the balcony with ivy garlands because Christmas week has come to the Kentucky mountains.

“HERE WE COME A WASSAILING—“

It is the day of Christmas Eve. Small mountaineers capped and mufflered go into the woods to cut a tree. Two hearty boys trudge ahead with the hatchet, while little girls who will be careful “pack” the basket of Christmas tree “pretties.” When, in height and shape and width of bough, the tree meets even the critical taste of the little girls, the boys sever it from its earthly connections and then it begins to be a thing divine. Small fingers forget the cold with weaving bright, gold tinsel between the green boughs. An angel on the very top must go, and near it a star, while in every lower bough great, shiny balls reflect sky pictures and wood pictures and funny, round children’s faces. You who have never cut your own tree and trimmed it where it grew, that the other trees might envy it, try it for Christmas joy.

When it is glorified from tip to stem the…


Page 37 [wright_glim_xms_003]

…two biggest boys “hyst” the tree with great care and “pack” it slowly through the forest. You see, — this is a gift three of the wassailers are taking to a dear, old friend. As they approach
her house they tiptoe and whisper lest she discover the surprise too soon, but once around the bend of the road and out of the grove of Christmas trees, they burst into song. Alarmed turkey gobblers scatter as the boys bear the glittering tree to her door. On her porch they wait and sing softly until the door swings wide and she stands before them her eyes young with the glow of many Christmases; her hands that have woven beautiful cloth and worked and blessed, are
clasped at the sight of the tree.

 “God bless the master of this house,
Likewise the mistress, too –, “

sing the children. The “master” of this house is not here these three years, but because the vision of Uncle William Creech, who founded the Pine Mountain School, is more alive each year as an increasing number of mountain children receive its opportunities to learn and grow, the children sing to him.

CHRISTMAS DAY

“Look yander, the moon’s a big, yaller Christmas tree ball in the top o’ that spruce-pine!” It did look like one as it shone down on the roof of Far House and Laurel House and all the other houses, where “least uns” and “big uns” were listening at four o’clock Christmas morning to the boy carollers. So, the day opened with “tidings of great joy.” At six joy reigned, for in each household, stockings brimful were being discovered on the fireboards which had been extended, across the room in some cases, to accommodate their burdens. The grown-ups
were experiencing that especial pleasure which belongs alone to watching children investigate the depths of the Christmas stocking.

“El-l, lookye here, lookye here,” ejaculates Lindy, “ef ole Santy aint give me jest what I wanted, — a sleep doll!”

Later in the day take a peep at nine-year-old Ralph Waldo as he sits by the fire reading his Christmas book while the other children are out playing “hoopy-hide.” The story is producing a
chuckle now and then and there is a growing expression of interest on his rosy face. If the friends of the Pine Mountain School who help it give Lindy her first sleep doll and Ralph his Christmas book and, more important still, the “larnin'” with which to read and comprehend it, could but see these children, their hearts would [w]arm with the realization of what they are having a hand in. You are not only giving present joy, but you are creating memories that play no small part in fashioning boys and girls.

Come with us to the Christmas play, and you shall have a memory fashioned for yourself that will serve you well for years. All about the schoolhouse as you enter are tethered nags and mules; our neighbors have come from far and near to see the Nativity play as the children give it each year. An aged grandmother dismounts from her high-pummeled side-saddle. She has crossed the backbones of two mountains and then “follered” a creek to get here. You, who may have seen the Oberammergau plays, and she, will both enjoy this play. The actors take their parts with a faith and naturalness that surpasses studied art. The Babe in the manger, Mary and Joseph worshipping with the wise men, — the Herald Angels singing; — all of it will impress you, perhaps as deeply as it has others.

Christmas over, — and these children drop back into the regular days of learning the dignity of work and of getting an education. On the morning that school opens for its second term they come back, after a week’s vacation, full of enthusiasm to learn and grow. They come riding down the valley by the wagonload, or three deep on mules, or walking sometimes sixty or seventy miles. New children come with them, hungry to learn, but, like as not, they have to be sent back to their mountain homes because the school lacks room or funds to take care of them.

Let us help transform this hope of America into the reality of the great blessing for America; let us do it quickly, before the sweep of commerce and the invasion of the foreign kill our chance.
The Pine Mountain Settlement School,
Harlan County, Ky.


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Editorial Department

“Glimpses of a Pine Mountain Christmas” was written for us by Miss Wright, one of the teachers in this school. Harlan county is in eastern Kentucky, where the Apalachians (sic) rise high and rugged, cut by numerous creeks. It’s all up and down going and there are no valley views. There are no roads either, except the beds of creeks and nature seems to have made a home for a hermit people. In spite of isolation and the severe struggle to live — hillside farming, more difficult than it sounds, is the only industry possible — without roads or other channels of commerce, these descendants of Scotch and English pioneers have persisted and their vitality is thus shown to be tremendous. Few of the mountaineers can read or write — their need of education is a great as their longing for it is intense. With hardly more than a tradition of civilization, they are a proud, patriotic people, deeply sensitive and possessing a true religious instinct. The story which Miss Wright tells unconsciously — of the carrying on of this school which makes such a Christmas possible — compels our respect and interest.


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