It was the winter of 1944, the war was far from home in Canada but the hardships were the same. There was the lack of goods, food and petrol as those items were being reserved for the troops. People were using their rationing cards to buy items such as flour, sugar, salt, bacon and if you were in luck, nuts and sometimes fresh fruit. So trips to Calgary were far and few between from Michichi, Alberta.
Bill and Alice had two children, Marilyn 5, and Dave 2. In the winter Bill was coal miner, in the spring and summer and fall he was a farmer. During the war Bill also helped with the war effort by helping to maintain machinery, so he was gone sometimes during the winter. During the year Alice would sell her eggs from her hens and give piano lessons as she was a well-respected teacher of the instrument. She had some funds on hand for special purchases. Every Saturday nights they would travel to different school houses in the country side and hold dances, Alice playing piano, Bill…banjo and his fellow chums on different instruments. Bob Hoy a family friend also sat in on the piano.
Christmas was drawing close and Alice still had not made the long trip into Calgary to make special purchases of warm wool socks, gloves and a hat for Bill. Other items included a doll for Marilyn and toy truck for Dave and to shop the department store windows dreaming of what could be once the war was over. Bundling up on Saturday the day before Christmas Eve, she left the children with their grandmother and made the 91 mile trip into Calgary on the bus to use her ration card.
She purchased sugar, butter, flour, nuts, and some plums to make a plum pudding for Christmas and tangerines for the Christmas stockings. She had a chicken at the farm and root vegetables for a Christmas meal. Each member of the family would bring a dish to share at the feast.
After her purchases she stopped to gaze at the beautifully decorated Hudson’s Bay department store windows knowing it was not reality. Bill had cut down a small cedar tree which stood in the corner of the living room at the farmhouse without a decoration on it. Alice spying a beautiful display of decorations went into the department store to see how much they were. The salesman approached her and asked if he could be of help. Alice realized he was speaking to her and she inquired after the decorations trimming the tree on the showroom floor. “I’m sorry Madame but those decorations are not for sale, only for show” “What will happen to them after Christmas is over” she inquired? “They will be thrown away as they can’t be sold” he replied. Alice was aghast, “Such a waste! She cried. “Can I not purchase even one for my two children as they have nothing on the tree back home”. “Please let me purchase at least one ornament” she implored. “I’m sorry but they are not for sale” and he turned away. Alice stood there like stone gazing at the ornaments on the tree with tears welling up in her eyes. To be thrown away, to be discarded like trash. But they weren’t trash to her they were beautiful. She slowly turned to leave the store glancing back at the tree shaking her head, she walked outside into the cold biting wind as the snow was starting to fall and swirl.
Alice had just a few minutes before catching the bus back home when she felt a tap on her shoulder. There stood the salesman with a small box in his hands. He looked at her and said “you never got this from me. Merry Christmas”!
Alice stood in the swirling snow dumbfounded at what just happened, with the small box in her hands along with the other packages tied up with string she boarded the bus.
Once seated inside the bus for the long trip back to Michichi, with trembling hands she lifted the lid off the box. Inside were 6 ornaments, Four were a small Santa with a wand in his hand that would fit onto a branch of the tree his face was made of clay and painted with a felt beard. The other two were Santa’s, made of soft plush pipe cleaner with faces made of clay that were painted, along with a felt beard. They included bells on the ends of their feet that would jingle when hung from the tree. To Alice they were the most beautiful ornaments she had seen.
|Christmas Ornaments from 1944|
Today, 69 years later we still have the ornaments that Alice treasured so much that year. Three went to Marilyn and the others to Dave. They have hung on the family Christmas tree for many years and will continue to do so as they will be passed onto the next generation, even if they’ve lost their luster, to this family they are beautiful.
To the salesman who found it in his heart to share the Joy of Christmas so many years ago, may you find a special place in Heaven.