Pipi's Pasture: Winter get-togethers growing up, part II

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When my siblings and I were growing up on the ranch at Morapos, we didn’t go to Craig much in the winter. In fact, sometimes we were pretty much snowed in. However, that didn’t mean the community neighbors and family didn’t get together. For last week’s “Pipi’s Pasture,” I wrote about some of the potluck suppers that neighborhood families took turns hosting.

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Diane Prather

Besides the suppers, the men sometimes got together to play poker. I can remember dad hosting several of those evenings. The men played poker until the wee hours of the morning. Mom and us kids amused ourselves and then went to bed.

In the days we kids were growing up, the country schools were gathering places for the community people, especially when there were school programs. Word got around, and everybody showed up, even if they didn’t have children in school. The most memorable of the programs were at Christmastime.

Starting around Thanksgiving, the teacher and students started planning the program. We memorized “pieces,” songs and parts for one or more plays. We even set up a stage using curtains that were stored in mothballs the rest of the year. The school was decorated with a Christmas tree, construction paper cutouts and paper chains.

After the program, there were refreshments, a visit from Santa, a gift exchange and lots of visiting. The mothers packed paper bags of nuts, candies, a popcorn ball and — most prized of all — an orange. Each kid got a bag, and if there were some left over, they went to other people who attended the program, mostly the senior citizens.

If weather permitted, we sometimes attended the Christmas program at the Hamilton School. Our Uncle Albert Ottens always played Santa and passed out treats.

When we kids were eight years old, we joined 4-H Club. The Hamilton Busy Beavers Club met at the Hamilton School, so we attended meetings there and dances, too. I think there might have been about one dance per month, and entire families attended. (Some of the dances may have been community sponsored. I can’t remember.)

Sometimes we danced to records; other times, some groups played live music. There always was someone there who called square dances. Little kids, parents, teenagers — everybody danced and had a good time.

Just before midnight, someone would announce that the next dance would be the last before supper. The idea was that whoever danced together ate supper together.

Everyone retired to the basement of the school, the hot lunchroom, and enjoyed sandwiches, cake, coffee and punch. The meal was brought in by all of the guests, and just before supper, some of the ladies put everything out and made coffee.

After supper, dancing resumed for a while, and everyone went home tired and happy. Sometimes during winter months, people drove home in a snowstorm.

Once in a while, there was a box social. I remember one of these being held at the Morapos School. The event usually was planned if the community was trying to raise money for some cause. Each woman cooked up a special lunch, sometimes fried chicken and cake or pie, and put it all in a box that was specially decorated. The owner of each box was supposed to be kept secret, with an emphasis on “supposed to,” because after the boxes were auctioned off, the gentlemen enjoyed eating the lunches with the owners of the boxes.

Many of the community people did not have electricity in the early years, so even if there had been television or computer games, we couldn’t have enjoyed them. We did have battery-powered radios, however. We kids enjoyed listening to cowboy programs, and at night we all listened to our favorite programs. It was another way we passed the winter months.

Winters were tough when we were growing up, but we still had plenty of enjoyable times.

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