Christmases Past

Memories can take you in different directions.

Shawville residents, Marshallene Campbell and Rolly MacDougall, who are now in their 80s, have gathered for lunch. The idea is to discuss Christmases past.

Marshallene Campbell was born in 1933. Her father, Marshall, fought in World War I. He died in the fall of 1932. Mary, her mother, died in 1937. This led Marshallene, along with her brother John and sister Rona, to live at their Aunt Betsy and Uncle Roy Sly’s farm on the Fourth Line. Betsy was Mary’s sister.

“We had this big Christmas tree in the living room,” she says, of Christmas there. “Uncle Roy used to go out to the bush and cut a tree. We didn’t have any electricity, so we didn’t have lights on it. But we strung up popcorn and we had decorations, except they were wooden ornaments.”

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Rolly MacDougall spent some time living in Bristol. His family owned a store and his father Donald built, what is Coronation Hall, in 1937. Rolly also has family ties into the beginnings of Pine Lodge, but that can be a story for another time.

He is the oldest of four siblings. The others are Rita, Charlie and Ruth. He still remembers when his mother Mona, gave him a task during one particular Christmastime.

“We always had a Christmas tree,” Rolly says.” I can still remember the first time I went out and got one. I was maybe seven years old. I took a sleigh, as dad wasn’t home yet from working at the camp. I don’t remember if I used an axe to cut the tree down, but I could use an axe since I was old enough to lift one.”

Christmas gifts might consist of hand knit socks or mitts and definitely an orange and peanuts which had to be cracked open.

“Times were tough,” says Rolly. “For the store, my dad used to deliver groceries to all the countryside in an old 1938 Dodge Truck. He’d trade groceries for turkeys or chickens or stuff like that. He would then go to Ottawa to the market and trade that stuff for groceries and bring that back. The next week, he’d start all over again.”

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Like Rolly, it wasn’t an easy go for Marshallene’s time on the farm, as the family went through the Depression era and into World War II. An orange was considered a rarity. She would find an orange in a stocking on Christmas morning, which was hung as one of Uncle Roy’s work socks. It was long and home-knitted.

“You didn’t see too many oranges. They were expensive and we didn’t get a lot of fruit, and during the war you didn’t get much,” she says.

The stocking also had coloring books, comic books and candy as her family had the Drugstore in town. (See story – Corner Store Memories – for more.) She also would get a pair of socks or mitts which was knitted.

Christmas morning, any gifts that could be found under the tree, weren’t open right away. First, there were chores to do. Marshallene worked the separator for the milk and cream. Farmers wouldn’t wait ’til suppertime to eat. When work was done, they had Christmas Dinner at noon.

Dinner was big with turkey and goose, but goose wasn’t made every year. The turkeys were around, because the farm needed something to sell to make money. Hens were raised for the eggs. On the table were also potatoes, turnip and carrots, along with pumpkin and mincemeat pies.

When everyone was filled up on food, it was time to open any presents. Soon enough, Uncle Roy would bring out the horses and sleigh. The kids came along for a trip to town and the song of choice was probably ‘Jingle Bells.’ They were heading out to skate at the Richardson Rink for a couple of hours.

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Rolly drew on a few memories that tended to be near-disasters.

One Christmas, his father brought home some jack pine to put in the stove for the fire. “Jack pine was some hot stuff and the stove wasn’t far from the wall,” says Rolly. “I remember playing upstairs and there was smoke coming out of the register, which was right above the stove. I shouted down to dad about the smoke and, well, all hell broke loose!”

The house was saved though. Any damage was mostly smoke-related.

It was another winter, which Rolly claims is his first real encounter with the fright of death. He was around seven years old and had spent time on his Uncle Charlie’s farm. Uncle Charlie had a St. Bernard dog they put in the house at night.

“This particular night, they couldn’t find the dog though. So, I started to walk home. I guess the dog picked up my scent and wanted to play. He bounded up to me and knocked me down. I got up and he knocked me down again. My dad eventually came looking for me and the dog had me down, and I was pretty much done in, but I survived. I haven’t liked a St. Bernard since.”

(For the record, the St. Bernard was nice.)

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Marshallene would stay on the farm until she was married in 1951. Aunt Betsy and Uncle Roy sold the place in 1952. Another chapter would begin.

Rolly moved to Carleton Place and eventually found his way back to Pine Lodge to work when he was 15.

After over 80 Christmases for each, it seems many little moments can turn into memorable ones.

By: Scott Campbell – December 2014.

(Photo – Charlie Brown Christmas)

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