The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Web Extra

December 10, 2013

A 67-year-old caroling tradition

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

"Kenwood has a very close-knit community," said Mary Eileen Morrissey, who has helped organize its children's breakfast with Santa, for 10 years. Ruthanna has played piano and introduced Santa at those breakfasts and has been instrumental in bringing Kenwood together in other ways, including holding monthly dinners, starting the neighborhood Garden Club and serving as president of the Kenwood Citizens Association.

"The community and traditions that Kenwood has stems from the people like Ruthanna, who have been here a long time and have educated the new people to ensure that these traditions are passed down," Morrissey said.

Until Christmas Eve 2012, as far as anyone could remember, the caroling tradition at least had always continued.

In 1945, on her second Christmas Eve in her new neighborhood, Ruthanna got into the back of a pickup truck with a few friends, a piano and some songbooks. They drove the winding Kenwood streets — some of which were still dirt roads — stopping periodically to regale their neighbors with carols. At the time, there were 80 houses, about 200 fewer than stand today. People were surprised and delighted and would come out and join them, bringing hot cider to warm the plucky singers.

The next year, when the piano fell out of the back of the truck — most likely the result of too much eggnog — everyone agreed they needed to find a safer, stationary location for caroling. Ruthanna instantly visualized what they needed: a giant Christmas tree to gather around.

Ruthanna approached one of the two founders of Kenwood, Donal Chamberlin, and told him the neighborhood needed to plant not a cherry tree but a Christmas tree in the landmark circle. Ruthanna eventually persuaded him, leading to its unofficial designation as "Christmas Tree Circle."

Ruthanna assumed the tree would outlive her, but it fell victim to a vicious storm in 1989, having lasted a mere 42 years. Its replacement succumbed 13 years later to construction work in 2002. Now Ruthanna is on her third tree, a 50-foot-high Colorado blue spruce. Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, the tree is strung with colored lights to welcome the holiday season. Back in the days of the first tree, it took many years for the neighbors to persuade Rosemary Plumb that she didn't need to climb the tree limbs to hang the lights — it was okay to use ladders.

Text Only
Web Extra
  • Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 2.00.42 PM.png VIDEO: Train collides with semi truck carrying lighter fluid

    A truck driver from Washington is fortunate to be alive after driving his semi onto a set of tracks near Somerset, Ky., and being struck by a locomotive, which ignited his load of charcoal lighter fluid.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 22, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 22, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 22, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 18, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 18, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • web_starbucks-cof_big_ce.jpg Starbucks sees more Apple-like stores after Colombia debut

    This week Starbucks opened its first location in Colombia — a 2,700-square-foot store with a heated patio, concrete columns, mirrors on the ceiling and walls of colorful plants.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: New story emerges about Texas children locked in hot car

    After footage showed Texas shoppers breaking the windows of a hot car to rescue children trapped inside, additional witnesses have come forward to correct the story behind what has become a viral video.

    July 16, 2014