The Wish Book

Wish BookGot the wish book earlier this week, and my how its fallen.  Less than 200 pages and the paper is so cheap feeling.  I remember as a kid we’d get this and pour over it for days, dog earring pages, circling toys and skates, slyly looking at the underwear models….

The bonus was we had two! Not only was there the Sears Wish Book, but we also had the Eaton’s Christmas Catalogue you see above.

Mail order was the thing for a lot of us back then, no big name stores nearby in Clarenville, though of course Cholock’s had their big toy section.  And St. John’s seemed as far away as Toronto does now back in those days.

Chip Away

Chip Away

One thing I remember wanting for ages, and then knowing I had it when I found it hidden in the closet underneath the stairs was a chip away set.  Was these lumps of plastic that came with a mallet and chisel that you were supposed to chip away to get to the statue underneath, and then paint.

Table Hockey Player

Table Hockey Player

The reality was a little different though cause one or two smacks and it all fell away.  Kind of a let down.  I remember other things too from the catalogue; a wood burning set that was kinda fun, let you scorch patterns that were painted onto wood, the old dinkie car tracks, a race track, and of course the ubiquitous table hockey game.  Ours had the replaceable plastic players something like those in the picture here.  And they all had their names and numbers.  Remember there being the old Seals players, and Dave Dryden (Ken’s brother) there as a goalie for Buffalo! We’d jam the puck against the corner of the net, the wind the defenseman up until the spring had too much tension, then whip the puck down the “ice” and half the time down the stairs!  One puck was so worn down, we played that so much!

Back to the catalogues, not only were they good for shopping, but after, some people would fold alternating pages to make an ornament! Of course, I’ve also heard stories that before my time, the pages made a good substitute for toilet paper in the old outhouse.  Might be indicative of how good the items were?

Ah memories! Share your wish book memories too!


Show and Tell


Tool drawers from Santa, cap gun from Santa, Chimpy Puzzle from ?

One of the things that was common in my community at least during Christmas, was show and tell. This was more for adults than your elementary school show and tell though.  But I remember we used to always visit Aunts and Uncles, Cousins, and sometimes just others in the community during the week or two after Christmas.

We’d have a cup of tea (ew) or coffee, or purity syrup some cherry cake, or fruit cake (again ew) or my personal favorite, gum drop cake! Often there was shortbread with a cherry on top (the dried candied cherries used for baking).

But the highlight of these visits was the show and tell.  At some point the host would get down under the tree, and pull out all the gifts, tell what it was, and who it was from.  Often the same thing was done with all the Christmas cards.  In a a way it was showing off I guess, but it didn’t seem so then, it seemed natural to do.

Probably an odd tradition, but something I miss now, heading to Aunt May’s, Aunt Mary’s, Uncle Hay’s and Ralph’s for the show and tell.  RIP all of them, Merry Christmas to you all, and hope your traditions bring back fond memories as mine do.

PS: Dad still had that chest of drawers for nails and washers and things when we moved away from Newfoundland in 1996 I believe.  It lasted a while!

Rigging up those Lights!

We put out the Christmas decorations a week or so ago, doing it in dribs and drabs as its easier to pick at things than do it all at once. Such different decorations now than there were when we were kids.

We really only had strings of lights, and these were the old fashioned ones with screw in bulbs that burnt your fingers when they were hot.  And rather than patterned fancy blinks and things like today, if you wanted blinking lights you had to buy a “blinker” and plug the strings into it.
And of course, the worst, as noted in the song linked above was “One goes out they all go out!” A lot of the old strings were wired that way.  If a bulb blew, the whole string went out and you had to test every damn bulb till you found the right one.

Also, who remembers going to the Chain Store and buying replacement bulbs? Only to find some savage had taken all the green ones? Or pulled apart the assorted packages to make up their own assortment! Bastards!

A few years later we got the “mini” lights.  These were neat in that they had a “blinker” bulb you could take out and replace if you didn’t want blinking.  But they were still one goes out they all go out, and even worse, there were about forty leven different sizes! Getting replacements was a pain in the butt! And, and and…. the little wires! They’d bend and twist and make it impossible to get them right, plus on top of that, some of the bulbs would just not stay in!

The lights are much fancier now, and leds to boot, not burning half the electricity.  I used to imagine the meter man rubbing his hands in glee come December and January!

We used to put them out on our old front bridge, and sometimes on the little (or not so little over time) fir that grew out of the rock wall by the old gate. Even with the freezing cold, the old fashioned clips, and driving many staples through the wires, it was still kinda fun, and part of the season.

Think I’ll take Mom out this weekend to look at all the lights.  Love to see pictures of yours too!

Christmas Concerts of Old

I went to my nieces school Christmas Concert today, and was reminded of those of old.  Until the old one room school was torn down in Apsey Brook, it was still used as a center for events, or, as we knew them “times”.  Baked Bean suppers, Pot Lucks, Soup Suppers, all held to raise money for something or other and to be a social event as well.

One thing we always did as well was have a Christmas Concert, or Recital, or time. The parents, or church or someone, I forget who in lots of cases, would work with the kids to learn songs, and skits, and they’d all get up on that little stage and perform them.  A supper of some sort was cooked, and a crowd of people chatted and yarned and told stories, and the kids whooped and hollered.

The parents would all have a gift prepared and later on Santa would stomp his way in shaking snow off himself, or mud as the weather might be, and stomp over to the tree with a hearty HO HO HO! Even as kids, we all knew Santa was Ross, or at least I think we did, but it still didn’t make a difference in the thrill of him coming in with a big sack with a gift for every kid, prepared before hand by the parents.

Gifts in those days weren’t as big an affair as now, at least not at these events, and I remember seeing pencils, Hilroy exercise books, Hot Wheel’s cars, and other smaller items, but it was a huge deal of fun for all of us.

Later on, when I was a more adult kid (well that still applies now doesn’t it) I too took on the role of Santa, though I doubt I gave it the same performance as Ross always did.

Similar concerts were held at every community on the Island, and at different times, so we could attend them all.  We had relatives everywhere of course, and we often went to those in other towns as well, each with their own Santa, and little gift, and supper and Christmas Cake and holiday cheer.

Times aren’t like the used to be, and while we’ve gained lots, I’d love to be able to head off to the old school for a “time” too.

Salt Fish and Scrunchions

Here in Nova Scotia the tradition for Christmas Eve seems to be lobster (blech).  Back home in Newfoundland, or at least my part of it, the traditional Christmas Eve meal was salt fish (cod) and scrunchions.

Scrunchions are basically small pieces of fat back pork, fried up crispy (like bacon fat) and then served with the liquid fat over your fish and potatoes.  Sounds gross to the uninitiated I know, but its sooooooo delicious.

Salting cod was (and still is I guess) the traditional way to keep it for the long winter months before everyone had electricity and deep freezers.  Salted and sundried, the fish would last for a very long time, and when wanted, was left to soak in water overnight and then drained and boiled the next day.

Fat back pork was another staple in every household, and used for anything needing fat, traditional Newfoundland foods had a high fat content, with lots of fried foods.  I can only assume the hard rugged lifestyle helped the older generation burn it off.

For me another treat from the salt fish were the leftovers. Why? Because they’d typically be mashed with leftover potato and onion and then fried (mmmm more fat) into fish cakes, one of my most favorite meals ever.

Are you hungry yet?

May you be blessed with your favorite foods, family and festivities over the holidays.  Merry Christmas!

Toy Time Around Clarenville

Growing up back home in eastern Newfoundland, There were no huge malls or big box stores, instead we had locally owned stores.  The names will ring bells for some, Western Tire, Stanley’s, Duffit’s, Junes, and a bit later The Chain Store, Ayres, but the granddaddy of them all for me was Cholock’s.

This was a huge department store or seemed huge to a kid anyway, located near the railway tracks in downtown Clarenville.  (The building later became home to the department of wildlife offices for those who may be trying to locate) I don’t recall a lot about the store per se, but what was the huge draw was ….. upstairs! …..

Image from
Image from

My memory may be foggy, as its been closed for many a year, but if I recall correctly, upstairs only opened a few weeks before Christmas, and it was full of toys, toys and more toys.  It was a magical place for me, and I’m sure many other local kids.

A little later on Ayre’s opened in Clarenville too, Riff’s was in that location after, followed by other places, but Ayre’s remains as a big memory. Their toy section seemed huge at Christmas time, I can’t recall if it was there all year round or not, and I’m sure it would seem small compared to today’s stores, but it was also a great place as a kid.  Another one that was less well known maybe was, I believe, called Martin’s.  Near Hyne’s Jewelry they sold musical instruments and I can’t remember what else.  I was and am musically inept, but I was always fascinated by the things in there.

We didn’t see toys all year round in stores then, or if we did, not locally.  To go these stores was to start Christmas, and I look back on it fondly, and wish that some of that magic passes on to you and yours this season.