Christmas At Central Mines, By Alfred Nicholls
Excerpted from More Copper Country Tales, by Alfred Nicholls
A few weeks before Christmas a committee of six, men and women equally divided, were appointed from the Sunday school to solicit funds to purchase suitable gifts for the children. This committee, with all the functions of the office, with "power to act," met after closing hour at the local store and bought at cost many useful and sundry articles as their riper years dictated. The supply consisted of mittens, suspenders, pocket knives, mouth organs, knitted hoods, scarfs, and even artics. No record was kept of the previous year's gifts individually and, of course, it frequently happened that one or more of the children received suspenders for several consecutive years, though his heart longed for a pocket knife. In addition to these donations from the Sunday School, parents and friends brought toys, secretly tucked away under a shawl or overcoat, to be placed on the tree for distribution.
The spreading branches of evergreen invariably became inadequate to accommodate these numerous gifts from indulgent parents. To overcome such inconvenience, two parallel clotheslines, one of which stood two feet above the other, were stretched across the church near the top of the tree. These were for toys especially and upon them hung straight brass horns, circular brass horns, jumping-jacks, dolls, jack-in-the-box, and other nondescript of the most attractive design. So great was the strain a support became a necessity, which resembled the familiar clother-prop on wash day. From the base of the pole to the very top were hung dolls of every known variety. Dolls dressed, dolls undressed. China dolls, sailor dolls, and rag- baby dolls. Dolls that squeaked, cried, and laughed. All were carefully arranged in their diminishing size as they extended upward.
The church choir, always present on these occasions, rendered a few Cornish Carols in opening the evening's exercises. Then, eventually, came the distribution of presents. With the younger element, muscles became tense, and eyes sparkled with intense interest. Thus the entertainment continued till every child had been remembered.
From every quarter of the little church there is now heard the baa of the sheep, the squeak of the doll. Slide trombones are in full and active operation; mouth organs see- sawing at random. The "caw" of jumping-jack, the plinkey-plankey-plung of the Jews-harp, the fluttering fingers on tin whistles, all adding to the din and delight of each performer, till pandemonium is suddenly hushed by the sharp rap of a call-bell ever ready on the sacred desk. A few moments of quiet prevails and again the strain of a moment ago is taken up in gusto, allegro tempo. The little deskbell, as a disciplinary implement has temporarily lost its terrorizing influence and is, with some irritation, unceremoniously dethroned. Withal nobody seems impatient. It is Christmas time, let the children enjoy themselves is the prevailing sentiment.
The program is now completed.