Christmas Season comes to McGill

By Keith Gibson

The Friday after Thanksgiving Day is called Black Friday, but to us kids it was another day of freedom from the local gulag.  We had a 4 day parole and utilized it to the fullest.  The first thing on the agenda was the McGill Community League Santa Party.  It was held at the I.O.O.F. Hall or across the street at the Cypress hall above the McGill Club. The smaller kids got to sit on Santa’s lap and recite their list of toys they wanted for Christmas.  Someone read the famous “twas The Nite Before Christmas” story.  Several of us older band kids were forced to play Jingle Bells a hundred times.  It must have been punishment for some wrong thing we of course don’t remember doing.  That happened a lot at that age.  Then it was grab your sock, tell Santa thanks and head for home.  During the WWII years the orange and apple in the socks were a real treat.  There were all kinds of nuts in the shell and a small toy.  I don’t know how they managed to get those items.

At home we ate the fruit and using the nit cracker and tongs we made a mess of shell fragments on the floor.  Then it was sleigh riding time over on one of the streets that KCC had blocked off for us.  They dumped some black sand at the bottom so we couldn’t go onto the main street.  They allowed us to build a bonfire at the top of the hill in the middle of the street and they brought us some wood from time to time.  It was fun to run while holding  our Flexible Flyer and then hit the ground while executing a highly controlled return of our body to the horizontal position directly on top of the sled.  It took a lot of skill to do this trick.  Some of our detractors that couldn’t do this feat, called it a belly flop.   The ride was soon over and it was time to trudge back up the hill and do it over again, until we were almost frozen.  The icy legs of our pants were like stove pipes.  We didn’t have insulated boots or clothing.  Red cheeks and blue fingers were a common sight.  When the sun went down the temperature dropped to way below zero.  Some kids would bring baker potatoes to put in the coals.  There was no tinfoil due to the war, so the spuds went into the coals and came out all black.  We ate them anyway.  It is a taste I have not experienced in many years.  The ashes and dirt clinging to them, enhanced the flavor.   Another treat was putting pine cones in the coals to roast the nuts inside them.  These tastes and aromas are never forgotten.

When the moon came up in the cold dark sky and we were frozen enough, it was time to go home.  Mom would open the oven door on the wood/coal burning kitchen stove for us to warm up before bedtime.  With some nice warm woolen long johns on, we climbed into bed.  The multiple layers of blankets pinned us to the bed.  It was necessary, because when the fire in the stove went out the uninsulated house got very cold.  Ice formed on the inside of the window by our bed.  Mom would treat us to another luxury not found today.  That was some regular bricks warmed on the stove and then wrapped in a towel and placed near out cold feet.  It was the end of another wonderful winter day and our last thought was that we were one day closer to that glorious Christmas vacation.