Grab a hot cup of something and have a listen to a recording of seven seniors sharing memories to give us a taste of what Christmas used to be like. The recording was made in the 1980s and the participants were aged in their 70s and 90s at the time.
Among the interviewees are four who lived in the Green Bay area:
- Irene Toms of Shoe Cove/Rattling Brook (Find Irene at the 1:15 point in the recording.)
- Wesley Pittman of Pilley’s Island (At 6:30)
- Winnie Young of Silverdale/Beachside (At 8:10)
- Marion Abbott of Springdale (At 30:05)
The recording is stored in Memorial University’s Digital Archive, click player image or link below to go to MUN Digital page to listen. (* Note: Three browsers were tested. The MUN audio player might not work at all in Mozilla Firefox. In Chrome the search slider — to find certain points in the recording — didn’t work. The player worked well in Internet Explorer. Here is the full URL to copy if you need to change browsers: http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/singleitem/collection/ich_oral/id/244/rec/2 )
In the forty minute recording, first we hear Irene Toms, of Rattling Brook, who speaks of gifts at school and of hanging up the all-important stocking. Irene grew up in Shoe Cove. (At 1:15)
“Oh, yes, we’d hang up our stocking at home. Oh, yes. …Well, I was the only girl in my family. I’d get a doll. And, you know, an apple. An orange. … Which you didn’t get every day.”
Next we hear Wesley Pittman, who was aged 90 at the time of recording, speaking on his memories of Pilley’s Island. (At 6:30)
“In them times Jews used to come around. Syrians. And they’d bring a lot of those little toys, you know… little dolls, little mouth organs and stuff like that and [sold] them five cents.”
Next the recording moves to Beachside’s Winnie Young, who was 93 at the time of the recording. (It seems Winnie grew up in Silverdale.) Winnie talks a lot about mummering when she was young. Later she tells a sad story in detail of how her house burned to the ground one summer. Her family lived in a store loft until a new house was built, and it was, impressively, built by the coming Christmas. (At 8:10)
“It could be nice sometimes. I could remember one time that we had the whole 12 days you could go skating down on the pond. It was just like the pane of glass.”
There are three people in this recording who are not from Green Bay. Bessie Barnes of Twillingate, in her 70s at the time of recording, tells of home-made hobby horses among other Christmas traditions.
“Not many gifts though. Mummering. Concerts. Christmas trees. Santa Claus. …I was afraid of [the hobby horse]. They’d have bells on then, the hobby horse, you know, and when I’d hear the hobby horse coming I’d go hide behind the store or something.”
Allan Quinlan of Birchy Bay had a lot to add about Christmas ‘back in the day’. (at 23:00)
“…and then of course, the fun, you know. In Christmas time there was…a …you almost forgot about work, you know. You just spent your time, day and night, yeah, 12 days, just going round, from house to house and most every house you go in you’d get a drop of syrup, or a [candy] and a bit of cake.”
Marion Abbott was born in Springdale and was a resident of Valley Vista at the time of this recording. (At 30:05)
“Oh, yes, yeah parties and sleigh riding. We had an old horse, you know. And his name was Frank. We used to harness him up and go sleigh riding.”
The last interview on the recording is from Mary Anstey of Twillingate who tells a story of mummering. (At 33:10)
“At Christmas time we’d go mummerin’, you know…[One night] I just took myself and I came over and I went up to Ned [Flacy]’s and Ned was a sort of a jolly sort of man, you know. [Lit] up the door and said, “Come right in! Your man is right in here WAITING FOR YA!”
Find out how Mary’s story ends by listening to the recording.
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