Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 11, 2012

John Cannon: Christmas memories from 1954: 12/12/12

John Cannon
The Independent

ASHLAND — It is funny how memories of some seemingly trivial event stick with you for more than a half century. Such is the case of the 1954 Christmas play at Bloomingburg School. After all these years, I not only can remember my first experience on the stage, but I can even remember my one line.

I was a first-grader in 1954, and pictures of my classmates and me still hang on the wall of my office. I keep them there as a reminder of my rather humble roots. I still know the names of most of the 27 kids in that collection of school photos, and I even know where some of them are today.

Just weeks before the Christmas break, the students in the first, second and maybe the third grade began rehearsing for the Christmas play. Since Bloomingburg School included all 12 grades then, that meant the audience for the play would include high school kids in addition to little kids. As a little kid that was scary to me.

It became even more scary when I was given a line. I don’t remember much about the play, but it had something to do with making or decorating a Christmas tree. As I remember it, I was one of the branches on the tree and was indistinguishable from the dozen on so other branches until it was time to say my line.

Moe Gray, a second grader who was standing next to me on stage, would always whisper to me when it was time for me to say my line, but if the truth be known, I didn’t need his help. Even if Moe said nothing, I would have said my line at just the right time:

“But wait, we need lights!”

Once said, a group of kids carrying flashlights would march from the back of the auditorium and onto the stage singing, “Let’s Light the Christmas Tree.”  At the time, that was a fairly popular Christmas song written by Ruth Lyons who was host of the popular daytime “50-50 Club” on WLW-TV. While the live show originated in Cincinnati, we watched it on the WLW staion in Columbus.

I mention this only because “Let’s Light the Christmas Tree” was just one of several really good Christmas songs Ruth Lyons wrote that have mostly been forgotten. Just once, I would like to hear one of them on one of those radio stations that play nothing but holiday songs at this time of the year. It would be a good break from hearing “Frosty the Snowman,” “Sleigh Ride” and “Jingle Bells” over and over and over again. Those aren’t bad songs, but they are winter songs, not Christmas songs.

But I digress. My line may have seemed insignificant, but if I had not said it, all those kids with flashlights may still be standing in the back of the auditorium! And since my sister was one of those second-graders, forgetting my line would have been a

family disgrace that I would never have been able to live down.

Do they still have Christmas pageants at schools? I can’t remember my children and now my grandchildren being in one.  Maybe they are no longer politically correct.

I’m not saying the 1954 Christmas pageant at Bloomingburg School was great literature, because it certainly was not. But it created a memory that still lingers clearly in my head 58 years later. Weird, huh? Every kid should have such memories.

JOHN‚ÄąCANNON can be reached at jcannon@dailyindependent.com or at (6060) 326-2649.