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Christmas Sixty Years Ago
by Dorothy Helferty - Mainstreeter December 1985
The sound of sleigh bells in the frosty night air echoing up and down Main Street as horse-drawn sleighs bore children and their parents to Midnight Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church is a special memory for Jim C. Chambers, 83 Springhurst Avenue
The church situated on Oblate Avenue was parish church for the Chambers family and the Catholic community of Ottawa East at large. Sixty-nine years old this year, Jim has vivid recollections of Main Street 60 years ago. Sharing the nostalgia of former days is his brother, Bill, who is 70 years of age and lives on Toronto Street. Both Jim and Bill were born in the family's first home on the corner of Concord and Lees Avenue.

"I remember that sound very well," Jim recollected. For all of us, old and young alike, it signaled the climax of the pre-Christmas season - Christ-mas Day - and for us children, the coming of school holidays.". Following the service, the horses would be waiting to take people home. Some who lived nearby as Jim and his family did, would walk home, their shoes making crunching sounds through the drifts of snow on field and street.

Christmas morning meant the opening of "stockings a" hung by the chimney with care" and the discovery of hidden treasures, Mecchano sets, boys books, hand-operated toys, sweets, and other good things.

As today, a Christmas tree held the place of honour in the home. "Some of our friends set tiny candles on the tree and lit them, but because of the fire risk, ours had none. Tiny figures of the Holy Family, deer. and other animals, baubles and bells and tinsel and red and green streamers in garlands around the tree made it a thing of. beauty. And, of course; there would be an angel or a star on the very top of the tree."

Another highlight of Christmas Day was a walk to Grand-father's and Grandmother's house in Centre Town. But the real highlight of the day was a wonderful Christmas dinner and the opening of still more gifts. The dinner was a sumptuous feast of roast turkey "not of the frozen kind so popular today" but fresh, together with cranberry sauce also freshly made, pickles and relishes, vegetables of a" kinds, most of which had been grown the previous summer and stored, homemade pies, candied fruits and sweets and a great plum pudding.

Families kept chickens in their backyards then. Vegetable gardens and fruit trees supplied a good share of table fare in most homes, but more and more, baked bread and other supplies were being bought in local stores. "We had two butcher shops on Main Street in a row of shops that stood where the streets leading to the Queensway are now. A gen-eral store, now "Servidec" but then known as Hawley's, the first Bank of Nova Scotia, a dry goods' store and "Izzy's" a variety store where young people gathered, rounded out our "1oca1 shopping area.

Christmas Day over, now dawned the time of school holidays. There was skating on the Canal and hockey on the nearby Rideau River. The ice companies of that day were busy in winter cutting ice to be stored until used the following summer. Where they worked were patches of cleared
snow and smooth ice suitable for both skating and hockey.

"Our games were just great, "Jim recalls, "and we "lived so close to the river that we often came home for din-ner at noon and didn't even take our skates off. It was such fun and we just had to get back to it as soon as possible."

The Chambers children went to Holy Family School, a four-room school where St. Paul's University parking lot is now situated. Each room had two classes and went to Grade VIII.

Christmas festivities started off with a school concert and a tree-trimming held in the basement of the church. Most of the chil-dren participated in recitations, songs and skits in front of proud parents and friends. And, of course, Santa Claus made an appear-ance and distributed gifts.
When the children were quite young the Chambers family moved to what was to become the family home for many years, at the corner, of Rosemere and Springhurst. Jim and his wife, Molly
have lived in their present home, just around the cor-ner from Jim's boyhood home for the past 35 years.

They have six children, two sons living in Yellowknife, N.W.T., another son in Edmonton and two daughters and one son living in Ottawa. "With such great winter sports, and swimming and fishing in the summer, pic-nics and games in so many open spaces, one could not find a better place to have grown up in;"recalls Jim.

And many of his boyhood friends still living in Ottawa East will, I'm sure, agree with him.

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