riefly reflecting on Christmas holidays gone by, we can appreciate the journey of local residents over the last century...
Local families pre-1900 were often related to each other through marriage. Traveling by foot or horse made it difficult to meet people who lived outside of your village, as distances from one farm to another were huge before the arrival of the automobile.
If we peeked in on a Christmas celebration in 1890, we would most likely find a large family church service and a Christmas dinner, filled with family members - probably several neighboring families joined by marriage. We would look around the room and feel the warmth, cordiality and good cheer of "family."
Most local families in 1929 were dairy farmers - husbands, wives, and children worked the family dairy farm together. Celebrating Christmas in the Great Falls Grange in 1929 would have been an occasion filled with joy, as the Great Falls Grange just opened that year in May, after a decade of planning: The Great Falls Grange organization was formed in 1920; it received the National Grange charter in 1921; members purchased 8 acres from Gilbert and Frances Gunnell in 1928 to build the Grange Hall, which was constructed by L.B. Morris; and members dedicated the Grange building on May 4th 1929, after years of meetings at the D.D. Cornwell sawmill. During that decade of 1920 to 1929, a time when milk prices were depressed across the region, the Grange did much to improve the community: They purchased land for a new school at 9916 Georgetown Pike; they relied on volunteerism, personal donations and fund raising to fund the construction of the school building; in 1921 they held a carnival to raise funds, which became an annual event; and in 1923, the Grange members financed a loan to install a school heating system.
The opening of the Grange building in 1929 was the crowning glory of community effort which brought to fruition the principles of The Grange organization - "dedicated to high moral standards, helping others and community improvement." On our Local Lore page see "The Great Falls Grange Number 738 by Milburn P. Sanders, 11/12/2003."
The Cooper Middle School Chorus and Chamber Orchestra set the tone of warm celebration as they sang and played traditional Christmas music on the occasion of our "Old-Fashioned Christmas" program on December 12, 2012. GFHS Board Members extended warm hospitality as they prepared traditional treats and desserts, punch and hot apple cider using pre-1900 recipes from GFHS's cookbook, "How to Cure a Thousand Pounds of Ham and Other Receipts."
Looking around the room, we can see how far our community has come. Families have been able to get on a plane and move to our country and settle in our community and belong to our neighborhoods. All of us are free to identify and cultivate our unique gifts, talents and abilities. We have many options and opportunities to choose from as we consider what we will do on Wednesday evening, 12 December 2012, and are sometimes overwhelmed with all of the possibilities. We can go onto the Internet and communicate with people around the world, exchanging ideas and opinions with them as if they are sitting in our living rooms.
All of the possibilities before us offer a challenge: To know our past, to respect our place on the earth and in the world, and to join together in a community of values, principles, and mutual support. Each Cooper Middle School young person that played such beautiful music for us faces the personal work of defining who they are, selecting their life purpose, identifying the gifts and talents to be developed and joining in community with those who will nurture and encourage their growth.