It was the year 1925-26 that I was the only girl in the 8th grade in our school, District 52, Brantford Township, Washington County Kansas. Our teacher, a local young lady, well-known and respected in the area, together with other young people came onto the idea of presenting a community play. Several plays were reviewed and finally a 3-act play, “The Deacon’s Honeymoon” was chosen. It would be put on right there in our schoolhouse.
All interested participants met to discuss the play and decide on parts. My older sister, also a teacher in a neighboring school, was to be one of the participants, and of course my curiosity was beyond bounds as to which part she would play. The part of “deacon” was to be played by a prominent unmarried farmer and stockman. Several other prominent young farmers or farm hands also had parts. Some were to be paired off romantically, my sister was one of those, which I found interesting. Our teacher, because of her shorter stature, was designated to be a servant girl, handy whenever errands of a sudden nature needed tending to. All in all about a dozen various actors took part.
Practices were held regularly at the schoolhouse, rides were pooled, others walked to practices across the fields.
Curtains were borrowed from a larger school, for other programs we had used sheets; a hallway ran most of the way along the east side of the schoolhouse, this was curtained-off the very day of the performance into two dressing rooms, one for ladies, one for men. Windows of this were rubbed over on the inside with Bon-Ami for privacy. People were barred from entering through the hallway so another entryway had to be provided. The southwest window of the main schoolroom was removed and ramps, like a stile, were built up and over where the window had been taken out. A heavy canvas was hung as a curtain to keep out the cold and yet allow entry. Everyone who came somehow managed this way of entry. The big stove that ordinarily stood in the middle of the schoolroom was moved to the back of the room with pipes reset so it could be used. Gas lamps and lanterns provided lights. Gas lanterns served as footlights. These were set on several uniformly-sawed measures of a large log. Galvanized tin was securely fastened to each log around the back sides of each lantern, thus directing the lighting onto the stage which had been constructed of bridge planks laid across sturdy sawhorses.
In readiness for the play, excessive use was made of “make-up” and even burnt cork. Some of the ladies borrowed wigs of anyone, even of a slight acquaintance, that had a wig.
An enormous crowd gathered on this perfect evening in March with no wind, no sleet, no snow. Extra seating had been provided by way of planks set on sturdy bases. The play went off “without a hitch,” everyone playing their part well, to the enjoyment of all who came.
We pupils of the regular school had a part between acts as we lined up for a number in song, “The Storybook Ball.” I recall being Old Mother Hubbard, my little sister was Little Miss Muffet, one brother may have been Humpty Dumpty, while a younger brother may have been Little Jack Horner.
Between the other two acts there was a brother-sister duet number, with encore. One song they sang was popular that year and was entitled, “I’m Going to Let the Bumblebee Buzz.”
Following the program there was an auction of boxes for a box supper. Ladies from the play and other ladies of the community brought beautifully decorated boxes filled with sandwiches and other goodies. The young men of the community bought these boxes. Each young man partook of the food with the lady whose box he had successfully bid on. Plates of food were also sold to others in the audience.
Of course, the following day there again was activity at the schoolhouse as all evidence of the eventful night was cleared away.
By Monday morning school was back in session as usual. (Footnote: In time, our schoolteacher married the prominent farmer who played the part of “deacon.”)
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.