Paper Chains, Stockings and a Mesquite Christmas Tree at the Rincon Schoolhouse by J. J. Lamb

The best memories are made together, with family, friends, and community. Decorated Christmas trees, lights, and other symbols of the season are everywhere we look during the holidays.  So much so, that in 2016 we may start to take it all for granted.  In December 1947, the 12 students attending the Rincon one-room school were practicing for their Christmas program.  They were memorizing lines, rehearsing songs. They were making hats, capes and other costume pieces out of crepe paper, and looking forward to presenting their program and to the treats that would be given out afterward; small bags with candy, an orange, and maybe, even a small gift.

16 VPS 2 Christmas

Miguel Escalante sharing memories at the Rincon School House. Courtesy Vail Preservation Society

Temperatures were a little cold, and everyone was grateful for the potbellied stove in the center of the room. The children, used to helping with chores at home, didn’t mind taking their turn bringing in wood. Nothing was taken for granted. That morning, Mr. Hershberger, their teacher’s husband, told the students that they would be getting their own Christmas tree!  This was very exciting. Almost no one had a real Christmas tree at home, much less decorations. It was an extravagance their families could not afford.

Miguel Escalante, one of the students, wondered how they would have time during recess to go to where the pine trees were.  He had worked up in the mountains with his father and uncles and knew how far they would have to walk. Recess finally arrived. Mr. Hershberger and the students began walking north towards the foothills of the Rincon’s.  They hadn’t walked far when Mr. Hershberger pointed out a small mesquite tree. He asked the students if they thought it would make a nice Christmas tree. They all agreed.  The tree was cut and carried back to the classroom where it was set up near Mrs. Hershberger’s desk.  The students spent the rest of their recess making paper stockings to decorate the tree.  It was beautiful!

It would be several more years before Miguel would have a tree and decorations in his home.  Not until he and his brothers were old enough to work would they be able to purchase those special little ‘extras’ for their family. Take time to reflect upon the simple pleasures of the season. Like that December day in 1947 when a common mesquite tree and paper ornaments brought smiles to the faces of 12 students in the one room Rincon School.


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