History’s Headlines: Father Christmas, magic memories and lots of snow

Looking back at how the community celebrated the season

Oak Bay’s Frank Burrell as Father Christmas

Oak Bay’s Frank Burrell as Father Christmas

Christmas, more time than any other time of year, brings to mind thoughts of holidays past, of special times shared with family and friends, special traditions handed down from one generation to the next, and new memories forged with each year’s celebrations.

Long before the Oak Bay News – and even before the Oak Bay Star – brought the season’s stories and photos to local doorsteps, families were celebrating the holidays in Oak Bay.

A search through the Oak Bay archives brought this image of Frank Burrell circa 1900, dressed as a rather intimidating-looking Father Christmas, much different from the cheery, red-suited fellow we know today. While there aren’t a lot of holiday images in the archives, winter – and the blizzard of 1916 – generated a few more, including the Oak Bay public works crew clearing local roads – a daunting task more recent residents will appreciate, given our own blizzard experienced 80 years later!

Thumbing through the Oak Bay News archives brings a host of holiday memories, shared in the “Christmas is for Kids” section.

“I am very young but I remember other Christmases,” reflected Grade 2 Uplands student Alyson Foote in 1987. “I remember smelling spicy, tasty good cookies hot from the oven. I remember seeing beautifully decorated shopping malls and busy shoppers. I remember hearing children laughing when they opened their gifts. I remember feeling glad my family is here with me…”

Observed Grade 1 Willows student Stephanie Field: “My Christmas stocking is red and white. And it has my name on it. Santa likes it too.”

And in a little holiday wit from the advertising pages, Santa and Mrs. Claus reminded Ivy’s Bookshop readers that “A book is a present you can open again and again.”

Jumping forward to 2004, The News challenged readers with a “super tough Christmas quiz” for those seeking an intellectually inspired break from the turkey-induced lethargy. For example,

Electric Christmas tree lights were first used in:

• 1944

• 1895

• 1976

• 1492

(Answer, 1895)

The real St. Nicholas lived:

• at the North Pole

• on Malta

• in Turkey

• in Holland

(Answer, in Turkey)

Or how about,

Which is not a name of one of Santa’s reindeer?

• Comet

• Prancer

• Blitzen

• Brazen

OK, so not all the questions are “super tough” but the quiz likely generated some good-natured debate nonetheless.

However you and your family mark the holidays, we at today’s Oak Bay News encourage you to enjoy your favourite traditions and savour the time to create many new ones.

Merry Christmas.