Sale of teacups to benefit Margaret Hall scholarships
When Melody Hall Sessoms was growing up in Versailles in the 1950s, she and other children would attend a Christmas Eve tea party at the home of a woman the kids called Aunt 'Reath. The gathering was designed, in part, to give girls who hadn't gone home for the holidays something to do the night before Christmas. After several years of such parties, hostess Eureath B. White, a teacher and administrator at Margaret Hall School, had acquired a large collection of tea cups. "You know how when people start to collect something, that's what people give them for every occasion. She built up a beautiful collection ..." Sessoms said. "The children in the community, many of them from St. John's Episcopal Church, or from the lower school at Margaret Hall, or just people that she knew in the community, would come to these tea parties." Parents would drop the children off and, overseen by Aunt 'Reath, the kids, dressed in their finest, would have a tea party. Sessoms guessed she attended her first tea party in 1957, when she was five years old. Sixty years later, those tea cups will go on sale Friday, June 23, at Marketplace on Main, for $20 each, with net proceeds going to the Margaret Hall Alumni Scholarship Fund. Today, Sessoms lives in Clayton, N.C., near Raleigh. A few weeks ago, she packed up the cups, many of which were made in Japan, and sent them to Marketplace on Main. She said she asked the store's owner to begin displaying them Friday, so that people attending this weekend's reunion of Margaret Hall alumni would have first crack at them. "They're very special, because when we would go to the tea party ... (Aunt 'Reath) would have the cups out on these shelves and we would be allowed to pick the cup that we wanted to use to have our tea ..." Sessoms said. "That was a very special, precious moment for us. So everybody that ever attended one of her tea parties remembers these cups." When Sessoms and other attendees grew older, they brought their children to Aunt 'Reath's for the Christmas Eve tea party - as did some members of the next generation. Sessoms said she believes she inherited the tea cups because White and her parents were close friends. "We are getting to be a small group," Sessoms said of Margaret Hall School alumni. "We started out as a small group - the classes were never very large at Margaret Hall." White died in 2005 after a remarkable life that included stints as a teacher, administrator, state worker and employee of the Woodford Chamber of Commerce. As a child, she was stricken with polio, but with the help of crutches, friends and a memorable red electric "car," she managed to get around quite well for most of her 95 years. Now, the woman generations of Woodford County children called Aunt 'Reath - a person Sessoms called "iconic" - will have another legacy: helping one or more people she never met get an education.