The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.


db Conard, The Quill

:An Old Fashioned Christmas Walk:

Ebenezer, The Grinch, The Christmas Spirit

Stronghurst was the whole box of chocolates during its community Christmas walk that annually kicks off the Christmas season in this charming community of 900.

Folks who stayed away, just don't know what fun they missed in the unique setting of the town's old fashioned Christmas.

If one didn't know what to expect other than lights, cider, singing, cookies and snacks, they were in for a real surprise.

I arrived in town to photograph the event for The Quill at dusk when people were starting to flow into town. One moment there were jut a few families, the very next, there was a bunch. Families are mostly what one noticed, both young and old. People had a particular ease about the way they wandered from one place to the next socializing along the way.

I arrived at the Quill office just in time to see Scrooge make his entrance from the back rooms of the newspaper office. It was an entrance that immediately owned everyone in the room. Dan Ashton, of rural Biggsville, is a loan officer at the Midwest Community Bank in Monmouth, a Pastor of the Raritan Baptist Church, a retired teacher and a list of others, from but is also well known as a "favorite" actor, director, and writer in the area.

For this night, his 4th year of impersonating at the walk for The Quill, Ashton eased into what he said was his favorite role-the character of Ebenezer Scrooge.

"Scrooge" outside of Santa, is

among the best known fictitious characters in Christmas stories of the season.

Just watching the kids in particular one couldn't help but enjoy the expressions on their faces as they were brought into the world of theater.

Ashton seemed as if he had come right off the "Big Screen."- Nightshirt and stocking cap were all that he needed as a stage for his message, which as "Scrooge", gave him license to teach a lesson in a unique way. Immediately, he had not only the kids, but every bit as much the adults, looking at things having to do with value and price, from another perspective.

Dan had a good time with everyone who came through the door- "What's all those smiley faces?" he would ask. "Why are you giving things away?" he would ask Dessa? "Humbug! My grandpa always said, a penny saved is MINE! You don't give it away. You keep it for yourself!" And the argument would continue with every group who came into The Quill until "Scrooge returned to his bed to be haunted by the ghost of Christmases past. "Scrooge" was the perfect example of what is so unbecoming to anyone's life when they only live for themselves.

From The Quill I headed out the door and immediately found food in a variety of fashion at most businesses. Soups, great barbecue sandwiches, pies, cake, cookies, hot dogs, you name it.

Kone Korner is just outside the business circle next to the City Hall, so Janet Root brought her treats to the street in front of Bob's TV & Home Furnishings where Lori Taylor and Theo Phillips were greeting folks

When I saw Blaine Faudree and his wife as Santa and Mrs. Claus, they both really looked the part. You believed them just by their appearance.

Every business in town made the effort to make the whole street come alive in the season's celebration of lights. From the cities lighting of the streets, to the individual business, it all came together to become a lasting memory.

Leo Ramer's Ecumenical singers made the Bank of Stronghurst lobby into an opera house with the teller stations serving refreshments instead of dollars. The beauty of the combined voices of the area singers was a treasure.

The spirit of the season was everywhere. It was a picture of an ideal America, Neighbors in the streets smiling and greeting each other with a real spirit.

It was in the carolers with Pastor Pam Moore of the United Presbyterian Church and her oversized "fiddle" and members of her community choir that entered into each business and along the street with merry song.

It was in the many Christmas tree creations, the Nativity collections in the American Legion Hall with more the 240 on display.

It was in the beautiful Doran Insurance building with its classic decorating.

It was present in the beautiful and busy Bygones and Buds, the beauty shops, restaurant, Ellen May selling homemade pies and baked goods, the Anderson home off Broadway with Wyonna's collection of Santas and quilts.

The spirit was present at brightly decorated banks, fire houses, offices, clear to Riverland FS. It all came together to touch members of the Heartland with the true meaning of the season, and that is to possess a giving Spirit.

There might have been one exception, when I thought I caught a glimpse of a grinch in the crowd with a sour expression that seemed to reveal that dark attitude that there may always be a grinch among us trying to steal the joy and rob us of Christmas. The best way folks deal with that is to poor some Christmas spirit on them.

Returning to The Quill, I saw many good people doing that with tight old "Scrooge" and he seemed to get it. It came after a little girl had given him a penny and tell him "Merry Christmas!"

"Oh, bless you," he said. "You have changed my heart! Free Quills for everyone!"

I have been fortunate to see this celebration played all over the world, but no place have I ever felt such good cheer or seen it done in a nicer way. That's Treasure in the Heartland.