Memories of Christmas Past

by Peter Twitchell

As we prepare for the Christmas holiday my memories go back to when I was a child of eight, nine, and ten. I went to Sunday school at the Bethel Moravian church and I remember our Sunday school teachers Gladys Fancher and Grace Schattsneider.

Grace would always give us a clipping of a bible verse we had to memorize and recite the following Sunday at the church evening Christmas service.

The memory verse recital was always in front of our parents, our family, and the church congregation. The Moravian church at the time was located right across the street from Olaf Hopstad’s house on 3rd Avenue.

We actually started in the late 50s at the first church which was located on Mission Road, then moved up to the new church in the early 60s.

Our Sunday school class consisted of about a dozen girls and boys who recited their bible memory verse from memory in front of our parents, our families, and the Bethel congregation. I remember being nervous the first year or two and my mind going blank then being prompted by Gladys or Grace.

Mom made sure I always had a brand new sweater or pair of jeans and nice shoes. I was bathed, spruced up, and either my Auntie Molly or Auntie Mary Kohl always clipped my hair. Mom would put Vaseline hair tonic in my hair and comb it. It was a pretty special occasion for all of us kids to be dressed up.

Us kids would single file up the steps to the front balcony of the church in a straight line across the stage and each of us would recite our memory verse. It was a happy occasion for all as we celebrated the birth of the Christ child.

When we were through the congregation would applaud and we would turnaround, file back down the steps and each one of us were given a small paper bag full of peanuts, hard candy, and usually an apple or an orange.

A decade later when I was in junior high I played Joseph sitting by the manger and Cecelia Oscar played Mary, the mother of Baby Jesus the Christ child. Older adults would play the Magi bearing gifts for the Baby Jesus. The shepherds were played by adults from the congregation of the Moravian Church as well.

I looked at Mary, she was grinning at me with her fashion prescription eyeglasses and her make up. I was wearing my satin blue and silver striped robe, my cowboy boots and a ring with a ruby red stone and I smiled. In my mind I was thinking that we were not authentically dressed or made up. And I chuckled and we both, Mary and I, burst out laughing. It was a happy moment.

When I was in my 50s I played a wise man along with Morris Bentley, a social worker from YKHC. If my recollection is correct Roy Alexie was the third wise man. I remember Morris was hilarious and we all burst out laughing, hahaha. I’m sure the shepherds had a happy moment too when they laughed! I remember holding the big stuffed fish that Morris let me us, that was supposed to be my gift.

These as well as family and friends were the happiest memories and moments in my younger days! I’d like to wish everyone of you Happy Holidays, be safe, and take care of yourself.