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Letter: Memories of a childhood Christmas in Cape Breton

Christmas featured a feast of epic proportions.
The coast of Glace Bay in Nova Scotia.

To The Editor:

As far as we know the first arrivals in Glace Bay left their ship in excitement to wanted across the drift ice to shore. Tragically the wind shifted and the poor souls were blown out to the North Atlantic where they all perished. Since the ice was a factor in the dark event, the newcomers named it Glace Bay — Ice Bay in English.

We where were children, if you approached Glace Bay from the east at sundown, you would see a tangle of church steeples and “pit heads” for mile from Caledonia to IB Mine in New Aberdeen.

Glace Bay had grown to be the largest of half-a-dozen mining towns perched on the eastern shore of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

Unbeknownst to us as children, the coal/steel complex which gave our towns life was fading away and son the largest export form this area would be the young people going to schools on the mainland of Nova Scotia or the unemployed migrating west.

Christmas in Cape Breton

Since there wasn’t much doing, my sister Mary and I decided to hang a few lights in the parlour. While I was taping a frayed portion, she decided to plug in the lights, so I fell off the chair with four black fingertips and heard her ask “Are you OK?”

While grown-ups were listening to crooners like Perry Como or Jim Reeves, we escaped to tune in to Mick Jagger or The Beatles on the 45 RPM records we bought at K-Mart. Elvis was still popular with the older folks, but not with us. At age 14, Elvis was a geezer to our crowd, a relic of the past.

While my mother and the two oldest slaved over the coal stove, we rolled out the dining room table and the other two sisters laid out the decorations in preparation for the feast.

A monstrous pile of turkey, ham, stuffing, all on a table the size of the Titanic. Then lemon meringue pies and mincemeat, not to mention the ton of cookies and pastries.

No wonder my mom looked so tired. After supper, most of us children went outside for a bit to recover from the turkey overdose.  Better that way, because once the grown-ups started on the bubbly stuff in the green bottles, they started giggling and saying some pretty comical things.

The teeny-boppers started bee-bopping and us young grunts sort of faded away by the tree to listen to the hymns and snooze on the at holiest of hoy nights.

Angus Campbell Sr.


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