Now that I am an old geezer, I can look back on all the years and compare and contrast them. Back when I was an extremely young Ozarks Boy, we would go into the nearby small town to see the parade. Santa would be in the parade, of course, and when the parade was over, he would sit in a chair right there on the sidewalk of the main street and hand out little brown sacks of candy to the kids who lined up.
There was no throwing of candy from vehicles or from walkers along the route. The candy came at the end of the parade in a paper sack handed to you from Santa Claus himself.
Let me tell you, I have been to a lot of Christmas events in a lot of small Missouri towns. For instance, back in the previous century when I was a young editor, I covered an event called Miss Holly in another community; it was a pageant to pick the queen of the Christmas parade.
I’ve been to parade after parade, taking pictures of floats and bands, back when parades had lots of school bands.
Rolla used to have a wonderful event called Ozark Christmas, a bluegrass concert up at the Leach Theatre in Castleman Hall.
I’ve taken pictures at church choir cantatas. I’ve ridden with my kids in Santa’s sleigh.
Two of the best Christmas events I’ve covered were last weekend over in the twin cities.
In the late morning, I went to the Newburg Christmas parade and to the Santa visit at the Houston House afterwards.
That Santa visit to the Houston House touches me every year. What happens is this: A group of community volunteers spends the year gathering up donations and buying gifts for the children of Newburg and Doolittle.
The youngsters get to sit on his lap so pictures can be taken; then they can select a gift. Of course, they get some candy. There are also snacks. It is just a wonderful time in small-town America.
Those volunteers are building up treasures in heaven as they devote time and money to helping build memories and make Christmas special for the children of the twin cities.
The other event I really enjoyed was the Doolittle Christmas tree-lighting held by that town’s Lions Club.
I have to admit I wasn’t too thrilled when Editor Hackbarth assigned that event to me. It was the first such lighting, so Hackbarth wanted to get a picture of it in the paper to chronicle it. Chronicling is part of the job of a journalist, so I went out on a cold night to the Doolittle Community Hall.
Page 2 of 2 - It turned out to be a great night of Christmas music, food and fun. It was another wonderful time in small-town America.
When community people get together to make events that build memories for people at Christmas, they have done something special. What makes these two events — the Santa visit at the Houston House and the singing and tree-lighting at the Doolittle Community Center—so grand to me is they embraced the entire community.
These weren’t for the elite, nor were they for the disadvantaged. They were for all the people of Doolittle and Newburg. The tree-lighting event only drew around 40 people, so I hope next year’s event brings in more. Doolittle/Newburg folks who missed it, missed something great.
Small-town America is the best place to be in all the land.