By LISA BRITTON
Of the Baker City Herald
Joann Boyer lugs a suitcase from a backroom, warning it could take hours to browse through the treasure stored inside.
She pops the two latches and lifts out a three-ring binder covered in a fuzzy red fabric, lashed together with a tattered leather belt and bulging with 30 years of Christmas letters.
andquot;Without the belt, I think the book would have gone to pieces,andquot; says Boyer, 95.
There's a reason she's stashed these letters safely away.
These aren't the standard end-of-year updates that clog the postal system every December.
The book's first page is a hint to her secret: a copy of the poem andquot;Twas the Night Before Christmas.andquot;
It's also handy to know Boyer taught English her specialty is American Literature. She retired in 1970.
andquot;Poetry was my favorite. That's how I ended up rhyming history,andquot; she says.
Beginning in 1960, Boyer began composing her yearly Christmas letter to the rhythm of the jolly holiday poem describing Christmas Eve.
andquot;That was one of my favorite Christmas poems,andquot; she says.
Mostly, she wrote about family affairs.
From 1962: andquot;The farm is still solvent, the cattle are sleek
And school work proceeds as per schedule each week.andquot;
From 1984: andquot;Our Boyer grandkids are all three in the East
Each doing own things, sounding happy, at least.andquot;
She included major milestones.
From 1987: andquot;To one born in ought-eight it is kind of a scary 'un
To find yourself faced with that 'octagenarian.'andquot;
She threw in a bit of history too, documenting John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963 and the first man on the moon in 1969.
andquot;There's quite a bit of history there January first on through December. Everything that happened in the family and the world, if it was worth including,andquot; she says.
Her family frequently argues over who will inherit this treasure trove of information.
andquot;They use it for (family) history,andquot; she says.
Started her students on poetry
andquot;This is unique this community knows about this book,andquot; she says, pointing toward Haines, andquot;but it's the only community that does.andquot;
Boyer's former students probably recall her creative letters as well.
Once her English classes found out what she was doing, they wanted to get in on the act.
andquot;They liked the idea,andquot; she says.
Their efforts took a little guidance, though.
andquot;They did an awful sloppy job they'd rustle the rhyme til it was at the end, no matter what the line was,andquot; she smiles.
That mistake rhyming words at the end of each line even though it doesn't make sense is an easy one to make, says the former teacher.
andquot;It came awfully easy to just wrestle something in,andquot; she says.
But each December she dutifully sat down with pen and paper to craft her poem.
andquot;When I started getting Christmas cards, that gave me the approach to start writing,andquot; she says.
Only in 1988, it seems, was her letter a tad tardy.
andquot;Merry Christmas, dear people, nineteen eighty-eight
This just may be a year when our greetings are late;
Old Man Time threw a curve and to reverse gear,
Catching busy old Boyers completely off guard
And putting Joann in the cardiac ward.andquot;
Boyer smiles as her eyes skim over the poem.
andquot;I'd forgotten I'd had that till I read over it,andquot; she says.
Each year's letter is pasted on its own page, surrounded by snapshots of family gatherings and dated stamps hailing andquot;Merry Christmasandquot; and andquot;Christmas Greetings.andquot;
She's even saved Christmas cards from her friends and relatives and students.
andquot;Only one ex-pupil is still rhyming her letters,andquot; Boyer says. andquot;She does a good job.andquot;
She stopped rhyming after 30 years
Boyer stopped writing her holiday poems in the early 1990s, when she was well into her 80s.
andquot;When I quit doing those I had protests from all over the world,andquot; she says. andquot;They wanted me to rhyme the history of the world forever. They said 'this is the end of an era.'andquot;
Maybe, but now she can relive those eras whenever she wants.
andquot;That'd take you about 30 years to go through this,andquot; she smiles, flipping through the brittle pages. andquot;I figure when I get too old to do anything else, I can sit there and go back through that book.andquot;