By Peggy Law

When I was a little girl, my father and mother, my three sisters and I lived in an isolated logging community on northern Vancouver Island. There were no televisions or telephones, very few radios and no church. The nearest town was fifty miles to the south. With very few good roads out of the community (it was a railroad operation) everything necessary for daily living was brought in by Union Steamship.

There were approximately thirty families living there with twenty children of school age, and an elementary school was provided. And as Christmas approached, the children and the current teacher eagerly rehearsed for the Christmas Concert.

On the evening of the concert, all the parents, children, and occasional visitors eagerly awaited the endeavours of the students and later, the arrival of Santa Claus and the gifts of candy and oranges. This was our HOLLYWOOD EXTRAVAGANZA!

A week before Christmas was the Sunday morning for getting the Christmas tree. Everyone, except Mom and baby, donned winter coats, hats, scarves, and mittens. Dad gathered his saw, axe, and a rope and we headed for the woods. There were no restrictions in those days about cutting trees. A trek through the woods and picking out the perfect tree had always been a special treat with our dad. Tying the rope to the tree and towing it was always a hilarious and joyous time. If there was snow, it meant rolling in it and snowball fights with Dad. Arriving home to the aroma of fruit cakes, mince tarts, and cookies was an added bonus.

With no supermarkets near us, our parents had to use their ingenuity to provide gifts. This usually meant a sweater, lovingly knitted by mom. My dad, a master mechanic by trade, was also an accomplished carpenter. The year I was ten, he built for my sisters and me a wonderful doll house with all hand-made furniture (except the kitchen stove). Mom sewed the curtains, the pillows, sofa seats and backs, blankets, and all such trimmings. All this was done on the closed-in back porch while we three girls were sleeping. I can still envision the wonder of it!

Christmas morning, Dad took over the kitchen. It became his empire. And the TURKEY! This was no frozen bird from the supermarket. It was a fresh, undressed bird, ready to be eviscerated. First off were the feet, with tendons attached, which Dad gave us to play with. By jerking on the tendons, we could make the feet walk around the kitchen. Next came the stuffing. What delicious smells filled the air...the onions, the spices! When the bird was stuffed, buttered and salted and peppered, it was placed in the large roaster and Dad prepared the “saddle”. The saddle was a large cover made of a flour and water which was sealed completely over the bird to keep in the juices. Into the oven went this majestic work of art. While this was being done, Mom and the girls prepared the vegetables, potatoes, yams, Brussels sprouts, carrots, peas, and of course the cranberry sauce. The Christmas pudding had been made days before and was in the crock to be heated while we ate dinner.

With about four hours for the bird to cook, it was Mom and Dad’s free time, the time to visit everyone in the community and share a Christmas quaff. It was a good thing all the preparations had been made earlier and Dad’s duties were done, except for the carving of the bird.

At the time there were only six of us, but we usually had visiting relatives…a grandfather, granny or really good friends around our Christmas table.

These things may seem very insignificant now, compared to today’s standards. And although it was over eighty years ago, it stays in my mind as if it were yesterday.