(Appeared on Fairfield.Patch.com 11/17)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Fairfield, CT – A group of girls got a glimpse at hard times during the Great Depression and realized how thankful they are for their many blessings.
“Thankful with Kit”, a program presented Wednesday afternoon Nov. 17 at the Fairfield Museum and History Center, focused on Kit Learns A Lesson, a children’s story written by Valerie Tripp which is part of the American Girls book series. Set in 1934, it features main character Kit Kittredge, a clever young girl helping her family cope with the dark days of that era.
In the tale, Kit’s father has lost his business and the family is struggling to keep a roof over its head. When she participates with her school class in providing a Thanksgiving food basket to a local soup kitchen, she finds her father there and is determined to help change things for the better.
Kit, who enjoys writing, creates a one-sheet newspaper called “Hard Times” that seeks a handyman and cleaning help so the family can fix up their house and attract boarders to cover their expenses.
The program, led by the museum’s Director of Education Christine Jewell, gave seventeen Fairfield girls ages 7 to 10, who were participating in the museum’s monthly Girls Club session, the opportunity to mirror Kit’s activities.
Creating what could pass as a food basket item, the girls collaborated on making a simple bread pudding. In the 30s, stale bread might be used, subscribing to a “waste not, want not” theory. Each of the girls handled a different step in the recipe, from buttering slices of bread and cracking eggs, to lining the pan and sprinkling raisins on top.
“What a great mess we made over here,” remarked Jewell as she placed the bread pudding into an oven to bake and sat the class down. Of the group, she asked, “Can you imagine not having enough money to live and having to take in boarders? Do you know anybody who doesn’t have a job?”
Many hands went up, signaling that people right here in Fairfield are experiencing their own hard times. When the girls took turns reading aloud excerpts from the book, they identified with Kit’s hardships. With this new appreciation, Jewell asked the group to create their own one-sheet newspapers and express both what they’re thankful about and what they wish.
Released to the gallery spaces of the museum, each girl outlined their project. Kate Burke, 10, a Faith Preparatory School student, wrote that she was thankful for her “pets, family, house and food”. Anna Paulmann, 7, a St. Thomas Aquinas student, was thankful for her “mom, dad and sisters.” Mary Collins, 9, a St. Ann’s student, wished her “family to be healthy.”
Upon return to the main activity room and the aroma of the baking bread pudding, the girls integrated these thoughts into their newspaper creations. With titles like The Katie Gazette, The Corrigan Post and the Fairfield Current, these took a cue from Kit’s paper but also exercised creative talents to include recipes, drawings, newspaper clippings and even ads for “help for hire” and puppies needing homes.
As the bread pudding and cups of lemonade made their way to the table, it was Addie Rush’s paper that may have best expressed the sentiment for the Thanksgiving season. Underneath the title “Happy Family’s” and colorful letters spelling out THANKFUL, Rush prominently placed the message, “I am thankful for my family and friends.” It appears Kit was not the only one who learned a lesson.