A wooden limberjack danced to the tune of the fiddle as the Oxford Schoolhouse in Leawood celebrated the season with a turn of the century holiday party last weekend.
There were no iPods or computers on offer, but a crowd of young children kept busy the old-fashioned way, making button necklaces, paper chains and garlands of popcorn and cranberries.
The one-room schoolhouse opened in 1877 and served students until 1955 at 135t h Street and Mission Road. In 2003, it was moved to Ironwoods Park at 147t h Street and Mission Road, where it currently stands.
During Saturday’s festivities, children sat at the vintage wooden desks, which were arranged just as they would have been 100 years ago. The electrical lights were on, a concession to the relatively dark and cloudy day. Cultural arts coordinator April Bishop said that they usually keep the lights off for school events to be authentic to the time and to show children what the school environment was like back then.
Although paper was scarce on the prairie, Bishop said that children in the early 1900s would have made paper chain decorations and cards for special occasions like the winter holidays. She expected 200 children to take part in the four-hour open house event.
Stephanie McClune brought her three kids, Rowan, 3, Addison, 5, and Abigail, 7, to participate in the activities.
“It’s kind of a vintage craft activity for the kids. It’s hands-on,” she said. “It reinforces why people love to live in Leawood.”
The celebration made a subtle nod to the more multicultural Leawood of today, providing dreidels along with the Christmas crafts. Hot spiced cider and brownies fed the cheerful crowd of children.
The schoolhouse is open all summer and hosts schools and historical groups by appointment the rest of the year. When it functioned as a real school, the students ranged from first to eighth grade. For school group visits, Bishop helps arrange for period costumes and lessons.
Musicians Scott Klamm and Jacob Shutts were on hand to provide authentic music on a variety of different instruments, from violin to autoharp and guitar to mountain dulcimer. Their favorite piece is an Irish fiddle tune called “Road to Lisdoonvarna,” but they also played plenty of holiday standards, such as “Jingle Bells.”
“We’re here two or three times a year,” Klamm said. “We usually have a spring or summer event to showcase old time instruments. For the one-room schoolhouse, we really focus on the old-time stuff.”
When Klamm took out the limberjack, an articulated wooden toy man, and bounced it to the music of Shutts’ violin, the children were enthralled, dropping their crafts to watch the dancing figure.
Klamm’s daughters, 11-year-old Sara and 13-year-old Carolyn, were there taking part in the crafts but occasionally joined their dad to sing “Christmas is Coming.”
The group trekked down to Leawood from North Kansas City, where Klamm has started a group of young dulcimer players at Briarcliff Elementary School. Klamm and Shutts also play in a group called “The Back of the Van Band,” which includes kids from their neighborhood.
“Doing all the stuff with the kids — it’s a blast. They get in, sing along and join us with their favorite (songs).” Klamm said. “April really focuses on keeping that historical connection. That kind of stuff is pretty neat.”