Portsmouth, a small town in Southern Ohio, is the birthplace of this week’s writer. One of her short stories, first published in a women’s magazine, was lengthened into a book and eventually turned into a made for television movie. Her name is Barbara Jean Webb Robinson and though she wrote many stories, The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever is what people most remember.
Barbara Jean Webb Robinson was born in Portsmouth, Ohio in 1927. Her father died when she was 3 and her mother taught school to support them both. Portsmouth was a booming town then and full of characters to spark a young girl’s imagination. When reading her stories one is reminded of how families lived in a river town and the rough around the edges of those who have street smarts but still have a heart and humanity so they do the right thing even if going about it the odd way.
Barbara Jean Webb Robinson is remembered quite fondly in her home town. On a Facebook page called You Know You Are From Portsmouth Ohio If? Jeri Weaver Hughes told of when Robinson came to speak at the school where Hughes taught in the early 90s. “She was so interesting and spent a lot of time talking with the kids. A very nice lady…she autographed copies of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for my own children and anyone else who wanted one…” Hughes offered that the reading teachers still use the book and discuss the author being from Portsmouth and then they all watch the movie together. “It is a classic”, Hughes stated.
David Huffman, who is retired from Portsmouth Schools and describes himself as the school archivist believes he knows who might be the inspiration for the family in the story, but he isn’t divulging that information.
Correction made. David's last name is Huffman and not Hall. Sorry for the confusion.