J.P.’s Holiday Spirit

On September 1, John Piersol McCaskey’s great-granddaughter Kay McCaskey Adelman visited McCaskey High School bearing an important family heirloom: the Loving Cup, which belonged to J.P. himself.

“Loving Cup” is not a term we often hear in the 21st Century. It refers to a large decorative chalice with two or three handles that is used for communal drinking or given as a meaningful keepsake.

In 1904, at a Boys’ High School holiday reunion, John Piersol McCaskey was presented with a sterling silver loving cup by his former students. McCaskey loved Christmas and Boys’ High was always a place for making merry during the holiday season. The gift was presented at J.P.’s penultimate Christmas celebration (he would enjoy one more before ending his 50-year career as an educator).

Boys’ High graduates from California to Maine had been asked to chip in 50 cents or more for their 67-year-old mentor’s gift.

“It has been deemed best to hasten the collection of voluntary contributions, and go ahead with this matter while we have ‘Jack’ with us to appreciate our well-wishing,” one of them wrote.

With the tapping of a bell at 8 PM, the evening’s festivities got underway. These included the singing of Christmas carols, the enjoyment of music from the orchestra, and speeches praising the guest of honor.

McCaskey received a standing ovation as he rose to address the alumni with a bit of nostalgia: “Here it was that you lived and worked, or loafed and dreamed, got a fact now and then and picked up an idea now and then . . . got an impression of truth and duty—and slowly grew in weight physical, intellectual and spiritual.”

Then Frank B. McClain stepped forward. McClain would go on to become the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania after following in the footsteps of his former teacher as the Mayor of Lancaster. He presented the Loving Cup to McCaskey.

“On behalf of my fellow alumni, I present to you this beautiful cup as a token of our esteem and of the appreciation we have for you.”

It was a finely crafted trophy of solid silver. On one side, it was inscribed: “To John Piersol McCaskey—‘Jack’—From ‘Jack’s Boys’—Lancaster High School—1855-1904.” Rotating the cup leftward, McCaskey turned to another inscription: “And thus he bore the grand old name of gentleman.” On the third side of the cup, it read, “We’ll take the cup o’ kindness yet—for Auld Lang Syne.”

Expressing his gratitude, McCaskey said of his gift: “It is of the immortal things that money cannot buy nor time destroy.”

For many years following his death, McCaskey’s Loving Cup sat in the foyer at the home of Margaret T. McCaskey, the widow of Jim McCaskey, a great-grandson. It later found itself in the possession of her sister-in-law Kay McCaskey Adelman. In August, Kay contacted the McCaskey Alumni Association expressing her desire to have the Loving Cup reside in the high school bearing her great-grandfather’s name.

A month later, Kay arrived at the Alumni Center with her son Mike Adelman and the Loving Cup in tow. She shared her memories of living with her great-grandfather shortly before his passing. She imitated the way he would playfully curl his finger, beckoning her and saying, “Bring me the Good Book,” before reciting scriptural passages to her that he wanted her to learn.

“I loved him,” she said fervently.

In time for the holidays, John Piersol McCaskey’s Loving Cup was placed in an octagonal window decked with a shiny garland on the second floor of J.P. McCaskey High School. It is accompanied by two of the little red programs that were given out at the 1904 Christmas Reunion where the Cup was first presented to J.P.

The Cup looks out from the Alumni Center onto a hallway where a new generation of students live and work, or loaf and dream. Where they get a fact now and then and pick up an idea now and then. Where they get an impression of truth and duty—and slowly grow in weight physical, intellectual and spiritual.

It is a gift that money cannot buy, nor time destroy.

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Thanks to McCaskey biographer Dolores Parsil for the historical information shared in this post.

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