CHRISTMAS PARTY

Seeing the Village Christmas Tree was a great occasion for we children. Pony and harness had a annual check – all ready for the trip to the Village Christmas Party. That Saturday Dad would turn the pony trap upside down, take the wheels off, grease the axle and put the wheels back on the trap.

The Saturday after Christmas at 3.30 p.m., we three boys would drive off across the fields bound for Souldern. Chisnell seemed a long way from the village but Billy put his best foot forward and we entered Souldern just as it was getting dusk. We stabled Billy in Bates Yard then off to school with a difference – all village children were there from 3 years to 14. We joined our friends in the schoolyard showing one another our Christmas presents. In my case, usually a pen knife, tie or book, sometimes a diary. Then into school:

The Christmas tree was about 18 to 20 feet tall, decorated and lit with candles standing in the north-east corner. Trestle tables were stretching the length of the big room. We sat on forms and the bun fight started: sandwich, cake, biscuits, jelly, cups of tea. We took our own plate, cup and spoon. After an hour of feeding and chit chat, Mrs. Parker said:

“Is it getting darker? Yes, boys.”

We were outside till 6.30 then on for presents and a sing song of carols. An orange and bag of peanuts was given to each child as they went home. Lou would be waiting at Mr. Bates’ for us – Billy would be hooked up to the trap. Once out of the village Billy had free rein: He could see better than us.