Christmas memories

Sylvia Payne-Gould
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The smells and sounds of Christmas as it was

There are lots of good smells coming from everyone's kitchen these days and I guess ours is no exception.

Molasses buns are a popular item with Maurice, Cole, Kenny and a few friends at House's Esso and around. It seems no matter how many you make there's never enough buns to go around. Molasses buns are just one of the many old favorites at Christmas now and when we were growing up in Grand Bay East.

Submitted photo

There are lots of good smells coming from everyone's kitchen these days and I guess ours is no exception.

Molasses buns are a popular item with Maurice, Cole, Kenny and a few friends at House's Esso and around. It seems no matter how many you make there's never enough buns to go around. Molasses buns are just one of the many old favorites at Christmas now and when we were growing up in Grand Bay East.

There was not such an abundance of food back in the 60's - food was harder to come by and lots of times we had to share with our family and some of our neighbours. Baking and its smells is one of the joys of the Christmas season and years ago when we left home in the morning to go to the old Grand Bay School.

Mom would get up and help see us off. She made sure we were presentable, our hair and clothes especially. My baby brother, Calvin, he had lots of unruly curls and he didn't always want to have them brushed (How things have changed, now there's none to brush). Once we were washed and dressed Mom made me and Calvin hot oatmeal and Audrey wouldn't eat that so Mom made her 'cream of the wheat', as we called it.

It was nice and hot with sugar and Carnation milk, so rich and creamy, and with it she served her homemade white bread with melted butter on it. My mouth still waters as I think about my mom's thick sliced bread and we washed it all down with tea. That was our breakfast almost every winter morning before we walked down over bonfire hill and past Gibby Matthews' store on our way to school.

In our class we had an old potbelly stove, most times two grades shared one classroom. Back then we had no vehicles so Garry, Tommy, Calvin and I would ride down over bonfire hill on our old used leather bookbag or a piece of canvas or old cardboard. One day Garry found an old washer cover and what a big find that was, he used it all that winter to ride on. We made our own fun.

At recess we would go up over the hill to Gibby's shop, he would have a barrel of apples that would attract your attention as soon as you walked in the porch - That or the smell of Elsie cooking some of her famous cookies or pies. It gave you an appetite right away.

Gibby would sometimes be cutting a person's hair with the old hand clippers - everyone had the same style. If we had enough money we could buy one of those apples and rub it until it shined with our damp wool mitt, and when you bite into it you could hear it crack and the juice would run from it. What a delicious taste and such a vivid memory never to be forgotten.

Elsie, Gibby's wife, had a crew of children and she spent lots of her time cooking and baking for her big family, they were our closest neighbours back then and our children were friends with their children. Kathleen and I were joined at the hip and sometimes we would drop into her house on the way home and her mom, Elsie, often offered us one of her home baked goodies.

On Mondays we would walk home from school and Mom would have the old wringer washer out in the middle of the kitchen - Monday was always wash day- and always leftovers from Sunday for our lunch and maybe some pot-liquor with bread soaked in it. There was hardly anything thrown away, money wasn't too plentiful for anyone and we all tried to make ends meet and we all got plenty of exercise walking to everywhere, skating if you had skates but in my case.

Gary had skates and he shared them with me when he finished. When my older brother Henry got a job at the fish plant he told Mom that was the year I was going to get a pair of skates, if he had anything to say about it, I was 13. On nice days we would skate behind Dianne Kettles house, Bertie and Jean Kettle would always look out for us when we were out there skating, lots of times in the dark, and no streetlights then.

After school we would rush home to watch "The Edge of Night" on a old used floor model TV that my Daddy bought from our other neighbours, Wes and Susie Kettle. It had four rounded legs, was black and white, but it worked.

On Saturday nights we always had company to watch the hockey game. Blanche, Gibby's daughter would come over with Mom's Nephew Clarence and bring her scissors and cut all our hair, so much like Gibby. Clarence would watch hockey with Daddy and then Mom would get us all a little lunch. Put on her tablecloth and set the table with a few lassie buns, a piece of cheese and sometimes a can of fruit with cream.

Cards was a popular form of entertainment for us and our Mom loved 45's and 120's and all of us kids learned to play and when Emmanuel Lomond came home from the sanatorium he taught everyone how to play crib.

Family was our way of life, wherever the parents went they took the youngsters, no babysitters then. Mom had some good friends and so did Daddy. My Mom wasn't a midwife, but she didn't mind lending a hand or sharing her love for youngsters. She often rocked us until we were well into our adult years and her special rocking chair could hold her with two strapping boys like my brothers, Willard and Alex or Kettle, our cousin.

When it was time for bed, the best part was when she would come into our room on the cold winters night and say our prayers with us and if it was too cold she would kneel down rather than make us get up. Then she would tuck the bedclothes all underneath us and kiss everyone goodnight.

Everything about Christmas was a surprise for us, even our tree. It was like magic, you went to bed, hung up your sock and when you got up Christmas morning, the tree was up, Santa had been there and Christmas dinner was on its way. The smell of turrs cooking spread through the house and it all happened while we were asleep. It was all very Mysterious.

New Years Day was our Payne special family time. My mom, daddy, sisters Una and Vera and their families and Brothers Henry and Willard and their families made up our family circle. Loretta would make her famous trifle and Ruby would make the best pies and I often made parfaits for everyone. Our brother-in-law had an old Super-8 movie camera and he would film all the cold plates and desserts, pretty as a picture. This was our special time and everyone looked forward to being there at our house for New Years supper.

It was a tiny three-bedroom bungalow but to us it holds the biggest Memories. This coming Christmas we won't be in Grand Bay East for Christmas but my Grandson Cole and I will be thinking about some of our favourite people. We will miss eating Aunt Vera's Bakeapple Cheesecake and Aunt Audrey's Pot luck supper and mummering in Uncle Calvin's Shed and driving to Margaree to look at the lights and dropping in to see Dalton and Currie.

Christmas is what memories are made of and as we spend this Christmas we will be making memories of another time that someday may be our 'good old days

Organizations: Esso, Grand Bay School, Dianne Kettles house

Geographic location: Grand Bay East, New Years, Margaree

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Recent comments

  • sylvia
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    This message is for Wilfred from Comox, B. C. . Thank you for your lovely comment and recognizing Daddy and Gibby. Our family would love to know who you are so we say hello to you. Thanks, my email address is Thanks again from the old Grand Bayers.

  • Donna
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    Hey girl love the story brings back alot of my own memeries of Christmas .very good job well done see you in the summer .

  • Liz
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    I thoroughly enjoyed your story, thank you for sharing your wonderful Christmas memories with us. I will be looking forward to your next story Sylvia.

  • Donna
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    Very nice story of Christmas bring back memories of Christmas in our house. See you in the summer

  • Frank
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    Wonderful memories of Christmas that we continue to share with our family members today, and friends who love the good old Newfoundland traditions no matter where they are globally.

    It was the neighbourliness that kept the flame of Newfoundland traditions burning.
    Those who still look forward to a good old traditional Newfoundland Christmas and New Year's dance are truly proud Newfoundlanders.They are still the fun loving folks.

    Keep the flame of our traditions burning as long as you live and no matter where you are on this planet. Never say that you have left the traditions of your childhood back home on your doorsteps which may no longer excist.

  • wayne
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    thanks sylvia for sharing that christmas story with us.

  • Wilfred
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    Sylvia, what a wonderful story and I thank you for sharing it with us. I first met Gibby in 1961 when we were both patients in a hospital in Corner Brook and he always reminded me of that..I remember your family very well and I also remember helping your dad fill out his retirement papers...Thank you angain for bringing back memories of home.