It's the Christmas season at SteynOnline, and as always we have a full slate of seasonal programming in the days ahead, including this year's edition of The Mark Steyn Christmas Show. Tonight, though, we present the sixth of this season's Yuletide Tales for Our Time, my monthly series of audio adventures that we offer as a bonus for Mark Steyn Club members and which every December turns to more festive fare.
I'm delighted by your reception of these stories by L M Montgomery, creator of Anne of Green Gables. Colorado member Nancy Wenlock says:
Thank you, Mark!
These Christmas tales, like the other tales you've presented, are the perfect way to end each day. I can breathe a sigh of relief in the listening and enjoy such elements of kindness, simple pleasures and wonderful writing.
And to you, Nancy. It turns out we have Steyn Club members in Maud Montgomery's old haunts - among them First Day Founding Member Lynn Foster:
I have left Bethlehem, Connecticut and moved to Bala, Ontario ...and here in Bala we have a museum dedicated to Lucy Maude...here is the info:
'A teacher reading to her grade six class, a honeymoon in Prince Edward Island, and a lifelong dream. These three events have lead to Jack and Linda Hutton's opening of the Bala museum with memories of Lucy Maud Montgomery...
'She was so smitten with the village of Bala that she used the area as the setting in her Muskoka love story "The Blue Castle".'
You can come to Bala, tour this home and have a meal at the Castle Blue restaurant in town (open in the summer only though).
It is WONDERFUL to hear these stories and know my little home town played a role...carry on, I LOVE your readings...wishing you and yours a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR..
Happy 2020 to you too, Lynn. You're very lucky to live in the only place, aside from her home in PEI and her dad's home in Prince Albert, where Lucy Maud Montgomery set a story: She said she found Muskoka almost as beautiful as PEI - which it is. Bala is two hours due north of Toronto, up near Georgian Bay. More on the L M Montgomery museum here:
The restoration and opening of the museum has been a "labour of love" for the couple, who have been able to live their dream for the past eight years. "We came back from our Honeymoon in PEI, and we found out through a friend about this house in Bala which was for sale, and was going to be torn down by the Town. On a whim we decided to buy it, and restore it," remarks Mr. Hutton.
The museum lies within the house where Lucy Maud Montgomery ate her meals while on a two week vacation in Bala with her husband and two children. Montgomery spoke very highly of the area, which she visited during a very difficult time in her life.
Tonight's tale finds LM back on home turf, with a glimpse of Christmas in a one-room schoolhouse. A few years back, as the final stage in my town's educational consolidation, the last one-room schoolhouse shut its doors and, while the school board was deciding what to do with it, the historical society restored it to its late 19th-century state with old desks, New England Primers, and a Grade Five exercise on the blackboard that no contemporary Fifth Graders could have answered correctly. If the alternative is "education" till Grade Eighteen under legions of administrators and guidance counselors and social-justice enforcers, there's a lot to be said for one-room schoolhouses.
But those schoolhouses were generally neighborhood schools, not town-wide. And in the 1905 story The Christmas Surprise at Enderly Road L M Montgomery contrasts the fortunes of the urchins in the poor end of the village with the posh boys from the fancier part of town:
We were home from our academy for the Christmas holidays and had been amusing ourselves on this sunshiny December afternoon by a tramp through the "back lands," as the barrens that swept away south behind the village were called. They were grown over with scrub maple and spruce, and were quite pathless save for meandering sheep tracks that crossed and recrossed, but led apparently nowhere.
Frank and I did not know exactly where we were, but the back lands were not so extensive but that we would come out somewhere if we kept on. It was getting late and we wished to go home.
"I have an idea that we ought to strike civilization somewhere up the Enderly Road pretty soon," I answered.
"Do you call that civilization?" said Frank, with a laugh.
No Blackburn Hill boy was ever known to miss an opportunity of flinging a slur at Enderly Road, even if no Enderly Roader were by to feel the sting.
Enderly Road was a miserable little settlement straggling back from Blackburn Hill. It was a forsaken looking place, and the people, as a rule, were poor and shiftless. Between Blackburn Hill and Enderly Road very little social intercourse existed and, as the Road people resented what they called the pride of Blackburn Hill, there was a good deal of bad feeling between the two districts...
But it doesn't have to be that way, as we shall discover. To hear me read The Christmas Surprise at Enderly Road please click here and log-in.
Our earlier L M Montgomery Christmas tales can be found here - and a whole bunch of other Yuletide yarns by Dickens, O Henry, Conan Doyle, Louisa May Alcott and some fellow called Steyn can be heard here.
If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For details on membership, see here - and, if you're seeking something for a fellow fan of classic fiction this holiday season, don't forget our Christmas Gift Membership, which includes a set of three of our most popular Tales for Our Time (The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Time Machine and The Thirty-Nine Steps).
On the other hand, if you'd like a book in old-fashioned book form, over at the Steyn store there are bargains galore among our Steynamite Christmas Specials - as well as an extra-festive gift for your loved one: a deluxe berth on next year's third annual Mark Steyn Cruise.