This Podcast is about Christmas memories, which go back a ways for me.
I was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada where my father worked at Eatons department store. A very big deal at that time. He sold heavy appliances, pianos and home organs. He could bring a tear to the unsophisticated ear of the locals playing “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” on a home organ. We had one in the living room.
My mother was a church organist and choir leader, although she was an agnostic. I don’t know what my dad was, but he could repair organs. One time he was in a local Anglican church late at night repairing an organ and to test it he started a rousing version of “Roll Out the Barrel, We’ll Have a Barrel of Fun”. A local parishioner with keen ears heard it and reported him to the Minister.
One winter we went up on the third floor snow-covered roof of the Eatons Department Store. Due to his pull at the store or a slight bribe, my dad was able to convince the store Santa Claus to sit up there on a chair. We children came up in our snowsuits to have a personal interview with Santa Claus in the snow on the roof of that Eatons department store. Home movies of the event were taken to be viewed in successive years around Christmas time.
Another Christmas memory is of the kind of toys we would get as children. Children’s toys back in those days, in the later 40s and the 50s, were different than what we see today. I remember one item that was big on the list was Lincoln Logs. The came in sets and you could build log cabins and other frontier constructions. They came with pictures of things you could build such as whole forts, if you had the expanded kit. We never got the expanded kit but there were lots of logs anyways. Of course there was Lego and something called ‘Pick Up Sticks’ in brightly coloured plastic. They came in a roundish tin and you had to pick them up in a certain order and avoid disturbing other elements in the pile and so forth. They were challenging for a while.
Then, there were cap pistols. For a nickel or a dime you could get quite a few caps and they made a very satisfying “Bang!” All those Western matinées with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers could be re-lived with your frontier six shooter cap pistol.
Then there were dolls. I still have an Eaton Beauty Doll from that era., a kind of early fashion doll before Barbie. Close in size to the popular American Girl dolls, but more fashionable. There were baby dolls with curly hair and some of them would wet themselves, which was a thrill. I clearly remember one called Betsy-Wetsy!
Toy medical kits were a big item. They contained candy pills, tongue depressors and a toy stethoscope. We could pretend to diagnose and cure any number of toys and pets. The candy pills included disappeared quite quickly.
I remember one Christmas when my father included, amongst the gifts he gave my mother, 3 bars of fancily-packaged, scented soaps. My mother, who had an emotional nature, opened that present, saw the soaps and burst into tears. Moaning through her tears, “You think I smell!!” My father could never quite get it right with gifts for my mother, although his intentions were of the best.
I had an old aunt in another town who faithfully, every Christmas, would send my sister and I gifts of brown, cotton lisle stockings, full length, very practical and very ugly. They were meant to be held up with a garter belt, like ugly cotton nylons. Although we always wrote the aunt dutiful ‘thank you’ notes, we never wore these items and, somehow, they just disappeared shortly after Christmas.
© Sonia Brock 2005