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Now and Then: Yesteryear’s Christmas cheer

Funny what I remember. Like this example of a 1940’s Flin Flon kid’s version of a song for the holiday season: “Good King Wenceslas last looked out, when a snowball hit him. Hit him right upon the snout, pure and crisp and even.

Funny what I remember. Like this example of a 1940’s Flin Flon kid’s version of a song for the holiday season:

“Good King Wenceslas last looked out, when a snowball hit him. Hit him right upon the snout, pure and crisp and even. Brightly shone his nose that night though the pain was cru-el. Then a doctor came in sight, riding on a mu-oo-el.”

Any early-days Flin Flon kid worth his or her salt knew the words to that version of the old carol. In fact, it wasn’t unusual to hear a bunch of kids breaking out in song as they ambled along the streets of Flin Flon. After all, Christmas was just around the corner.

The season began when the Town of Flin Flon and HBM&S crews would set up a gigantic evergreen tree and hang stings of coloured lights across Main Street.

The Main Street tree was a big deal and we Uptown kids were right on the spot to watch as the crews put it in place – right in the middle of the intersection of Main and Third. Not a problem in respect to traffic flow, as there were few vehicles in town and many of them were up on blocks for the winter.

A favoured December Saturday pastime was to get the gang together and wander from store to store to gawk at the huge selection of potential Christmas presents, as in toys. We’d start the tour at Keddie’s Hardware and make our way down the basement stairs to warm up our oohing, awing and gee-whizzing techniques.

Next, it was WB/PK Hardware, and then over to Woolworth’s, where we were watched by diligent clerks who would ask, “Can I help you boys?” To which we would reply, “Naw, just lookin’.”

Bell’s Hardware was a favourite spot for toy gawking, especially the elaborate window display featuring a Lionel Train making its way in and out of a snowy mountain.

Then on to the Hudson Bay Store for more toy delights and a final stop at the Co-op to complete our afternoon of gawking.

Brian Kenny, now resident of Burlington, Ont., but still a Flin Flon / Church Street Kid at heart, recently shared our Main School Christmas memories where each classroom had its own decorated (real) tree and a special assembly was held with carol singing and Christmas storytelling.

Brian recalled the arrival of “Santa” (aka Mr. Harry Lofendale), who would make a grand entrance into each classroom with a mighty HO HO HO and a jingling of Christmas bells.

Mr. Lofendale WAS Santa to thousands of Flin Flon kids over the years. It was an immense task as he visited Main/McIsaac, Terrace, Ross Lake Birchview, Willowvale and Channing elementary schools – all the while giving out joyful greetings and treats to the kids.

Linda Allen, sharing recollections of her father’s role as Santa, explained that the BPO Elks Lodge 232 sponsored his activities and purchased a fine Santa suit and fur mitts as part of the lodge’s community Santa program.

Linda noted that in addition to school visits, her “Santa-Dad” made visits to the General and Association (Company) hospitals as well as to homes where people were shut in due to severe illness.

Mr. Lofendale joyfully and with great compassion for children performed his role as OUR Santa from 1940 to 1965 – 25 years of bringing his generous spirit to all.

Brian Kenny reinforced the role played by the Elks and Royal Purple in not only celebrating the Christmas season, but also providing support to Flin Flon’s less fortunate citizens.

The annual Elks Christmas Cheer Broadcast was carried live on CFAR – The Voice of the North. This fundraising extravaganza, held at the Community Hall, featured an delightful line-up of local performing talent.

Bud Jobin, everyone’s favourite Master of Ceremonies, would encourage people to phone in their pledges in support of their favourite performers. (Do you remember Bill Marshall singing “Danny Boy”? Mrs. Ann Skoronski, Jean Frechette, Freddie Barnowich, the United Church Men’s, Women’s and Junior choirs, Thelma Hume and Lawrence Haldersdon’s trumpet?)

Over the years, the Elks Christmas Cheer broadcast provided hampers, including a turkey, toys for the kiddies, toiletries and other needed items. It was a major undertaking supported by over 800 warm-hearted northern volunteers. But, that was the way of the North. 

It still is.

Merry Christmas Flin Flon, Creighton, Denare Beach – and all!

Vincent Murphy-Dodds is a former Flin Flon resident now living in Regina. His column appears the first Friday of the month. Your comments on his column are welcomed. Contact [email protected].

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