Christmas in Silvermine

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A woodblock print by Carl Schmitt for a Christmas card commissioned in the 1920s.

Carl Schmitt’s late son David has left us a wonderful series of reminiscences about his growing up in Silvermine.  As David remembers it, Christmas can bring out the best (and worst) in children of a large family.

One Christmas when I was about seven dad and mother bought me a present much better than I anticipated. Dad called my name and I stepped forward and he handed me a large box attractively wrapped. “To David from Mother and Dad.” I tore it open and inside was a large pair of brown hunting boots with a jackknife in a leather pocket on the left side of the left boot. I was overwhelmed. I put the boots on and paraded around the house upstairs and down all the rest of Christmas day. I could see nothing but those two boots.

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Michael, pastel on paper, 1935

Unfortunately, my brother Mike had gotten a model airplane kit—the kind one puts together from balsa wood and covers with Japanese tissue paper, then paints to match the real airplane. It actually flew and took a lot of work to build. Late in the afternoon, just before supper, I was coming down the stairs, and of course Michael was assembling his plane right at the foot of the stairs. You guessed it, the inevitable happened; my big boot went “crunch” right in the middle of his plane and completely demolished it. It was a case of the inevitable force meeting the immovable object.

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Carl Schmitt sons ((left to right) Peter, Jacob, Michael, John, David, and Austin, c. 1932.

Mike wanted to take it out on my hide but he didn’t, remarkably, because I pointed out that after all that wasn’t the best place to put his plane together. Naturally, he didn’t relish hearing my defense. It was a case of arrogance vs. pride which most kids excel in. I still don’t remember how the situation was resolved short of parental arbitration and both of us eating a little crow.

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Christmas card (c. 1925) for John Kenneth Byard, a friend and patron of Schmitt in the 1920s who later became a well-known antiques dealer.

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