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SC Rewind: Christmas Memories

Published: December 24, 2014 8:30 am ET

Last Comment: December 24, 2014 6:47 pm ET | 4 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In today's special Christmas edition of Rewind, Robert Smith sends out a Holiday Greeting to all readers and also offers up some personal memories of Christmases as they used to be.

A typical scene of how children amused themselves at play many years ago especially during the Christmas holidays.

Christmas is once again upon us. Those of us who love and enjoy this special time, know that it is not just a day or even a week, but a season. Sometimes one has to look beyond the superficiality that has so often crept in and see it as a wonderful and awe inspiring time of year. I hope all is well wherever you are today. It has been my pleasure and privilege to 'pen' a few Christmas Rewinds in past years and it has become one of my favourite tasks of the entire year. I kind of like to stray away slightly from the usual 'horsey' theme and engage in a bit of nostalgia.

In past years I have tried to recall some little old tale related to the holiday season that might be of interest. This year I thought of a real 'oldie' and one that hadn't crossed my mind for a very long time. My wife said this story sounded like an episode from "The Walton's" TV series...I think that was meant as a positive comment...

When I started grade one (no kindergarten in those days), I was lucky enough to attend a brand new school. Despite living on a farm, we were close enough to town that we were included in the 'Big' school boundaries. It was ultra modern, the kind that began to emerge after WW II. By modern I mean it included indoor plumbing, a bell that was powered by electricity and the principal despite having a class to teach even had an office! It was a pretty 'neat' structure and a far cry from the old timer it replaced where my older siblings started which was built in 1870.

The first big event of the year was the traditional Christmas concert. It was a pretty exciting night and drew a lot of people. Our class acted out nursery rhymes and as I recall, I was the 'King who was in his counting house counting out his money, next to the Queen who was eating bread and honey'. Being the youngest group, we were first on the stage and all went well, but the momentum was relatively short lived.

By about the grade three's turn, a feeling of uneasiness began to pervade the rather crowded room. First a slight smell of smoke became evident and as each class said their words and sang their songs, the aroma became a bit more pungent. Of course this was long before the advent of mechanical smoke detectors so the job of finding the source was left up to the janitor and probably a teacher or two and maybe a concerned parent.

An elderly gentleman from their community named Todd Banks, despite never having been married nor for that matter probably even closely related to any performing students, liked to attend such functions. Todd was a nice 'older' fellow who knew everybody and was well respected by all. He had a small farm that I presume was left to him, and somehow he made a living on it. As a youth he had lost an arm in a farm accident but he still managed well.

When Todd went out for an evening, he dressed in his Sunday best. He also used the opportunity to enjoy the occasional cigar, as he did on this evening. When it was time to enter the school there was far too much of his stogie left to throw away, so being the frugal soul he was, he did the next best thing. Todd carefully extinguished it and tucked it safely away in his overcoat pocket before hanging it in a designated classroom. Or did he... as the problem solvers soon found out.

Barely without a word spoken and certainly with no one being evacuated, the evening went on as planned and soon in a smoke-free environment. I don't recall just how extensive the damage was to Todd's old wool overcoat or perhaps more importantly to his pride.

The early Christmases I can recall were a bit simpler than we know today, but every bit as memorable. The emphasis was more on the aspect of being together and less about the value of the gifts we gave and received. The traditional gifts of a pair of socks or an 'ugly' tie were in vogue for a lot of years. I think two dollars bought a pretty good belt or scarf too! Around the time you reached High School, the tempo stepped up. If you either gave or received a pair of cuff links and a tie pin, you were in more serious territory. A bottle of cheap perfume (maybe Lily of the Valley) for the gal in your life went a long way in showing how much you really cared! How times change.

An ad from the December 1967 edition of Hoof Beats shows some horse themed choices for Christmas gifting. The prices seem a bit steep from what I recall.

As a youngster I think I worried that one day Christmas would no longer be enjoyable and meaningful. As I looked at the older people who attended our family get-togethers, I wondered how it could be much fun once the beloved Santa no longer included you on his list. Through the beauty of time and experience, I have found the exact opposite is true. Times change and we all must do so too.

An interesting old menu of unknown origin from 1943 shows what foods and other items were popular back then. Most still look pretty good. Interesting to see tobacco products on a food menu.

As we gather at our house for the traditional Christmas meal this year, an older man will occupy the chair at the end of our beautifully set table. His concerns that Santa's ever changing list has excluded him have long since passed. He will ask the blessing, propose a toast to the "Chef" and perhaps even tell a few stories of reminiscence from Christmases gone by. Smiles, laughter and a feeling of warmth will abound as we dine together and exchange the gifts. The years have provided many blessings and many 'gifts'; and they too will be seated around our table. Thank you Santa, but a special Thank You for my most precious gift of all who will be seated at the other end of the table.

I would like to extend my best wishes to everyone at this wonderful time of year. May you have the Merriest of Christmases and the best of the New Year. I would like to thank those who enjoy reading my old stories and especially the ones who send in their special comments. We can never relive the past, but we can remember the good times and discount the bad. I would also like to express my thanks to Standardbred Canada for making Rewind a regular part of their extensive coverage of our sport.

December 24, 2014 - 6:47 pmMerry Christmas Robert and

Jack Darling SAID...

Merry Christmas Robert and thanks again for continuing to share these great memories. Jack

December 24, 2014 - 5:17 pmNice work again Robert.

ron francis SAID...

Nice work again Robert. Strikes home for we farm kids who went to a one room school. Best of the season to you, and
keep those Recollections coming.

December 24, 2014 - 4:50 pmMr. Smith, "You can't live in

Mr. Smith,
"You can't live in the past, but you can't forget old friends."
Thank you for your diligent recollections of the history of our sport.
I have enjoyed them all, and look forward to hearing all the stories in the days to come - there are so many.
Have a happy Christmas and a blessed New Year
Mark McLennan, Woodstock ON

December 24, 2014 - 10:20 amMerry Christmas, Robert, to

Merry Christmas, Robert, to you and all yours !!!!

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