8 Good Things I Learned From Christmas Programs in 1953

Back in the 1950’s many Baby Boomers got their first experiences in front of a crowd when parents thrust them into a Christmas program at local churches whether or not the kids wanted to or could sing Christmas songs or not. It was traditional to be in a Christmas program whether or not you attended church very often or not.

I am so grateful for the opporutnities I learned in Children’s Church in Washington, Iowa in 1953. I will share 8 things I learned from singing in the Childrens Christmas Choir back in 1953.


(I grew in up in Washington Iowa where I got my first experience with singing in a local Church Christmas program in 1953. Copyright owned by Malika Bourne, daugher, Nancy, of Ken and Irene Bakehouse. Permission granted to Washington, Iowa residents to share this image.)

That’s me, Nancy Bakehouse, age 3, the little one on the far left with the big voice. My late sister Kathy Bakehouse (Musgraves) in the matching dress is inches away from me. She was embarassed to be too close to “dumb baby trying to sing words to the Christmas songs out of tune and too loud!.”

I dug out this old photo taken by Ken Rene’ Studio of Washington, Iowa in 1953, because I wanted to share a few things that I learned from being in this annual children’s church activity. (I own the copyright on photgraphs from ken Rene’ Studio, Washington, Iowa..)

At age 3 I did not understand anything that was going on including the fact that Washington, Iowa Lutheran congregation ooo’d and aaah’d with chuckles at “the little one is so cute,” when ever I sang in the Children’s Choir when my sister claimed I was “a horrible singer and too emabrassing to be seen with.”

December 1953

My daddy would send us two girls to walk alone down the alley behind the studio to the church a block away. He instructed me to stand up straight , smile and sing loud. My older sister hated taking me any where with her. I, now understand my oldest siblings feelings, now that I am mother and grand mother. My big sister was a normal first born.

I obeyed my daddy, much to the chagrin of my older and wiser big sister. I was afraid doing something new in front of teachers at the church I did not know. I had no idea what would happen to me if I disobeyed. As it turns out joining the childrens choir for the Christmas program was an amazing experience where learned so many postive things.

I wish I had more pictures an a tape recording of the congregation adoring my childish loud interpretions of the words to Away in a Manager.  Not that I was a child protegy, i wasn’t. But because of the loving support I felt.

Older and wiser in 2017

64 years later I like to believe that I am older and wiser having figured out my parents let me, the younger sibling, embarass her older sister. I learned a few more valuable life lessons that I NEVER would have learned had it not been for;children’s church actitivies.

8 Good Things I Learned from Singing at Church when I was 3.

  1. Christmas programs (and Vacation Bible School) were free babysitting where I got to play with other kids and sing even if I did not understand the words.
  2. Teachers told me what they wanted me to do and told me when I did a good job. When did not understand I was gently led. I got to color pictures and cut paper..and no one yelled at me for ruining EVERY thing! Having stucture felt good.
  3. Church programs set a standard of good behavior for children. I got nice words from the director when I smiled. So, I learned not to have melt downs. (My very tired working mother called my exasperating behavior “temper tantrums.” ) I learned self esteem. and good choices.
  4. I learned how to get vey nice attention from big people when I was clean and had my hair under control.
  5. I felt good when I got a snack at children’s church. I count of being fed.
  6. I learned that I was a good girl. I was normal after all even if I was afraid to doing something new/ different to have fun.
  7. I learned that if I did exaclty what I was told to do, like stand up straight and sing loud, the people in charge did not yell at me. I loved it when adults said I was so sweet or had pretty hair. No one laughed at me because I had a broken tooth. I was accepted the the way I was. But if I needed help nic peopel helped me without yelling at me.
  8. Adults in the church pews don’t make fun of little kids. I was not a “dumb baby”. Children singing for a church group is endearing to adults who remember their own feelings when they were young standing on the pulpit singing words to songs they did not understand at the time, either. It is a right of passage. so to speak: childhood mistakes don’t matter as long as the child does his/ her best.

Kids don’t understand many of the words adults use. Parents instructions may not make any sense to a child. Certainly most church songs are not fathomable to a child, either. But with time, so many things become clear.

It took me years to figure out that the words to AWAY in the MANAGER were not “Onion Versions” versus “Round Yon Virgin.” I was a child. I thought like a child. I did not understand the grown up world at all. But because some one took the time to help me learn I get it, now.

I know my 5 point list was not what you expected. For many folks Christmas is the happiest time of year.

For me, it is a time of reflection and gratitute for those amazing teachers I had at children’s church.

Brace yourself…

While many families look forward to the joys of the holidays, I want to point out that the winter holidays may not carry good memories for eveyone, including me. I still struggle at this time of year.

My intention is NOT to spoil your Christmas with my WHAAAA, but to point out that YOU can make a difference in a child’ future. Back in the 1950’s a few loving teachers at children’s church Christmas Choir helped me to begin to grow to be the woman I am today.

My story:

My father was a very loving God-fearing man who worked hard. He didn’t know much about raising children, but he was fun. I am grateful for my father’s choices to sned my sister adn Ioff to a near by church for FREE baby siting he enjoyed when we went to children’s choir.

After my big sister went to school and my younger sisters were born, my father had me under his feet in the dark room to save my mother sanity. he enjoyed every moment when I could get a free activity especially if it involved singing.

Participating in the Children’s Christmas Choir gave me something psotive to do beside get my butt blistered just becasue I had nothing else to do.

Sadly my mother had experienced some not healthy challenges when she was growing up. Those bad things affected her ability to parent.

My mom was smart, talented and very beautiful. She was an artist who co-owned my parents business. She worked hard.

My late mother rarely spent time she should have caring for her daughers. Now days, by law social services would have stepped in to charge my mother with neglect.

  • The fact that our father sent us to walk down the alley a block away to the nearest church at such a young age, was not something a prudent adult would do today. Sending us to learn to sing in Children Choir was a wonderful gift my father insisted on for us. It forced our mother to prepare my sister and I to go to practice for the program. We got rarely got a bath or our hair shampooed. She was forced to make her self look like a competent mother. We always looked clean when Dad took our pictures for the Studio’s Christmas card samples, tho this was ot noramlly the case.
  • Mom begrudingly cleaned us up and even set my thick hair in pin curls when Dady was going to send us to a church acitvity.. Honestly, my mother did not seem to know anything about normal child growth and developement. 3 year old kids don’t know when how to give themselves a bath or wash their hair nor why. My mommy was always angry at me about my rats nest hair and driving her crazy. I had, then, had a reason to clean up because the Christmas program. I saw other kids were well kept when I usually was not clean and i knew it even at ag 3. By the time I was 4 my 2 baby sisters wer born. I figured out how to bath and shampoo my own hair and my little sisters, too, because somehow it made grown ups happier.
  • Our mother often forgot to feed us, too. often she left us alone in an upstairs apartment. So, being able to count on a snack at a chuch program was something I looked forward to. I often ate paint chips and even ate a big bottle of baby aspiran because I was hungry.
  • I now know that my older bossy sister was acting her age and birth order when she complained that I emabarrased her with my singing or may have a temper tantrum. She knew the “rules” on how to not get into trouble, like I often seemed to do. Yes, I embarassed my sister because she did not want to get into trouble because of me. Both of us were NORMAL little girls acting our ages trying to figure out our place in the world.

I think most parents muddle through parenting. Cettainly our parents who lived through the Dression and WWII had a lot of recovering to do at the time we Baby Boomers were born.

My mother had never be taught how to be a parent, nor what were reasonable expectations or children at certain ages. She seemed to assume too much. Consequently, I remember her telling people ” Nancy drives dives me crazy” I remember the horrified look on town folks faces when she would pull down my panties to smack my bare butt leaving welts or when she dig her finger nails into my skin drawing blood because she did not like it when I was not perfect in front of people. I was not allowed to shed a tear or whimper.

Altho’ I was afraid, my Children’s Church teachers always helped me to what was right, and I felt good about myself. At the time I did not know why this was.

I know, many older people can tell stories about getting whippings. Harsh discipline was the norm before Child Abuse Laws were inacted. Some parents took the time to teach their children what was expected. When needed parents re-directed kids to do right, so they did not need to give too many whoopings, except when it really counted for all the right reasons. I can’t make any jugdements on what was abuse of not abuse back then.

All I know is that I personally had challenges to over come with the may my mother treated me.

Personallly, I think that many parents still have not yet found the happy medium of the meaning of DISCIPLINE which means to teach.

What my mother taught me in my first 10 years, was I had better figure out how not to make her mad or there would be butt blistering hell to pay.

When I was about 11, my mother finally read some good books and stepped up to the plate as mother. She became a Camp Fire Girl leader who taught a number of my peers some very good things. I am grateful, that my peers ad I got to have some fun learning experiences as a group. I don’t think any one ever knew how many times my mother still told me how horrible I was and how I drove her crazy.


  • Learn from the past.
  • Make necessary changes for a better future.

One of two adults who take the time to show loving kindness to a child will make a difference in that child’s future. I’m a prime example of postive growth. ( Not revealing everything.)

I loved how my teachers treated me. I had planned on teaching, but became an RN who taught parents.

I know I could not ever undo my past, but I can learn from it. I could work to change the future of a few children. I can have empathy with those who can silently related to my past without saying a word.

I was not a perfect mother. At times I reacted like what was deeply ingrained in me from the past. But, I made efforts to correct my mistakes and breadk a bad cycle by always reading an studying parenting. For hese reasons I write this blog if hopes of helping just one like my Childrne’s Church teacher did for me.

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