The Jingle Bell Boys

For years, the bells remained hidden. Forgotten at the bottom of the cedar chest, buried beneath a red plaid wool stadium blanket, two angora collars, several pieces of handmade lace, and my grandparents’ wedding photo, their silence was ensured.

Because the lid to the chest was kept locked, I needed help each birthday and Christmas to open it, so that I could retrieve the small, beaded bag that held my growing collection of silver dollars.

One year, I asked permission to look through the other treasures hidden away in the depths of the chest. Out they came: the blanket, the lace, the photos. As I moved a small box of jewelry, I heard a faintly musical jingle. Pulling at the sound, I lifted up a cracked leather strap with a dozen or more bells attached. Delighted, I gave the strap a shake, and then another.

Hearing the racket, my mother came to see what I was doing. When she saw the bells, she grew nostalgic. The harness strap and bells had belonged to her grandfather. They didn’t have a sleigh, but they did have a homemade box sled, and they had a horse. During the horse’s respite from field labor, he contributed to winter festivities: pulling children (and the occasional adult) along the roads. Despite the sled’s plain, homespun nature, my mother confessed she felt like the fanciest lady in the world during those rides: transported, for a time, into a world of elegance and beauty.

 

Because I took such delight in the bells, they no longer lived in the cedar chest. They moved into a box filled with decorations, and made an appearance every Christmas: sometimes on the front door, sometimes in the dining room below the traditional wreath, or sometimes at the foot of the stairs. Always, they were displayed in such a way that it was possible to give them a shake, and smile at the sound of the bells.

Finding the bells impressed me greatly: so much so that, from that time forward, my favorite songs and carols always involved bells — “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” based on Longfellow’s poem; the Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney version of “Silver Bells; the Leroy Anderson orchestral gem “Sleigh Ride;” and, of course, “Jingle Bells.”

Like “Sleigh Ride,” “Jingle Bells” originated less as a holiday tune than as a seasonal one. Written by James Lord Pierpont and published in 1857 under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh,” it reflected the culture of the time.

Prior to the coming of the automobile, New Englanders added straps of bells to horses’ harnesses as a way of avoiding collisions at blind intersections. A horse-drawn sleigh in snow makes almost no noise, so the phrase originally may have been sung as an imperative: “Jingle, bells!” 

Today, my favorite version of “Jingle Bells” is sung by a pair who call themselves Unorganized Hancock. Miles and Garrett Sullivan live in Rumford, Maine, where I came to know them through their dad’s blog, Sippican Cottage. Today, Miles is twenty, and Garrett is twelve. Although I refer to them as boys in the title, they’re edging toward life as young men. Home-schooled, they’re dedicated, funny, literate, and obviously talented.

Miles and Garrett Sullivan ~ Unorganized Hancock

Their dad, Gregory Sullivan (sometimes known as Sipp), is a fine writer and a fine woodworker. I bought this flame birch table from him a few years ago: partly because it’s unutterably beautiful, and partly because he called it his Evangeline table: a reference I couldn’t resist.

His kids started making videos about three years ago. Last February, Greg offered a little history to his newer readers:

Way back when, reader Dave demanded that the kids play a form of Stump the Band, and offered them money if they would do it.
He was as good as his word, and many people have followed his lead and supported the kids via our Tip Jar over in the right hand column, for which we are very grateful. Unorganized Hancock performs using equipment purchased by my readers. They wouldn’t be able to perform at all, otherwise. It’s really as simple as that. In a large way, you’ve all had as much to do with whatever they’ve been able to accomplish as I have.
We got away from true Stump the Band, because there was always a hint of hostage video in the kids’ eyes while I was recording them. I didn’t want anything to be forced. The Spare Heir is still only eleven, and he was only eight years old in some of the earliest videos we made of him playing the drums.
But that wasn’t truly the birth of Unorganized Hancock. With apologies to my wife and her lady parts, two-and-a-half years ago, this was the birth of Unorganized Hancock.

Yes, they’re a little off key. Never mind that — check out the drumming, and the stage presence.

As the months passed, their skills developed, and their repertoire expanded. I was tempted to add their version of  Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli’s “Minor Swing,” but decided on this Brubeck number from the 1959 album, Time Out. Some may be interested in these technical details:

The music was learned and arranged almost entirely by ear. The drummer listened to the song a few times, then sat down and beat it out of his stripped-down Pearl drum kit. Using his Pro-Mark Cool Rod jazz sticks, he’s able to play the drums quietly and with the greatest finesse.
The guitar player was playing an SE Special Stratocaster in Brown Sunburst for the rhythm guitar and a Epiphone Les Paul Special 100 Black for the lead. The amplifier being used was a Fender Mustang 3 on a clean jazz setting. The Bass was overdubbed by the guitar player using a G&L L1000 Electric Bass. The recording was made on a Tascam DP-008, and mastered using the Cyber Acoustics Subwoofer Satellite System for speakers.

See what dedication, practice, and supportive parents can do?

More treats have followed, including this version of “Jingle Bells” that was animated by Garrett, using a free version of Adobe Flash Animation Software. The video’s a delight: cheerful, a little quirky, and thoroughly modern.

I’ve enjoyed it so much, I thought I would share it. It’s one more bit of evidence that there still are good things happening in this country, however hidden they may be. Watching this latest chapter in the boys’ story, and tapping my toe along to their music, I can’t help thinking, “God bless us, every one.”


As always, comments are welcome.
For more on Unorganized Hancock, you can visit their Facebook page here, where you’ll find such treats as this photo of a very young drummer.

 

100 thoughts on “The Jingle Bell Boys

    1. Now, that’s the kind of enthusiasm we could use more of, Becca. I’m glad you enjoyed hearing Unorganized Hancock, even though I suspect they’re a lot more organized than their name suggests.

    1. I still remember getting “Time Out” when I was in high school. I was entranced by it, and “Take Five” still is one of my favorites. As for the age difference, I’ve heard people who went to one-room schools mention the value of having varous ages working and studying together. I wonder if the same might not apply to home schooling.

  1. What a couple of talented ‘young musicians.’ Thank you for sharing them with us. I loved the sheer concentration the little drummer’s face when he was playing the ‘Take Five’ number, he reminded me of a young Ringo Starr.

    I purchased three large red bells on a red canvas ribbon a few years ago, which I now hang on the front door under the wreath. I love the tinkle they make each time the door is opened. There is just something about bells and Christmas, isn’t there?

    ‘Everytime a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.’

    Wishing you a very happy, healthy and successful 2016, Linda.

    1. You’re right, Sandi. There is something about bells and Christmas. From sleigh bells to cathedral bells, every sort has its special appeal, and I love them all. When Carolyn was in rehab two years ago, one of the things I took to her were two little red and green ribbon-wrapped rings, to hang over doorknobs. They had bells hanging from them, so every time someone moved the door, they jingled. Everyone liked them — one nurse would stand and play with them, to make the bells ring.

      At every level of accomplishment, music is best when the musicians are enjoying it, too. The boys clearly enjoy it, and even if they end up going in other directions, I hope they always do.

      Happy New Year to you, too!

    1. Nia, can you imagine what it would be like to have a bell on every one of the cats in your city? What a jingling that would be. The cats might not like it though, since it would make their hunting much harder. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      1. Actually some of cats have them and I recognize them because of their bell jinglings :) also my cat have too :) I always enjoy reading your stories dear Linda, you are amazing writer, Thanks and Love, nia

  2. A cool, dry, clear and frosty morning here. Nice moments to look forward to. Then I opened my notebook, decided to visit you and my day became even Nicer. What a great and talented team these young musicians are ! I really enjoyed listening to them. “Jingle Bells” always reminds me of some wonderful scenes and landscapes in the movie “Dr Zhivago”. Thank you Linda, you made my day a lot nicer.
    Happy New Year and many good wishes.

    1. Your visit makes my day nicer, too, Isa. And what fun it is to think of another “bell” ringing out good cheer: Isabelle.

      The boys are talented, but they have some other endearing qualities — like sending hand-written thank you notes via the postal system. It gives me hope for civilization. It also serves as a reminder that I should reclaim some practices from the past. Emails are fine, but there’s nothing like the human touch.

      Dr. Zhivago was a favorite film. Now that you’ve reminded me of it, I believe I’ll watch it again. I liked all of David Lean’s films, and it would be fun to view some of his earlier ones that I haven’t seen.

      It’s so nice to have you visit. I hope your health is good, and send every good wish for the New Year.

  3. How I love exploring the contents of a chest, and yours has revealed great delights. Of bells; I wish they were compulsory on bikes, for the benefit of pedestrians on shared pathways. Bikes are as silent as sleighs on snow. Are you affected by the awful weather in Texas, other than in the general sense of feeling greatly for those who have lost their homes?

    1. Cedar chests, blanket chests, jewelry boxes: treasure-troves, every one of them.

      I’d not thought of it, but you’re right. Bikes don’t seem to have bells these days. Ours always did: little silver gizmos that had a tab you could push with your thumb to make them ring. On the other hand, I just looked them up, and there seem to be hundreds of choices, so someone’s buying them. The technology looks as though it hasn’t changed much, either.

      We’re actually a bit relieved. Here at the coast, we were at the tail end of the system that came ploughing through, and although we’ve had (and still have) strong winds, the sun is shining and the skies are beautiful. It’s climbed to 10C, so apart from the wind, it’s quite lovely.

      By the way — guess who I’m seeing in concert in February? The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra. Despite the fact that “ukulele orchestra” sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to me, I think it will be great fun. I see they played the Christchurch Arts Festival — have you seen them?

          1. Yes, two posts. I have since inherited a much smaller box from an aunt. It was full of wonders. I would have done a post on that if I had had my wits about me. (No wits were available at the time) Intriguingly it contained some old penpal letters of mine (no idea why my aunt had them). I read the letters with delight and have since found one of the letter writers on Facebook, and we are in touch again.

  4. I really liked this post. Modern day people and youngsters that are un-assuming and on their way to perhaps making a name for themselves. I think they are quite talented. And their dad is very talented. I can see why you bought that table. It is so beautiful. I’ve always admired anyone that builds furniture by hand and from their own design.

    Excellent post and I liked finding a new blog.

    1. Unassuming is right, Yvonne. They know what they want to do, and they’re getting about doing it. Nothing more, but nothing less. On the other hand, from what I can tell, they’re pretty normal kids, with friends, video games, and such a part of their lives, too.

      The table is even more beautiful than in the photo. The grain is the most alive I’ve ever seen. It seems to shift and re-form in the light. I’m generally not an impulse buyer, but when I saw the table, it was rather a pearl-of-great-price experience. I’ve never regretted getting it: not once.

      Sipp has a wacky, occasionally edgy, sense of humor that I find bracing. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

    1. It is good stuff. Part of the joy that shines through is the sheer joy of creation: taking pleasure in the process itself. They’ve done a few videos that completely cracked me up: “Minstrel Boy” is one. You have to watch carefully to catch the visual jokes, as it’s fairly sophisticated. But what a delight.

  5. Thank you so much Linda.
    I have hated Jingle Bells for years, mainly because it is always part of the tinned music in shops.

    Now this is a completely different kettle of fish; I could listen to this version happily and repeatedly.

    These boys are a talented pair, I wish them every success.

    And a very happy new year to you too.

    1. Friko, it’s true. Certain songs seem to be favored by the canned music people: particularly the bouncy, happy songs they apparently think will get us to open our wallets. The only thing worse is the tendency toward revised lyrics: the sort that leave you suddenly listening to “I’m Dreaming of a White Volvo” instead of a white Christmas. Ah, marketing.

      But I’m glad you liked the boys’ version. They’re a solid pair. When I grow up, I want to be just like them.

    1. It is fun. And yes, ma’am, you would love that table. Everything about it is perfect, including the drawer. When you pull it out, it makes a sound like a sigh, and the inside still smells like real wood. Truth to tell, I think it might be magical. I wouldn’t ever say such a crazy thing publicly, of course.

  6. Your blog post for today is full with music and nostalgia that goes directly to the heart and soul.

    “Silver Bells” transported me back to the small banana town of Changuinola where I was a boy. It was very popular in the fifties and sixties with the American community there.

    Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Tony Benett, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Doris Day and many others were my musical friends in those distant days.

    Thank you for the memories,

    Omar.-

    1. Omar, I still remember the pleasures of going uptown to see the painted and decorated Christmas windows in the stores. There always was snow — sometimes it was snowing — and there was a loudspeaker on the courthouse that played carols and Christmas songs. “Silver Bells” seemed to be a favorite, and it played several times a night.

      It always tickles me when we discover something else we shared a fondness for, so many years ago. Besides — the music still is good, and well worth listening to today.

      I’ll bet you remember this song about jingle bells, too.

    1. No need to rush. Have an eggnog, put your feet up, and enjoy. That’s the best thing about keeping Christmas through the whole Twelve Days. It’s all enjoyment now, and no obligation.

  7. I agree with you about this. “…there still are good things happening in this country, however hidden they may be…”

    These things need more exposure. Thanks for the cheer on a dastardly morning in IA. Rain, freezing rain, snow, sleet, graupel, and wind gusting to 45. I believe staying indoors is advised. What do you think?

    1. That’s winter weather, for sure. Snow and wind? Fine. Rain, freezing rain, ice and graupel? Not so much. I’m especially not fond of ice. They were warning about black ice up in the Panhandles, but I didn’t hear about any chain collisions. We’re just cold and still very windy, but that should start settling by tomorrow.

      I think staying in was the best course. A good book, some nice music from some nice young men, a good cup of coffee? The only thing better would be a pot of chili. I hope you get to miss the fun of shoveling.

      1. As it ended, we got almost no freezing rain. The temps were just cold enough to drop sleet instead. We got about 1-2″ of sleet. Not much snow either. To our southeast toward Peoria, there was a lot of icing and downed trees. I think we were lucky this time. I do need to get out in the morning for a platelet donation appt. It is at 11. There will be plenty of time. I hope the snow blower can handle some dense 3″ of winter.

  8. These are really fun, Linda! So nice to hear kids play music (and well — very enjoyable). There is much to be said for families encouraging the creative arts, but then they sound like a creative group in general. The Jingle Bells holds up with anything on my (numerous) Christmas CDs!

    And I love the bells and the story behind them. What magic it must have been to discover them in the trunk and then add them to your festivities. I hope you still have them.

    1. You know a little about families encouraging art, I suspect. Whatever the art, learning the best way to encourage may be as complicated as learning the techniques themselves. Of course, that’s probably true for any endeavor.

      One thing I’ve pondered recently is the way so much music is overproduced. Part of the appeal of something like the version of “Jingle Bells” up above is that it’s so straightforward. That’s what I like, anyway.

      For years, he bells were a great addition to Christmas. Unfortunately, they’re long gone.They could have been sold in a garage sale before Mom moved from Iowa to Kansas City, or she could have culled them before moving down here. It’s hard to say. In any event,the memory is vivid, and they did look almost exactly like the ones pictured above. Maybe it’s just the way of life for some possessions to be shed as naturally as a tree sheds its leaves.

    1. I take your point, particularly since I live in the midst of the concrete maze of freeways that’s been designed to accomodate those cars. Still, I’m not sure it’s the auto that’s separated us from nature. More likely, we’ve separated ourselves.

      I often find myself coming back to the analogy of the hammer. A hammer is only a tool. You can use it to pound a nail in order to hang a picture, or smash a window in order to steal. It’s the same tool, but the hand wielding it makes all the difference.

      It’s the same with cars, I think. Figuring out how to use them — and enjoy them — responsibly is part of the trick. Besides, it’s my car that’s taken me to Nash Prairie, to the Tallgrass prairie in Kansas, and to the bayous of Louisiana. I would have missed out on a whole lot of nature without it.

  9. I thoroughly enjoy reading along as you reminisce. My husband would have loved your story about the horse drawn, homemade sled. His father used to bring their horse and sled into town around the holidays and give the kids their rides and he had a set of those jiggle bells.

    That table is magnificent! A real work of art. Unfortunately, today the young people would paint it shabby chic. I have a burl oak piece I refuse to sell until that fad goes out of style.

    1. Some years back, I was doing exterior varnish work for people who’d bought a new boat. It was big, and fancy, and the interior woodwork was gorgeous. There were mahogany cabinets in the galley, and they wanted them painted white. I tried my best to talk them out of it, but no go. I finally did the job, but I fully understand your reluctance to let such a fate befall that burl oak.

      We had hayrides, but no sleigh rides — not even horse-drawn sled rides, for that matter. Your husband was lucky to have those experiences. On the other hand, we had plenty of fun with our sleds. I had a Flexible Flyer, and it would fly, especially on hard-packed snow.

  10. Linda, you’re a good friend for sharing these videos! I look at this young man on his drums, and my thoughts immediately go back a few years to when Domer was playing percussion (that’s where he started in Band before switching to trumpet). A LOT of time and effort go into perfecting a musical instrument, and these guys’ parents are to be commended for encouraging their talents and supporting their interest!

    Beautiful table you bought — hard to find such workmanship these days. I love the story about you and the bells, too, and have no trouble seeing young Linda going through that trunk!

    1. I’d forgotten that Domer initially was a percussionist. Why did he change to trumpet? Was he playing both, and decided to focus on just one? One thing’s certain — whatever he was doing, I know you were there to support and encourage him. He wouldn’t make tracks for home like he does, unless you’d been a great parent.

      You’re certainly right that it takes a lot of time and dedication to master an instrument. I enjoyed playing, and really enjoyed things like being in our community band, but I wasn’t motivated enough to take it to the next level. On the other hand, learning what we don’t want to do can be as important as learning what we do want to pursue.

      1. Long story short — he wanted to play a part that had melody! The band director, when told, looked like he was going to have a stroke. Here was an incoming freshman, first chair in the percussion section, insisting he wanted to switch instruments. Domer wasn’t to be swayed, though, and managed just fine (first chair in his section, senior year!). You bet it takes LOTS of parental involvement — sad to say, even I couldn’t dissuade him from quitting piano, ha!!

  11. How wonderful, Linda! I thoroughly enjoyed the music! Those are the kind of memories I wish everyone could have about seasons past and to carry them on to seasons yet to come. I am old enough to actually remember seeing horse-drawn sleighs, not very many though, during the winter season and can still hear their bells in memory this time of year.

    1. And I can imagine those sleighs in that beautiful landscape you have. What a treat that would be, gliding around the valleys with the mountains in the distance.

      I was a little surprised to see that sleigh rides are easy to find there in the winter — easy, at least, if you happen to be in the neighborhood of Montana. Look at this article from the “Flathead Beacon.” It’s wonderful that people still can do such things, even if it’s not quite the same as when Grandpa hitched up the team.

      1. I’ve heard that they do that in the Kalispell/Whitefish area and sometimes in the Bitterroot Valley about hundred miles south. I haven’t seen any here though although I’m sure a few of the local ranchers have sleighs.

  12. What a treasure! The songs, yes, but the bells are fabulous. I hope they are still in your private little chest, somewhere, and you still take them out to hang on the mast. Happy New Year my dear. Hope the weather hasn’t been too fierce on the coast.

    1. We’ve had wind, and a thirty degree drop in temperatures, but nothing like folks farther north have suffered. Tomorrow the wind should be down, and it will be relatively pleasant, with plenty of sun.

      Alas, the bells are gone. We really don’t know what happened to them. My best theory is that Mom sold them in one of her garage sales before she moved from Iowa. I was up there helping part of the time, but she and I sometimes differed on what was important to keep and what wasn’t. And, there was a certain degree of chaos about the whole thing.

      What’s important is that I remember them.I do have a whole set of aluminum bells that always hung on our trees, and that now hang on mine. Remember these? They don’t jingle, but they plink rather nicely. And of course we had our Swedish angel chimes, too. Bells everywhere!

  13. Read this post last night..thought I would marinate on it before posting. Woke up this morning inspired to post this morning’s post just because you’d mentioned that beautiful little piece of furniture from that guy.

    We homeschooled for 9 years here in the DM household…wish I could have had that option myself growing up. Are you anywhere near those tornados that have been popping up down South?

    1. I thought it was interesting that we both were writing about furniture. Now, I understand the connection. I like your harvest tables, too, but a famly of one doesn’t need that.

      I was happy in school, and I got a good education, despite certain deficiencies I carried with me into adulthood (math and science). But if I were raising kids today, I’d think long and hard about home schooling. Clearly, it’s becoming more of a movement. I was surprised to see that our town offeres home schooling phys ed classes, with a different focus each month, and that a local art center offers home schooled kids special art classes. It seems as though the old objections (“they’ll never get socialized”) are fading away.

      The rough weather’s well north of us — thanks for asking. I did think about you today when I saw our roofers working away, pulling old shingles and doing who knows what in 45 degrees and 30 mph gusts. It made me feel a little guilty about my reluctance, but I waited for 50 degrees.

  14. Take Five brings back memories of listening to Brubeck with my father when I was younger. He loved jazz and that, along with Davis and Coltrane, were often filling the air in our home.

    As you might imagine, that table got my complete attention. It is gorgeous and definitely worthy of a ride in back seat should there be an evacuation. Worth much more than money.

    1. My dad enjoyed jazz, too, but he favored Dixieland for years. One of our best family vacations was to New Orleans, in the summer of 1961 (or maybe ’62). I think Dad was in love with Sweet Emma Barrett. I found a recording of her group as it was constituted when we saw them. Notice the jingle bells around her legs — now and then, you can hear them in the recording.

      Dad and I learned about Brubeck and other, more modern, artists together. I can still remember sitting around the stereo, trying to figure out those odd rhythms.

      I knew you’d enjoy that table. And you’re exactly right. Some things truly are priceless.

  15. Thanks Linda. The young men obviously have talent. I enjoyed Jingle Bells, for the graphics as well as the music. As for hope for the future, I see it all the time in the young people in our neck of the woods. Maybe more so with the young people than the adults. I sometime write articles for our local newspaper about kids from the elementary school. It’s amazing what they do. –Curt

    1. Curt, you’ve just provided another example of a point made above: that much of the good news in the world stays a bit hidden, on the local level.

      That’s one reason I regret the loss of local papers. They always were filled with news of young people: which girl visited her grandmother in Oskaloosa during Christmas break, which students went to band camp, who won the prize for reading the most books during the summer Bookmobile challenge. All of that was important, and balanced the gossip about the boys who took Mr. Johannson’s goat and chained it in front of the courthouse.

      That’s one reason I like posts like the one you wrote about the visit of your bubble-blowers. They help to fill that gap, and provide some evidence that good kids do exist.

  16. Uplifting, fun, and hopeful. Thanks as always for an interesting bit of human interest I would never know if I did not know you.

    Christmas is over but snow season has just begun. Horse drawn sleighs are much more practical for family fun than skiing in Aspen. We shouldn’t overlook what we could probably find on a family farm somewhere near. If not a sleigh, an inner-tube will do!

    1. Remember that old Rod Stewart song, “Every picture tells a story”? Every person has a story, too. Just like ordinary people, a lot of those stories remain hidden, but it’s always fun to find one that can be told, and enjoyed.

      Given the horror stories about trying to get home I heard from people who did go Christmas skiing in places like Aspen, the home-grown variety of winter fun certainly sounds more appealing. Of course, when it comes to snow sports, we’re at a bit of a disadvantage, having no snow. There’s always something.

  17. I’ve complained many times that composers often don’t get enough (or any!) credit for their songs, especially when lyrics appear on the Internet. Thanks for pointing out that “Jingle Bells” was written by James Lord Pierpont, who I confess I’d never heard of.

    1. I’d never heard of him, either. And I’d never heard a couple of the original verses, which apparently were considered too racy for family consumption. “Racy” is a relative term, of course, but I did smile to read that sleigh-riding was one of those activities (like croquet) that allowed young couples to escape supervision now and then.

      “Jingle Bells” isn’t the only Christmas song to have lost a verse or two along the way. The Longfellow poem that formed the basis of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” also was cut, eliminating the more disturbing Civil War imagery. I didn’t know that until this year, but I ran out of Christmas season to post about it. Next year.

      1. Here’s another coincidence: The next chapter that I just turned to in Maggie Jackson’s book Distraction begins with an interview in the Morgan Library in New York. That Morgan was J[ames] P[ierpont] Morgan, who I learned from Wikipedia was the nephew of James Lord Pierpont. A famous photographic portrait by Edward Steichen shows J.P. Morgan sitting in a chair with his hand on an armrest, but an illusion makes it look like Morgan is instead holding a knife in his hand.

        1. And the delightful coincidences continue. J.P. Morgan gave the mansion at 231 Madison Avenue to J.P. Morgan, Jr., as a gift. Eventually, it became the headquarters of the Lutheran Church in America, and I was hired in that building to go to Liberia.

          Once I was back and involved in other things, I used to visit friends in NYC at Christmastime: one of whom still worked in the Morgan mansion. I spent some delightful hours in the Morgan Library during those visits. If I’d known, I would have sung a chorus or two of “Jingle Bells,” in honor of James Lord Pierpont.

          The mansion was beautiful. Before the Lutherans moved in, Parke-Bernet held three auctions of furnishings, which included “…an Oriental Lowestoft porcelain bowl, said to have been used at the christening of George Washington in 1732, 18th century gold boxes, two French 18th century enamel portrait miniatures of Benjamin Franklin, French and English furniture and Oriental rugs.”

          When I looked at the photo this morning, I didn’t see the knife. Tonight, it was obvious. What a great bit of history you added — thanks!

          1. You’re welcome. I had no idea you were so personally connected to the Morgan Library. The theme continued at my end as well: a PBS program tonight about reading digitally versus traditionally included a short scene with someone from the Morgan Library.

  18. The reference to your bag of silver dollars has me smiling this morning. For a while during my teenage years I had a makeshift room in the attic of our small house. It was cold/hot place to live (depending on the time of year), but it did give me the privacy that teenagers crave. When I moved into that room, I took my “stuff” with me.

    Visiting with my mother on Christmas day, I asked her if my things were still up there. Because among them are a little plastic tub that chicken salad came in, and in that tub are the silver dollars and half dollars that I collected over the years, one at a time as my Grandfather gave them to us on Christmas. (Well, except for the few I had to use to pay for a kid’s glasses I accidentally broke when I was in the third grade. I didn’t want to have to tell my parents so I paid him with silver dollars. I can still remember him looking at them and asking, “Can you spend these?”)

    It turns out the my things are still up there somewhere, but now hopelessly barricaded by decades of other accumulated stuff. My mother, bless her heart, never throws away anything. So the attic and the stairs leading to it are impassably blocked now with piles of all manner of things, sealing away my little container of silver dollars until the day some future intrepid explorer may discover them.

    I’m pleased that your bells had a better fate.

    1. If I were you, I’d make the effort to lay your hands on those silver dollars. Even if there are only a few, some are far more valuable today than I ever would have imagined. I kept some as keepsakes, but sold others, and believe me — the prices they fetched would make a day or so of digging around well worth it. Even if you didn’t sell them, it would be fun to pass them on to grandkids, and give them some memories, too.

      They were special. I never had any impulse to spend them. I just liked looking at them. i liked the proof sets my dad had, too, bcause they were so shiny, but the dollars were my favorites.

      When you mentioned paying that chum for the broken glasses, I had a sudden vision of Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” with his broken glasses. did you ever confess what had happened?

      1. I told my mother on Christmas when I asked her about my coins. :)
        Mine were all Eisenhowers and Kennedy half-dollars. Probably not so valuable, but I’d still like to dig them out someday. There are other treasures buried in that attic too.

    1. We’re just fine, Nia. Texas is so big, we missed the really bad weather, and it’s moved out of the state now. Some people still need to be concerned about river flooding, but there aren’t any more storms. Thank you for asking — that’s very nice.

    1. I’m glad you liked the post, Dana. There’s not a thing wrong with having a little fun over the holidays. I trust you’re settling back in after your trip, and all the holiday excitement. Happy New Year to you.

  19. Linda, You’ve brought a smile to my face today…thank you! The sleigh rally, the sound of bells and those beautiful horses and pets also enjoying the ride. My fave was the beautiful black and elegant horse…such a beauty. Not in my experience, but wishing it was.

    As to the boys videos, they do have talent and I have no doubt they will do something in that regard as grown-ups (they’ve already got their own ‘brand’, the logo). Garrett looks so gorgeous when sucking his lower lip…just like a cute cabbage patch doll (don’t tell him that, ‘tho!).
    I hope dad is keeping a catalogue of all their videos, for posterity.
    May you have a wondrous, peaceful and joyous New Year 2016.
    Cheers from Downunder! :) janina…

    1. I think we like the same horse, Janina. The black Friesian was my favorite. They’re such elegant horses, and move so beautifully. But of course they’re all wonderfully trained. I enjoyed the dogs riding along, too — and yes, I enjoyed seeing some of those furs. When I was a child, I had an angora muff with matching hat, and I adored it. Many years later, I saw the same set on Lara in a memorable film about a handsome doctor and Russian winter.

      Dad doesn’t need to keep their videos (although I suspect he may be doing so.) Miles and Garrett have established their own YouTube channel, a Facebook page, and so on. Miles does want to be a professional musician, and I’m pretty sure he can do just that.

      it appears we’re going to get a new year whether we want it or not. Best to you through all of it!

      1. Dr Zhivago was a fave of mine too! Glad the boys have their own ways of keeping records. ‘Tho I do hope both boys become musicians, Garrett plays a mean set of drums!! Still…cheers!

  20. What a joy that was, Linda. A great version of the Brubeck number – one of his very best known tracks. I heard Dave Brubeck and his band ‘Live’ about ten or so years ago (might be longer than that). Fantastic concert and afterwards got a new CD autographed by him and the band members. I’m a great lover of Jazz and it was a real joy to hear him play Live.

    1. Now I’m glad I picked “Take Five” for the jazz piece to feature. I had a time of it, since I’m such a fan of Django Reinhardt, but choices have to be made. It’s great to see Miles and Garrett taking an interest in a variety of genres. They’ll be better musicians for it.

      You were lucky to be able to attend that concert. I’m assuming it was a smaller venue — at least, I hope it was. In the 1950s, my dad went to New York for some sort of business meeting. He got to go to Birdland, and we didn’t think we were ever going to be able to get him down off the ceiling after he got home. It was a high point of his life, for sure.

  21. I see you added to the post. How I love those antique sleighs, and those gorgeous horses with those jingle bells. The flame birch table is also very nice and so are the youngsters who perform as a duet so well. Have a great 2016!

    1. Hmmm… I didn’t add anything to the post. I hope it’s loading fully. Hard to tell. Things happen. In any event, I’m glad you enjoyed it. The horses are beautiful. I see you have some fine horses there, too. I took a quick look, and learned about the Paso Fino horses, and the schools for dressage.

      Happy New Year to you. I’m looking forward to sharing 2016 with you.

      1. Thanks Linda! That was my bandwith then, it didn’t load the video. Yes, the Paso Fino are really elegant horses but I don’t go to the shows. They are very nice, but they are smaller horses, not as muscular as the sleigh horses. They look like they dance though!

  22. What a left-field ‘take’ on Jingle Bells, which I have disliked vehemently for years – until I read and listened to this post. Unorganised Hancock – what a name! – surely deserve a record deal?

    1. I had to laugh, Anne. Friko, up above, said she’s been less than fond of “Jingle Bells,” too — mostly because it’s one of those that blares from loudspeakers everywhere you go.

      A record deal for UH would be great, but as it is, I have their CD sitting right here next to me. That’s one of the great thngs about music, writing, photography — all of the arts — today. Even without an agent, a publisher, or a promoter, it’s possible to get your work out into the public. I have a feeling they’ll do just fine with that side of things.

      I do believe it’s already 2016 where you are. A happy New Year to you. Let’s hope for a lot more peace in this poor old world, and maybe just a little more prosperity.

  23. Nothing like bells. We have a harness strap with bells on the front door – they came as a Christmas gift long ago, but they are sound so lovely we just never packed them away.
    (Sturbridge Village – hadn’t thought about that place in years. We used to go there when we lived fairly close…of course compared to distances in TX, everything on the E. Coast seemed fairly close. HA HA)
    Love Unorganised Hancock! They do make you smile
    May your new year be filled with grand adventures and wonder….(and RC Cat is wondering why I’m not serving her dinner, so Happy New Year!)

    1. I’ve had friends who looked at me sideways when I made reference to “a strap of bells.” So many expressions, so many ways of living in the world. Sturbridge Village looks wonderful. I suspect it’s a New England-ish and more upscale version of the Martyn Farm out at Armand Bayou.

      Speaking of farms — I checked the holiday hours for Froberg’s earlier and discovered they were allowing strawberry picking last Thursday. There’s a New Year’s gift for you.

      I’ll be perfectly happy with a lot of medium adventures this year, instead of one grand one. “Every Day An Adventure” — there’s a slogan for you. It sounds like something from a two-bit cruise line, but there’s wisdom there, nonetheless.

      Happy New Year to you all!

      1. Strawberries! (if it ever stops raining….)
        In college I used to wake up every morning and say “It’s the great adventure!” Still kinda feel that way. Always something going on…
        (Sturbridge Village was farm-ish…leave it to my dad to find farm life wherever we were!)
        Better cruise on now. 2 days down and so far, so good this new year!

  24. As I watched and listened to this, I thought of my recent revisiting of Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Simple animation and good music are a potent combination. My guess is that these two have a bright future ahead of them!

    1. That’s exactly right, Allen. So much in life is over-produced these days. I wonder sometimes whether it’s just personal taste that makes me prefer things like “Charlie Brown” and Unorganized Hancock over certain Christmas extravaganzas produced by certain churches in this area (Live Camels! Flying Angels! Full orchestras — not one, but two!) but I think there’s more to it than that.

      After all, that manger, those animals, and a few mangy shepherds didn’t have much to offer in terms of production values. We’re the ones who’ve added the frills.

  25. I liked your post and how it held memories and new beginnings, young men who sing and make music do sound beautiful. I am a good friend of Anneli Purchase. I have a nostalgic post for today. Happy New Year’s to you. My Grandpa came from Sweden and Grandma (both my mother’s parents) came from Germany. I liked how we all were having tea or coffee while nibbling on Anneli delicious baked goods. Smiles, Robin

    1. And isn’t that what the new year really is about? Looking back, and looking forward: the day itself like a hinge that allows it to open in both directions. If I could recreate anything from the past, it would be my Swedish grandmother’s pastries and breads, but she had a touch I never developed — except with her pie crust.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Robin. I appreciate your comment, and you’re always welcome here. Happy New Year!

  26. I love how you mix personal experiences with facts about the subject you are writing about, such as jingle bells. I have to admit I don’t have a personal relationship to jingle bells, but enjoyed reading this piece, exactly because you make in interesting with this mix of personal and factional.

    1. From the beginning, I’ve said that I wanted my writing to be “personal, but not confessional.” When I started out, I didn’t have a clue what that meant. I only knew it was true.

      I think part of it is that we all share certain basic, human experiences. The trick is to get below surface details, and find that commonality. “Learning how to write” is as much about that, as it is about grammar and spelling.

      Drawing people in to read about subjects they didn’t think they cared about is the trick — but a nice trick. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece!

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