A Cowichan Valley Christmas, 94 years ago

Christmas, 1921. The First World War had been over for three years.

Christmas, 1921. The First World War had been over for three years. For those whose loved ones were listed on the new Duncan Cenotaph, unveiled just a month before, it likely was a subdued Yuletide at best.

For most, of course, it was another Christmas much like those before it.

There had been a large attendance of parents and friends at the Christmas “breakup” ceremonies at Queen Margaret’s School, local Guides and Scouts had engaged “in high revelry” at their annual social, incumbent Alderman H.F. Prevost and E.F. Miller were preparing to take each other on for mayor in the forthcoming election, and the busy King’s Daughters Hospital which required that patients pay their bills to be solvent was said to be in a precarious financial position.

Powel and Macmillan were promoting themselves as the “better value” clothing store; Pemberton & Son, Victoria, were advertising 171 acres (75 cleared, 20 seeded as pasture with a “never-failing” stream) for $20,000 with easy terms; Frewing & Robertson guaranteed prompt delivery of stove wood as well as moving furniture and doing hauling of all kinds.

In a prominent ad, Miss Baron wished her patrons a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and urged one and all to watch for particulars of her forthcoming great removal sale.

As for those businesses which catered to everyday needs, most of them advertisers, of course, the Cowichan Leader offered a front-page guide to what was available, food-wise and gift-wise, for the coming holiday.

City merchants were lauded for their colourful window displays that overcame the “drabness of everyday life [and] create within us a spirit of hope and rejoicing”.

Not that downtown businesses were slackers at creating a welcoming ambience for customers throughout the year: “Let it be said here that our merchants do not wait for any special season to make their places of business attractive. In no community of its size, and in fewer larger ones, will one witness neater or more artistic displays from day to day then those presented by Duncan’s shopkeepers in their various windows.”

So what did the newspaper’s Saturday stroll downtown turn up? L.A. Helen’s stationery store was offering a new stock of toys, stationery and sheet music; Duncan’s Cash Grocery was exhibiting “an effective display of tempting goods”; Fox’s Dry Goods was crammed full to overflowing — but all neatly arranged, mind you; Miss Barron was promoting “articles of pleasure for the kiddies”; the Island Drug Co. had devoted its front windows to a display of French Ivory (a synthetic plastic look-alike of the real thing used in the manufacture of toiletries, etc.) and gramophones.

All city butcher shops (C.B. Mains, Edward Stock and J.H. Fry) appeared to be doing a thriving business. Fortunately for the consumer, “competition is keen and prices are low so that the question of Christmas dinner will not be a difficult one to most residents with the necessary [note] cash”.

The Leader then encouraged readers to buy local: “…Apart from some of the luxuries of life it is not necessary to go outside your own town to shop. Your local stores have a vast and remarkable variety of high class goods at prices no higher but oftentimes less than outside houses and, generally, of better quality.

“What is lacking possibly, particularly in dry goods, is display space and sometimes one thinks because they cannot see what they require that it is not in stock. Time and again this has been found erroneous and, what was equally gratifying, the prices were less than even in the big mail order houses.”

Not to ignore businesses in outlying areas, the Leader concluded with a tip of its editorial hat to Kingsley Bros. of Shawnigan Lake for their bright, clean store whose “Yuletide decorations and attractions in all kinds of provisions make this lake emporium a most pleasant shopping centre”. The varied Christmas stock of Cobble Hill’s Macklin & Napper “has an appeal which is irresistible” and the Central Meat Market in both Cobble Hill and Shawnigan Lake “is one which demonstrates that Mr. J.H. Smith is as progressive as the community he serves”. At Cowichan Station, not even a miser could resist E.W. Bazett’s “varied offerings”.

The Leader reminded the aforementioned businesses that it served as their shop window, not just at Christmas but year-round. For both merchants and readers, of course, there was the concluding wish for their every success in the coming year. Which, almost a century after, your Chronicler is pleased to echo: Merry Christmas to one and all!

www.twpaterson.com

Just Posted

Editorial: Election vandalism poor way to express an opinion

It was discouraging to hear that two acts of vandalism targeting candidates… Continue reading

Rain raises water levels in Cowichan Lake

Possibility that pumps could be shut down soon

Caps beat Chiefs at home, then bow to Kings

Injuries, suspensions, travel all effect trip to Powell River

Cowichan residents invited to apply for seats on affordable housing committees

“Lack of affordable housing is a critical issue in the Cowichan region”

VIDEO: Drone footage documents work to free salmon at Big Bar landslide

Video shows crews working to remove rocks and wood, and transporting salmon by helicopter

Man who crushed Nanaimo RCMP cars with stolen truck gets more jail time

Majore Jackson, 34, sentenced to two more years in jail in provincial court in Nanaimo

Defense says burden of proof not met in double murder case against Victoria father

Closing statements begin in trial for man accused of killing daughters Christmas 2017

B.C. dog breeder banned again after 46 dogs seized

The SPCA seized the animals from Terry Baker, 66, in February 2018

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

B.C. population on pace to fall behind Alberta

Provincial population could reach almost seven million in 2043, but Alberta is growing faster

Three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Rick Mercer calls out Conservative candidate in B.C. for fake meme

‘Not true. All fake. Please Stop,’ tweeted Rick Mercer in response

Most Read