Christmas at Skokie Junction

Deaconess Sims opened the little library on Ninth St across from Hawthorne School in Salina, Kansas one year and I ❤️ it. I went there almost everyday to read books and play games. I spent long hours there reading while  Deaconess made me hot chocolate and popcorn. Some of the other kids in the neighborhood came to read and play games too. One year Deaconess Sims decided we should put on a play about Christmas. I thought it would be great. The story had a lesson for all of us about the true meaning of Christmas.

We all had parts to learn. I was one of the little girls in the play. We were on a trip together going to visit relatives across the country, when we ran into a snow storm. This was familiar because this often happened on the Kansas prairie. One day it would be sunny and warm and the next day, it would be snowing and icy. Our little group of actors learned our lines and we even made our scenery. We were “stranded” in a train station, waiting on a 🚂 that was stuck somewhere because of the snow. All of us kids were disappointed that we could not make it home for Christmas. We were very sad.  We sang some songs and played games, but it wasn’t the same as being home for Christmas.

We decided to pop some popcorn and string it. We got a 🌲 from outside and decorated it with popcorn and nuts. We even cut out candy canes to hang on the tree.  We used acorns and pines to make it beautiful. We made fudge and cookies 🍪 and wrapped them for gifts to put under the tree. We all learned that Christmas was not about gifts, but about being loving and kind to each other and remembering the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus’s birthday. We sang songs and danced and exchanged the gifts we made. We knew that Christmas was wherever you are and being good little kids. I remember it so well.

It has been more than 60 years since I was in that play in the little library on Ninth St, but I will never forget how much fun we had that year. Deaconess Sims made no difference between black and white children, she ❤️ us all equally. She gave us a chance to be like all the other kids in town, preparing for Christmas by having a dramatic presentation.  I still remember how cold and snowy it was outside and how warm and loving it was inside that little slightly run down building on Ninth St. I remember going on to junior high and high school with some of the kids from Eighth St. as we got older we drifted apart, many dropped out of school, some married, some joined the military and some of us never talked with each other again because we were different races. We all played together before, but now we were ashamed to admit we knew each other. Society conditioned us like this in the fifties and sixties. It was time of segregation and discrimination, but Deaconess Sims made it possible to rise above all of this in the little library. It is so important in our world to rise above the insanity of race and class. Deaconess Sims loved us all and she left when she was older to return to the convent in Arizona. She kept in contact with me and always encouraged me to be the best I could be and go as far as I could go in life.

She wrote Mom when I was in college to ask about me and say how proud she was of all I had accomplished. I think when I became a librarian 25 years later, I tried to be like her, Miss Martha Mae Marsh, Dr. Cushman, and all the librarians who let me read and stay in the library as much as I liked. Books gave me a “🚗 Vehicle ” to leave being poor, my disfunctional family,segregation, discrimination and all the obstacles I overcame. I am happy that I had God, my mother, my teachers and all the awesome librarians in my life. I tried to do the same for every student I taught in my libraries from Kindegarten to College. I helped many students become librarians while working in the library. I encouraged them all to do the best they could be and go a far as they could without ever giving up and quitting.  I broke many rules as Librarian, by having non traditional libraries with computers and videotaping activities. I opened early for kids to come before school and opened late so they could stay in the library after school was out. We sang and danced in the library and played games. We ate and drank in the library when we had parties.

I believed in exposing the students to all kinds of environments. I loved having authors and artists visit the library and present to the students. I had exhibitions and dramatic presentations too, and I owed it all to the librarians I met along my journey. I hope they know what they gave me, the gift of using libraries to make a difference in the lives of students from primary school to college. The library is Central to the foundation of any curriculum. It enhances and supports the basic principals of education at any level. I learned that growin up poor on Eighth st in Kansas. What an amazing journey I had in my life. “I wouldn’t give nothing for my journey” Maya wrote and I agree.

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