The Coast News Group

Silver payola for Christmas pageant cast

DEL MAR — Decades ago, the week after Thanksgiving marked the beginning of rehearsals for the annual Christmas play presented by the elementary school kids.
Even the boys who couldn’t carry a tune or who were going through a change of voice were willing and enthusiastic participants. At the conclusion of the program they all received cookies, popcorn balls, candy canes and were served hot chocolate.
And there was an additional bonus. D.E. Thompson, a member of the board of trustees, had the performers line up and as they walked past a table he had set up he presented them with a shiny silver dollar worth its weight in gold by current standards and he wished them all a Merry Christmas.
The program consisted of songs like “Silent Night” and “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” that are no longer politically correct. Ruth Niemann, the teacher/principal played the piano and several boys accompanied her on the triangles that emitted tinkling sounds.
A doll depicting the baby Jesus was cradled in an orange crate to simulate a manager. According to legend, there was no other choice for a bed because the newborn’s parents had failed to make reservations at the local hotel in Bethlehem and the town was teeming with tourists. Three boys clothed in their dad’s bath robes came bearing gifts wrapped in Christmas paper and tied with ribbons and bows.
Adoring parents agreed it was the best program ever presented and a good time was had by all.