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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Didja Know? Christmas '47

I picked this article from Cornie Hubner's Didja Know? series as it relates to Christmas. It seems particularly appropriate given the 9.5 inches that fell between Friday and Sunday past - and that I'm typing this before the rains wash the snow all away.  

Here follows Cornie's article titled "Christmas '47." 

The 1947 Christmas Season will always be remembered by the few Smoke Rise residents and their friends who were fortunate to enjoy it.  The 37-inch, greatest of the century, snowfall provided a shining, silvery mantel that transformed the Gate House, Inn and other Estate buildings into live Victorian postcards. After struggling through unplowed public highways, we traveled a clean swept entrance road under a crystal roof of branches that made a fairyland ballroom entrance to unbelievable displays of nature Christmas Cards. Trees turned into glittering jewels and the shining ice coated snow remained spotless extending the Holiday Spirit for weeks.

After many years of confusion, December 25th was finally designated as the date of the birth of Christ by Pope Julius I in the 4th century.  The Star of Bethlehem had been identified as Nova or a flaring star, by Chinese but the uncertainty about the date was put to rest by that decision. The pagan Odin Oak was chopped down by St. Boniface, who substituted the fir tree in the 8th century and in 1223 St. Francis assembled the first creche in a move to bring the true meaning of Christmas to all people. A fellow monk wrote the first hymns that brought joy and spirit to the celebration.

The only sponsored service in Kinnelon during the early 1900s, was the Sunday School celebration at L'Ecole.  The Butler churches offered formal Christmas services for those who arrived by horse and carriage. The first Club members had their very own observance at the Inn or attended service in Butler, Bloomingdale and Pompton Lakes. Seasonal Egg Nog and cocktail parties required no formal invitation as everyone except the lame and infirm could be counted on to attend.  The four-party telephone line made it easy to broadcast the invitation to every resident. A fleet of jeeps (2 or 3) provided transportation when no other car dared to challenge the snow and sleet, freezing weather and ice covered roads.

Even the most timid climbed to a precarious seat in the vehicle, to reach a destination, high on a hill and made a sliding approach to the nearest door. Power failures sometimes added to the adventure but never dampened the festivities.  A bristling wood fire provided light and heat and offered an excuse for the more or less welcome enthusiastic rendition of Christmas Carols by the ever present male quartet.  Their repertoire of hymns was quickly exhausted and "Down by the Old Mill Stream" and "My Wild Irish Rose" was soon foisted on an appreciative (?) audience.

In '49, the singers became a wandering band of troubadours.   A group of four, including a fiddler, began an ambitious tour, in a freezing drizzle.  At the first stop, a cheery concert alerted the fortunate member to their presence and brought a hearty welcome to enter and partake. Fortified inside and out, a second performance was equally well rewarded.  The fiddler's frozen fingers and singers' strained vocal chords ended the successful trip after three more stops. Agreeing that some rehearsals might have been needed before the next tour, the Minstrels made their weary ways home.

The group performed, with or without being asked, at all Club parties. Encouraged by this acceptance, an attempt was made to organize a chapter of SPEBQSA with the assistance of the Montclair group who sponsored them. Lacking a tenor, even from the outside, the effort failed though the bass supplied a falsetto voice until his tonsils gave out. Nothing daunted, their public performances continued at all functions.

Very successful club parties, teas, cocktail parties and dances enlivened the membership from the first. The New Year's Dance, formal for several years, was always the highlight of the season. In '56, the Christmas Tree Decoration Party presented an ornament to each guest on arrival and the resplendent Christmas tree remained the centerpiece for the Holiday functions. By '59, the "College Kids" were welcomed by a dance that preceded the $10.00 per person, formal New Year's Ball. The price went to $14.00 in '67 when the invitations stated "Dress Optional, meaning your wife will decide." Also in '67, an invitation was extended to all members to join Carolling groups that began their practice that still continues.

During these years, there was an outdoor Christmas Decoration Contest.  The artistry and ingenuity of our talented members added to the Christmas Spirit, by the beauty and simplicity of the many displays. The contest (with minor awards) was abandoned, when professional assistance produced elaborate displays defeating the original purpose.

All parties continued in the White Room until '79.  Facilities at the Community Church were kindly offered for all events except the New Year's Dance which required the extensive accommodation at Rockaway River [?] for the greatly increased membership.  The celebration returned to the re-opened Inn in '81 with a Court Yard Christmas Tree Lighting and a New Year's party now at $75.00 per.  Successful celebrations continue with increasing interest so that reservations are now limited by the capacity of the Inn.

Christmas Eve is celebrated in some homes with a Special Birthday Party. In night clothes or robes, the family forms a procession with lighted candles and singing hymns, to the tree where the youngest places the infant in the crib. When the lights go on, a birthday cake is cut and refreshments served while the gifts are exchanged. Many club social events offer a chance to meet and share in Holiday Spirit.  Our many churches celebrate the birth of Christ with formal services to which all are invited.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY, HEALTHY NEW YEAR

~Cornie

What are your Holiday traditions? I would love to capture them here. My friend, fellow blogger and Boonton neighbor Steve Woodruff shares his in A Candle in the Window...

I echo Cornie's sentiments and hope you enjoy this Christmas visit to another time in Kinnelon and Smoke Rise.  Happiest of Holidays to you all!  

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