By Linda Emley
A few days ago, I spent several hours reading over the stories in the 1956 Richmond News looking for that one special story about Christmas. I chose that year because I was born on Nov. 29, 1956 and I wanted to see what it was like in Richmond on my first Christmas.
I was born in Lexington because the new Ray County Hospital didn’t open until 1957, but that didn’t stop it from hosting its first birth in 1956. On Oct. 19, a dog had puppies at the building site and the Richmond News had a picture of the mom and litter on the front page.
Many other interesting things were going on around town then. County residents were raising money for the soon-to-be-created Ray County Lake and the first bomb shelter was being built in the basement of a house in the Morningside addition of Richmond.
And word had just been received that Richmond was on the list of towns that were going to get a new National Guard armory and plans were under way to build what would later becalled the Rose Court Motel.
Two of Richmond’s finest citizens died a few days after I was born, Nelson Hill and Russell Farris. I have read many stories about these men and would have loved to talk to them and ask questions about things as they knew them around town.
I found a few stories about what the local churches were doing for Christmas and there were lots of Christmas ads for local stores. Richmond teachers had their Christmas party and there was mention of a few other parties here and there. It seemed like a normal Christmas, but there was one story that was updated every few days that really kept me reading. The Dec. 17 Richmond News announced that 48 needy families hadn’t yet been adopted for Christmas. On Dec.19, organizers still had 37 families needing the community’s help.
Then on Dec. 21, the Richmond News reported 46 of 72 families were adopted, but time was running out. Finally, on Christmas Eve, it was reported that 36 families were going to have a bleak Christmas if Richmond did not come through to save the day. I felt bad because we were donating money for the new lake and there was even a fund drive to donate money for relief during the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union. After researching the Hungarian issue, I felt a little better because they were revolting against a Communist government and President Eisenhower was leading the relief efforts with the Committee for Hungarian Refugee Relief. Yes they needed our help, but what about our less fortunate Richmond families?
The Dec. 26 Richmond News did not mention the local adopt-a-family program, but I kept turning the pages. Finally, on Dec. 28, a headline said that 74 families had been adopted, which was two more than they had originally planned for.
The people of Richmond had jumped in and filled the shopping lists for a few extra families. When it got down to the last few families and time was running out, the Richmond Ministerial Alliance adopted the rest of them and made sure that everyone had Christmas dinner and gifts for their family.
On Dec. 21, The Richmond News reported what some of the churches were doing for the holidays. “Churches Set Programs in Spirit with the Holidays. The Richmond churches will be busy this weekend with programs and parties to celebrate the Christmas season. There will be serious programs to emphasize the solemn meaning of Christmas, as well as many parties and gift exchanges to celebrate the joyous aspect of the Holiday.”
The Richmond Presbyterian Church had a program with a number of songs and poems performed by younger members of the church. The junior choir, led by Miss Billie Stoenner, sang several traditional Christmas carols. The organists for the program were Miss Ellen Rogers, Mrs. Marjorie White and Mrs. W.C. Stoenner. The narrator during the service was Charles Foster Jr.
At Richmond Methodist Church, the children’s division of Sunday School presented a musical, ”The Star and the Stable.” Midnight mass was held at the Immaculate Conception Church and Mrs. Edward Miller sang “O Holy Night.” The Christian Church had a traditional Vesper service that was titled “No Room in the Inn” and the Richmond Baptist Church held a program that included the film “Joy to the World.”
I did not find any mention in the newspaper about what my little Hickory Grove Church did for Christmas 1956, but that’s OK, because I know not much has changed there since I was born. We still have an old-fashioned country service just like we have been doing for over five generations in my family. My favorite part of Christmas is the candlelight service where we read the story of Jesus being born in a manger and sing Christmas songs. There is no better way to feel the true joy of Christmas than singing Christmas carols with your family and friends.
May we all find time to share the spirit of Christmas with our loved ones in this busy holiday season.
You can write Linda and wish her Merry Christmas at firstname.lastname@example.org.