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161226 December 26, 2016


Who is Jeanette Isabella
And What Is She Doing in My Head?

Tommy Towery
LHS '64
        Last week during a church Christmas service one of the songs featured was “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” which I never really considered a Christmas classic like “We Three Kings” and many more. But the song has always had a special place in my holiday celebrations thanks to my time at Lee High School, particularly the eleventh and twelfth grades.

    I have to make a confession here. Until I started doing a little research for this story I never noticed the comma in the title or realized the song was about two girls, not one. I blame my Southern upbringing for that. Having gone to school with Mary Ann, Carol Jean, Sarajane, Carol Ann, and Saranette to name a few, it never dawned on me it was not one girl named Jeanette Isabella, and was really two girls,  Jeanette and Isabella.  If it had been written by Jim McBride I guarantee it would not have the stupid comma and it would be about only one Southern Belle with a double name like Jenny Lynn.

    Wikipedia gives the following information about the song. “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella" (French: Un Fambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle) is a Christmas carol which originated from the Provence region of France in the 17th century. In the carol, visitors to the stable have to keep their voices down so the newborn can enjoy his dreams. To this day in the Provence region, children dress up as shepherds and milkmaids, carrying torches and candles to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, while singing the carol.

    Another confession is,  I never paid any attention to the words in English, mainly because I have rarely sung it in that language.

    The truth is, I always sing the song in French, as best as I can remember all the words. I do so because I was first introduced to the song in its native language. It was a song which I had to learn as a member of Miss Broom’s French class at Lee High School during my junior and senior years. The only classmate I could positively state I remember being in my class before doing some research was Jim Ramsey. We learned the song with these words.

Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle --
Un flambeau! Courons au berceau!
C'est Jésus, bonnes gens du hameau.
Le Christ est né; Marie appelle!
Ah! Ah! Que la Mère est belle,
Ah! Ah! Que l'Enfant est beau!

Un Flambeau Jeanette, Isabella

    In reality, we learned two Christmas songs that year, the one mentioned above and “Sainte Nuit! A Ninuit!” or as we know it in English – “Silent Night”.

Sainte nuit! A minuit
Le hameau dort sans bruit;
Dans l'etable repose un enfant
Que sa mere contemple en priant
Elle a vu le Sauveur
Dans l'enfant de son coeur

    I do not remember the French version of "Silent Night" as well as “Un Flambeau” probably because my French was washed away by the constant flooding of my brain with the English version, but I have always remembered the French title of the song and often sing the first two lines in French before finishing it off in English with the rest of the crowd.

    I wonder if such Christian songs are still introduced to foreign language students in today’s politically correct church/state boundaries. I doubt they are. But it was okay back in the Sixties. Another thing I remember about my French class is a party the “Le Cercle Francais” (better known as the French Club) had at Miss Broom’s house. Yes, we had an unsupervised school party at a teacher’s house, and no one thought anything odd about it. I remember her house was up on Pratt Avenue, right across the street from Maple Hill Cemetery and the whole club met there and Miss Broom was the only adult present. I remember we had snacks, but not much more about the evening, but today I look back and wonder how strange that might seem to today’s generation as inappropriate.

Click on the image for larger view.

    I am interested in hearing from any of you who also took French from Miss Broom in 1962-63 and 1963-64 and can add any to this story. Yes, we lived in simpler times. Bring a flashlight Jeanette Isabella, we want to see what’s going on at that there party, girl.

        Memphis, TN - This is going to be another smaller issue due to family travel for the holidays and it being Christmas weekend.

        Sue and I opened all our Christmas cards last week and if I did not know better, I would swear all my family and friends are getting older and starting to do things we always though old people do - like falling.

        In our Christmas letters this week, four of our friends have fallen in 2016 and broken bones or seriously hurt some other body parts. Hey, that's what old folks do, right? Well, one victim was a friend on a ski slope who took a higher grade slope than she normally took and ran into a tree and broke her nose. Another one was riding a Segway and tried to turn around and fell off. A third friend went to a McDonalds and slipped on a floor - after participating in a marathon run. Finally, the last one dropped a huge watermelon on her foot and then slipped on a grape and fell. Now that one was a legitimate "old folk" fall I suppose.

        Sue and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe holiday period.

        We will resume with our college stories and other contributions next week.

Pennies (And More) From Heaven

Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    This year Sue and I continued our "Pennies from Heaven" (AKA Cousin Jim) tradition by saving all the coins we have found in stores and parking lots, etc. during the year and depositing them into the Salvation Army Red Kettle at Christmastime. We also multiple the amount by 10 and also donating that amount to the Salvation Army. This year we found $6.26 which mean a $62.26 donation.

Bubble Lights

Christmas Lights
Mike Crowl
Class of 65

         Well I hope you had a great Christmas. Besides the celebration of this great time it brings back memories of our childhood. 

        The bubble light ornament was one of my favorites. I can remember as a child sitting by the tree for hours and watching the lights. Sometimes it is the most simple things that bring such joy. 

        I hope everyone has had a chance to remember a joyous moment in their childhood during this time and  this Christmas time was mostly everything you wished for.

        Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

My brother Don (back), my mother, and me and our TV on East Clinton Street.

The Vintage Television
Tommy Towery
LHS '64
1964 Part 2

1964 TV Part 2