By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | December 18, 2020
Mrs. Alice M. Canney, teacher of West Milton’s one-room schoolhouse, staged its usual end-of-term exercises on Friday, December 17, 1915. Following which, the students presented a three-act Christmas play entitled “Trials at Headquarters” for an audience of over fifty people.
West Milton. Notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather the Christmas tree and exercises held at West Milton schoolhouse last Friday evening were largely attended, upward of 50 people being present.
The interior of the schoolhouse was simply decorated in the usual color scheme suggestive of the season. One spacious corner of the room was occupied by a large Christmas tree which towered to the ceiling, its long branches drooping under’ its harvest of daintily arranged gifts, trimmings of pop corn and decorations of tinsel and ornaments. Partly hidden by the lower boughs and constructed in an adjacent doorway was a typical, old fashioned fireplace, its dark throat and copious breadth being made especially to accommodate the portly dimensions of Santa Claus. Across the opposite corner of ,the room was suspended a huge curtain. Just what it concealed was a subject of curiosity to the audience until its object was revealed in the last act of a play by the children, the concluding number of the program.
The exercises consisted of recitations, chorus songs and solos by the pupils, with a fine vocal solo by Miss Gertrude Hurd, all executing their parts in a very creditable manner. The expectancy evidenced by the audience was appeased with the announcement of the children’s play, “Trials at Headquarters.”
Act I – Scene, Santa Claus is seen seated at his, desk, with a telephone quite handy, and is reading his mail when “Igo,” Reginald Swinerton, the foreman of tee Esquimaux workmen, enters and announces that the reindeer have broken loose from the corral and are in the garden eating the tin horns and jumping jacks. Santa Claus dismisses him with the injunction to get the workmen together and herd the deer. Somewhat irritated by the incident, as Christmas is only a few days away and the old gentleman is up to his ears in business, he resumes his mail and reads a few letters aloud, when Mrs. Santa Claus, Marguerite Swinerton, enters to confront him with her plea to accompany him on his Christmas tour. With a woman in the case Santa scents the imminence of impending disaster and most artfully tries to persuade her against the idea. However, it is seen that Mrs. Claus has a mind of her own. Hardly is this dialogue over before “Ope,” Clyde Horne, another Esquimau, comes in to tell his honor that a polar bear has floated down on a cake of ice and is devouring the sugar plums. The comical dwarf has hardly made his exit to avert the calamity when “Bose,” Jacob Swinerton, foreman of the doll factory, makes obeisance to his chief with the statement that the men have put the dolls’ eyes in upside down and asks tor advice. Now thoroughly exasperated by the turn of affairs, Santa starts to follow his man to the factory to straighten things out when “Igo,” who is coming in excitedly, runs pell mell into Santa, nearly upsetting him. As Santa pulls himself together “Igo” informs him that the deer have stampeded and gone far out upon the ice where the bears will make short work of them. With his faithful team of reindeer gone, Santa is thwarted in making his Christmas tour and little strain of pathos enters the story, which is quickly relieved by the reappearance of Mrs. Santa Claus with her demand to accompany Santa and get an idea of the styles in the big metropolis. Mrs. Santa soon realizes her mistake and with the tact of a woman suggests that the reindeer be given up and a more modern means of conveyance be substituted in the shape of an aeroplane. Santa falls in with the suggestion and summons all the workmen to begin on the craft at once.
Act II – The Spirit of Christmas. Santa Claus’ good angel, who bears in her hand the star of Bethlehem, Estella Swinerton, has come to Santa’s aid. With her magic power she brings to Toy Land, Jack Frost, the explorer, in his giant aeroplane, “The Cloud.” The big curtain is drawn aside and Carrie Grace as Jack Frost appears in a miniature airship. Summoned by the unusual noise. Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and the Esquimaux gather around and Santa arranges with Jack Frost to accompany him on a trip around the world and distribute his presents. Mrs. Santa, not to be out done, hides in the New York bag and gets there, after all. Jack and Santa make their exit in the aeroplane amid the cheers of the Esquimaux.
Act III – A Tenement in New York. The poor sisters, Ulfreda Ray and Ada Barsante, enter bearing candles which they place over the fireplace, hang up the stockings and after saying their prayers, retire to bed. Santa comes down the chimney, fills the sacks and announces that “a woman is hard to beat.” After Santa made his exit the lights were put out and in the center of the stage in the rays of a dim spotlight the Spirit of Christmas appeared as a little vision of loveliness all robed in white with the star of Bethlehem upheld in her hand. The lights were turned up and the play was over.
The distribution of presents and refreshments mingled with cheer until a late hour.
CARD OF THANKS. To my pupils, their parents and the friends of West Milton school, I wish to attribute the credit for whatever degree of success our exercises of last week may have attained; and I wish to thank the community at large for the unreserved support which was given me in preparing and presenting the program, decorations and refreshments. Mrs. Alice M. Canney, teacher (Farmington News, December 24, 1915).
Carrie E. Grace (aged fourteen years) was a daughter of Frank L. and Lizzie B. (Willey) Grace.
Marguerite Swinerton (aged thirteen years), Reginald C.V. Swinerton (aged twelve years), and Jacob M. Swinerton (aged nine years), were children of Jacob and Emma (Melville) Swinerton.
Estella Swinerton (aged nine years) was a daughter of Henry and Esther M. (Blaisdell) Swinerton.
Ada F. Barsante (aged eight years) was a daughter of Albert and Nellie A. (Swinerton) Barsante.
Clyde W. Horne (aged eight years) was a son of Oril F. and Elsie M. (Varney) Horne.
Gertrude Hurd and Ulfreda Ray have been difficult to identify. They may have been students from neighboring Farmington, NH.
See also Milton’s West Milton Teachers, 1885-23 for additional information about the teacher, Mrs. Canney, and her schoolhouse.