T.W. Paterson: Compare 1916 lead-up to Christmas to 2016

With Halloween and Remembrance Day now behind us it’s full steam ahead for Christmas — at least in the stores.

With Halloween and Remembrance Day now behind us it’s full steam ahead for Christmas — at least in the stores. November’s wet and gloomy weather hardly lends itself to a sense of festivity so I’m sure that I’m not the only one who takes a while longer to get into the yuletide spirit. I must admit, though, that the arrival of Christmas lights does help some.

Mind you, early nightfall and continuous rain are miniscule concerns that hardly rate as inconveniences on a scale of 1-10. And they’re certainly nothing compared to the Christmas lead-up of a century ago when Cowichan residents (those keeping the home fires burning) had considerably more to think and to worry about.

With one man in three in uniform and away, thanks to Cowichan having the highest enlistment per capita for all of Canada, it was a lonely time for some. For those whose fathers, sons and brothers had already made the supreme sacrifice for King and Country by mid-November 1916, the coming of Christmas must have held little prospect of joy. War cast its oppressive pall over everyone, young and old…

So what was happening 100 years ago? Thanks to the Cowichan Leader we know that the St. Mary’s Guild, Somenos, had “gratifying success” with their two-night entertainment on behalf of the Prisoners of War Fund. Mr. Ruscombe Poole was in his usual good form when he rendered several songs, and Miss Dawson gave piano solos in “vivacious style”. In further Somenos news, Pte. H.S. Ford, wounded by shrapnel in the ear, is recovering.

In Chemainus, the Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Co. sawmill was down because of a broken drive belt after taking delivery of 112 railway cars of logs from Cowichan Lake. Company blacksmith Silas Betts is recovering from a piece of emory wheel that shattered as he worked, striking him under one eye and requiring several stitches.

Two Chemainus men, Ptes. Leonard Carey and S.F. Robinson, have been wounded.

Cobble Hill’s Lieut. M.A. Eliissen, 17th Bn., Sherwood Foresters, has been awarded the Military Cross. And, speaking of Cobble Hill, this hamlet now has 52 telephones in service, a 21 per cent increase since the beginning of the year. Over $20 was raised by school children for the Belgian Children’s Relief Fund with a concert of patriotic and national songs. As did the children of Crofton who also raised $20.

There’s some good news from the front: Brother Nicholas Tuel of St. Ann’s, Tzouhalem, who’s serving (presumably as a chaplain) with Sengalese troops of the French Army has been blown up — but was uninjured. He was riding on an ammunition wagon when it exploded and launched him into the air. “He remembers nothing,” it was reported, “until he found himself in bed where he had been for three or four weeks…” Not surprisingly, he’s suffering from shock.

Alexander C. Hannan has opened the Mainland Lumber & Shingle Co. at Westholme, Pte. G. Harknett of the Yukoners is home on leave in Hillbank, as is Pte. E.A. Williams of Deerholme who’s been invalided by illness.

Mrs. Nellie Sparrow passed away at Koksilah and the coho run is on at Cowichan Bay. Ike Holman is missing at Cowichan Lake two weeks after he set out overland for Alberni. Inquiries at Alberni and Nanaimo and other likely stops have been fruitless and a brother has taken up the search.

Also from the lake area, rich samples of copper ore from the Blue Grouse Mine are being displayed by Basil Kier and Jim Palmer, and Sam Hatherley has bagged a bear.

In Duncan provincial government poultry inspector H.E. Upton expressed himself as agreeably surprised when 40 people attended his talk on practical judging and the selection of utility stock. He even gave a demonstration with several breeds of chickens in a pen. Poultrymen, he said, could learn to predict a bird’s egg laying production by taking note of its general build, the length of its bones, the shape of its head, the condition and quality of its feathers, and the colour of its eye, comb and wattles.

A large delegation of Victoria businessmen passed through en route to Chemainus and W.H. Elkington has been appointed to the board of directors of the King’s Daughters’ Hospital. Finally, addressing a national issue, the Leader editorial is a rant against corporate profiteering and what the editor believes to be an incompetent head of the militia (effectively the minister of defence), Sam Hughes.

Finally, at the bottom of the second page, a reference to Christmas in a small ad for Gidley’s Gift Store which reminds readers that he’s stocking a selection of gifts suitable for sending to “the boys” overseas. H.F. Prevost, Stationer, and the Duncan Trading Co. are also prepared for Christmas giving (the latter offering a 5 per cent discount for cash purchases). “See our special Christmas cards for soldiers, 5 cents and 10 cents,” Prevost advises.

So much for Christmas in the Nov. 23, 1916 issue of the Cowichan Leader. Not to be compared with today’s merchants who begin promoting buying in early October, eh?

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