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Down History Lane: Christmas 1932

By Remy Benoit

Stan Scislowski is a Canadian WWII Veteran. For many years he took special pride in providing the members of his Legion with their newsletter. Stan is unable to do that now, but his spirit is still full of fun, of laughs, of vigor, and joy in life.

He is the author of Not All of Us Were Brave.

Stan is a special man, and a special friend. Walk with him down History Lane to learn a few things about Christmas, compassion, and being where the need is greatest.

Love to Stan - Blessings to you all.
Miz' Remy


Only two Christmases stand out in my memory. This isn't to say that all the others, especially those when my children were young enough to believe in Santa Claus weren't enjoyable and memorable—they were. But the two I'm speaking about here had come under unusual circumstances and situations, adverse conditions such as should have cloaked them in a shroud of unhappiness.

The first one I speak of is the Christmas of 1932, the year my father died. It was a snowless Christmas, not as cold as one would expect at that time of year. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, my brother Joe, myself and my sister Olga were sitting on the front steps of our run-down house, a house badly in need of a paint-job. My mother couldn't afford to buy paint.

We sat there talking about Christmas and Santa Claus, of course and I came out with 'I hope Santa Claus brings me a hockey stick and a Snakes & Ladders game.'

My sister piped up with, "Santa Claus doesn't come to poor people's houses."

This shook me to the core, and I exclaimed, "Why?" Olga answered, "Because. He just doesn't come to poor people's houses." Blunt, but true. Strangely though, for a lad as young as I was(8) I thought about it for awhile, and then came to terms with it. "If that's the way it is, then that's the way it has to be."

While we sat there in cheerless conversation under a gloomy sky, a stake truck drove up and stopped in front of our place. A man on the passenger side got out and ran up the sidewalk with a clipboard and a sheaf of papers on it. He showed it to Olga, pointing a finger at a name thereon and asked if this family (ours) lived there (1554 Parent Ave.), to which Olga nodded assent.

The man turned about and hollered to the two men standing amidst a load of bushel baskets, and cardboard cartons. "Okay, fellows, let's go!"

Whereupon the three men carrying two bushel baskets full of groceries, candies, and other Christmas goodies, along with a large meat-basket(never see these around anymore) full of meat and a plucked goose, made their way up the sidewalk.

With the excitement as only kids our age could display at being handed something good and special we followed Olga as she directed the men around to the back entrance where the largesse was deposited on the kitchen floor to the surprise and tearful enjoyment of my mother.

The Goodfellows of Windsor had come through at the last minute and brought Christmas to the Scislowski/Hedgewick household when the prospects of a Merry Christmas appeared so bleak.


Thanks to some kind soul in the neighbourhood for turning in our names to the Goodfellows we were well on the way to having a Christmas celebration, a celebration that would be enhanced by the events of the wee hours of the night when we were tucked away under our feather-tick blankets, sound asleep.

Since Olga had made it known to me that Santa wouldn't be stopping at our house, I had no intention of waking up bright and early on Christmas morning. We had no tree set up and no decorations anywhere in the house. It would be just another humdrum day for us except for the traditional Christmas goose dinner with all the trimmings my mother could now prepare for us.

And so, when morning dawned, while I was deep in some dream long since forgotten, my brother Joe brusquely shook me awake, "Stan, Stan, come on see what Santa brought you!" It took a few seconds to get my wits about me before I leaped out of bed, almost ran into the Quebec heater (an upright wood and coal stove) and when I burst into the living-room, or front room, as we called it, there before my dancing eyes were balloons floating around and garlands hanging from the ceiling, and best of all, a three-foot decorated Christmas tree set up on a table in the corner, around it sat brightly wrapped boxes of gifts from Santa. I literally jumped out of my skin when I spied the hockey stick standing by the table with my name on the tag— To Stanley from Santa. And,yes, there was also a Snakes & Ladders game.

To say our household was filled with excited shouts and squeals of delight and merriness was to describe it in the mildest of terms. It was joy beyond joy and it all came out of adversity.

The Christmas tree and the presents and decorations came out of the hearts and kindness of my oldest sister Annie and my oldest brothers Peter and Mike, who somehow put enough nickels and dimes and pennies together from their meager earnings, Annie's from her house-cleaning jobs and Peter from his door-to-door selling of rugs and vacuum cleaners, and Mike from caddy-jobs and Border City Star paperboy earnings.

The reader, I hope, can see the message therein and why this Christmas of 1932 stands out in the memory.

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This item is part of WelcomeHomeSoldier.com: historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.


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