The National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech University hosted the annual “Candlelight at the Ranch,” with some of our very own Frenship students playing important roles helping to show the public a view of Christmas past on the South Plains.
Saundra Wimberley is a first-grade teacher at Crestview Elementary who has sponsored her students for this event for the last 19 years. She is a 1981 graduate of Frenship, where she was first introduced to the Ranching Heritage Center by her history teacher, John Franklin.
“This experience is so rich for my students,” Mrs. Wimberley said. “They begin to understand their own place in history because they’ve now seen the past. They’ve walked in the shoes of the children of our local history by being in that schoolhouse and having to act, dress and talk as they would have.”
In order to prepare for the event, the class had several lessons about history to instill a better understanding of time and place. The whole grade level learned about when settlers first came to the West Texas plains, what adults and children did in their everyday lives, what they needed, typical housing, their hardships and triumphs.
This year, Mrs. Wimberley borrowed a “Life on the Plains” trunk from the Texas Tech’s National Ranching Heritage Center, which allowed the children to view very old pieces of clothing, household items, children’s games, and other materials appropriate to the time of settlers.
Wimberley always plays the part of the “old maid” teacher, or “schoolmarm,” since married women wouldn’t have been allowed to teach in the 19th century. Her students dress and act the part of typical students of the time in the Bairfield one-room schoolhouse found at the National Ranching Heritage Center. They had to remember to talk about their farm or ranch life as if it were real. They had to say they walked to school, milked the cows, fetched water or had just come in from the outhouse.
Mrs. Wimberley typically has around 16 of her 22 Crestview students participate in the Candlelight. Those who can’t participate still get immersed in the history of the NRHC.
“They still gain a great deal of knowledge from the preparation we all make, activities we do in class, our casual discussions of the event, and viewing pictures afterward,” Wimberley said. “Every child wants to know about other children in history and this is a great outlet for that.”
Several thousand attended the Candlelight at the Ranch and viewed the scene inside the little schoolhouse which was warmed only by a small pot-bellied stove and lit by lanterns. Leadership from the NRHC said many times that the Crestview kids are a fan favorite. The class did their best to stay in character and portray a realistic Christmas setting as they wished everyone “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
“I love doing this with my students,” said Wimberley. “It’s tiring but well worth the effort. I’m so glad my students’ families have been as excited about it through the years as I have so that their children could participate.”