Christmas pastChristmas pastChristmas past

Christmas past

December is marked by area Christmas celebrations, including school and church programs. This time honored tradition has provided memories for many in the community. 

Lakeside resident Edgar Simon, who is still living in the house in which he and three of his six siblings were born, remembers that each little community, in what is now the greater New Underwood community, used to host their own Christmas program and celebration, though the festivities usually took place closer to Christmas than they do now. 

According to Simon, one of his earliest Christmas memories took place around 1935, before he was old enough to be in school. At that time, there were several schools in the Lakeside District #20. Three or four those schools collaborated to produce a Christmas program, which was performed at the Lakeside church, Simon said.

The church was decorated for Christmas with a Christmas tree lighted with candles that in metal holders that clipped to the tree.. The candles were not allowed to burn for long, though, due to concern of fire. In order to light the church, the Lakeside neighbors would use lanterns. 

“A gasoline lantern would give a brighter light than kerosene,” Simon said. These lights presented an element of danger, too. The lamps functioned when the gasoline was pumped up and under pressure, making them somewhat dangerous, said Simon.

Though Simon was too young to be in school, he was still part of the Christmas program. He was to be an “eek in the box” during the play. An “eek in the box” is similar to a “Jack in the box.” The young Simon was supposed to crouch in a large cardboard box, then spring up when one of the older boys whistled. 

The first time this was to happen, Simon performed his part perfectly. The large crowd proved too much for the boy, though. “When I saw the jillion people in the audience, I went back down and no one could coax me back up again,” Simon said.

The number of Christmas decorations have increased over the years, according to Simon. At one time, though some people went down into the river breaks to get Christmas trees, and others had artificial trees, it was not uncommon for people to celebrate Christmas with no tree at all. Even in cases where Christmas trees were commonplace, the decorations were limited to the interior of the home, and decorations all over outside the home and in the yard were not seen, Simon said.

Simon’s parents, Octave and Mabel Simon, built the home in which Edgar lives in 1926. At that time, they installed a 32 volt light plant. That electricity source provided Christmas cheer for the Simon family when Mabel would erect the family’s artificial tree, lighted with electric lights, each year.  

Original Christmas poem 

by Edgar Simon

The night before Christmas

And all around the house

Everything was stirring,

Even that mouse.

The children were running around

Trying to keep ahead of Dad

To see if there were any gifts to be had.

Many thoughts were in their head

But they sure weren’t ready for bed.

St. Nicholas may be on his way

But sure won’t be able to stay

As we are still on Daylight Saving Time today.

The Pioneer Review

221 E. Oak Street
Philip, SD 57567
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