Saturday, February 13, 2016

Christmas during the War

It was the winter of 1944 and the Christmas season had arrived.  Instead of the usual spruce Christmas tree, for some reason my parents had selected a cedar tree and it just didn't look right to me. Maybe, because of the war, there was so much going on in my life, I thought something constant like the traditional Christmas tree was important.   On Christmas Eve my father was putting tacks into the fireplace mantle to hang our stockings, when he noticed my four year old brother Bill had taken the hammer and was pounding tacks into the arm of the big wooden chair.  That certainly brought about a quick reaction from Dad.  Uncle Don and Aunt Pat spent Christmas with us that year, and with a bit of mischief in mind, Don sneaked into the living room during the night and put a lump of coal in each of our stockings.  Christmas morning we pretended to be shocked but thought it was quite funny.  Our gifts were small and modestly priced.  An orange and a candy cane in our stocking was a treat and we usually received a home knitted sweater or mitts or an inexpensive board game as well.  Sometimes the Christmas or birthday gift a child received was a 25 cent war savings stamp.  At the end of the war the book with sixteen 25 cent stamps, which had  cost $4.00 could be redeemed for $5.00.  Although stamps might seem an unlikely gift for a child, there was not much we could buy if we did have the money.  Sugar was rationed so candy was limited, and the only games that were available were ones like Snakes and Ladders or card games such as Fish or Old Maid, so the promise of $5.00 after the war was a great incentive.

In December there had been some sewer excavations going on in front of our neighbour's house, so on Christmas day some of the adults were telling us how Santa had become stuck in the excavation ditch the night before, and they had to help him get out in order to save Christmas.  Brian, who was a little older than me  confirmed the story, so naturally, this made true believers of all of us.

Shortly after Christmas my father arrived home from the base one day looking somewhat disgusted.  He had been given an assignment and was not happy about it.  When my mother pressed him about what was going on, he finally said, "I've got to look after a dog."  

A statement like that immediately got not only
mother's attention, but perked up my ears as  well.  "What do you mean, looking after a dog?" she asked.  Well, it turned out that a movie was being made and part of it, the war scenes, were being filmed at Pat Bay.  Since they couldn't have unauthorized dog handlers wandering around exercising a dog on a military base, especially during a time of war, the duty had to be assigned to a soldier and my father, who  was working in the Paymaster Division, was selected.  He would be the one to walk Lassie.  The movie was "Son of Lassie" and it was released in the spring of 1945.  I thought it was great that my father was involved in a movie, but he did not share my enthusiasm.