CHRISTMAS IN SUNNYSIDE SCHOOL
by Nadine Elwers
The one room in Sunnyside school was
decorated for Christmas during the time I attended
there with swags of evergreen branches forming a large
X overhead. Four such ropes began at and reached height
in each corner meeting in the middle overhead. Here
a big red paper fold out bell hung in a splendid display
of intricate diamonds. I could never figure out how
someone put that bell together.
Sunnyside school was just west of Waubonsie
State Park and was snuggled up against the Loess hills
and thus provided a choice of cedar trees. The students
and teacher harvested one of the large ones and installed
it in the far right corner of the one-room school.
It reached heights far taller than the blackboards
and perfumed our classroom with its rich scents. I
will forever associate the odor of cedar with Christmas.
We all saved the tin foil from our
various treats and chewing gum and these we shaped
into "beads" and strung them on thread with
a needle to festoon the branches of our tree. We made
a tinfoil covered star to put on the top of the tree.
We brought popcorn, and a popper to school and popped
a batch of popcorn over the big wood stove. The girls
brought needles and thread and the task of stringing
popcorn began. We folded narrow strips of colored
paper and glued them in circles to make into paper
chains. If we didn't have colored paper we took white
paper and colored it with our crayons to use to make
the paper chains.
We used flour and water to make the
paste to glue the little loops of colored paper into
chains to hang around the tree.
There were no lights on the tree because the school
had no electricity. We sometimes fastened candles
to the branches and lit them during the school's Christmas
program. No reports of fires from those candles was
ever reported in my childhood.
Always there was a Christmas play. All
the children in the school were involved. A teacher's
magazine, "The Normal Instructor and Primary
Plans," gave a lot of good ideas for programs.
Some children sang in groups or recited a poem or
had a part in the play. The community was always invited
and even those people without children at home attended
and enjoyed watching the children perform.
Gift exchanges were not done much because
people did not have much money. If they did an exchange
the gifts were something useful like caps or mittens
or scarves. The teacher sometimes gave each child
some hard ribbon candy or the treat of an orange,
something we had very seldom in the wintertime.
Christmas vacation was often only one
or two days, three at the most. Christmas was looked
forward to with great anticipation for it was a time
of caring and sharing talents and gifts of love and
kindness with one another. For the children in one-room
school houses Christmas was a magical time of the
("View from the Attic" archives may be found
on the web at www.fremontcountyhistorical.org)