The best of the season is homemade
© Heather Killen
Pauline Diadick, a retired teacher now living at the Heart of the Valley home in Middleton, remembers Christmas at the one-room schoolhouse in Mt. Hanley.
By Heather Killen
It looks like Pauline Diadick could get a white Christmas after all.
The former teacher, now 100 years old, says when she thinks of Christmas past, one of the things she remembers is all the snow. Earlier this month when the ground was bare and the temperatures mild, it looked as though 2013 would bring us a green Christmas.
“It used to be that we’d be snowed in by this time,” she said. In those days, people stayed closer to home. As soon as it was cold enough to freeze the water in the pond, the snow would be cleared away from the surface and young people would skate in the evenings near Brickton.
If someone had to go somewhere, the men would use shovels to clear the way. Diadick says she remembers travelling by horse and sleigh. In the days before electricity came to Brickton, she was the teacher at the one-room schoolhouse in Mt. Hanley.
The roads were so rough and impassable that from January through March, she boarded with an older couple whose grandchildren attended the school nearby.
At 18 she was teaching 32 students, some not much younger than herself. She added that none of the children ever caused her trouble and she remembers how they were always ready to lend a hand.
“The boys would put wood in the woodstove, clean the boards for me, they were always offering to help,” she said.
Everyone worked together to brighten up the long winter months. Diadick says that people made their own entertainment in those days, gathering together to play cards and crokinole.
She also remembers having skis with straps and having to lug the gear up the hill, so she could ski back down. In the evenings families would take turns hosting community sing-alongs on Sunday nights.
The big event of the winter was always the children’s Christmas pageant; all the children would practice for days leading up to the big night. The whole community would gather to see the concert, she says.
There would be a dialogue and the children would sing carols along to organ music. She added the girls would dress up and march in a parade.
“Our Christmas trees grew in the pasture, we’d go out and cut one down,” she said. “We made our own wreaths, we twisted wire and decorated it with spruce boughs and red bows.”
It’ not that there weren’t shiny glass ornaments to hang on the tree, it’s just people didn’t depend as much on store-bought glitter to brighten the holidays. She says she remembers packing fruit and homemade candy into little gifts bags for the children.
Later when she was married with four children of her own, Diadick remembers packing the Christmas boxes with turkeys and hams that Thompson’s donated and the fleet of drivers who delivered them to families in the Middleton area.
“She had quite a system worked out,” according to her daughter, Karen Cassleman.
She added that for her, some of the memorable parts of Christmas were definitely homemade.
“My mother’s fruitcake was famous,” she said. “She made the best blueberry pie in the world. And there was a cranberry pie at Christmas.”