Since childhood, I have always enjoyed reading and my personal library is quite an esoteric collection of books collected over a period of years from childhood to the present.
There have always been books I have read, and then there have been the keepers – those books I dare not dispose of. Such treasures of required school reading by such literary masters as Faulkner, Welty, Steinbeck, and Hemingway are all considered a part of the keepers.
However, there’s one little green tattered book that is shelved in my collection I consider a keeper – and that’s Singing Every Day, my tattered colorful music book from elementary school days. Filled with such songs from my childhood as Polly Wolly Doodle, Home on the Range, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, Frog Went A-Courtin’, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, My Home’s in Montana, Billy Boy, Oh! Susanna, and ‘Liza Jane, this book is full of childhood school memories of the creaky and oily pine-floored halls of Fulton Grammar School.
Our entire school had only one music teacher for all six grades and because of overcrowding in the school, the music classes were held on the stage of the school’s large auditorium. I will always remember that magical stage with its heavy maroon velvet curtains and the massive hand-painted backdrop of rich earthy colors featuring a forest scene reflecting the hills and valleys of the rural Mississippi countryside.
The students of Fulton Grammar School presented two music recitals each year using selections from the little green music book – the Christmas program and the spring operetta.
Much work went into each of those productions, especially the Christmas recital with lots of rehearsals and an army of moms busily sewing costumes for their children. During the annual Christmas recital the school’s auditorium would be packed with proud parents, relatives and friends from town and the numerous farms in the surrounding Itawamba County countryside. With flash bulbs popping. complimenting applause and laughter, the nervous schoolchildren would sing their long-rehearsed songs accompanied by the melodic sound of the school’s ancient piano. The auditorium would be toasty warm from the old steam radiators and the beaming glow from proud parents, as outside the cold December Mississippi humidity added an enchanted frostiness to the air.
Yes, that little tattered green music book is not a literary classic, but it’s definitely a keeper. The illustrated pages of this cherished little book brings back fond memories of days gone by from my Mississippi childhood at Fulton Grammar School.
Photograph of Singing Every Day (Lilla Belle Pitts etal, Ginn and Company, Boston, 1959) by Bob Franks
Note: Written for the Blog Carnival, Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, hosted by Thomas MacEntee at Destination: Austin Family.