By Jim Jones
Special to the Northern Pen
BATTLE HARBOUR, NL – Christmas in Battle Harbour in early days was quite different than it is today.
Sometimes you had to improvise, such as one year – with Christmas only days away – there was no Santa Claus suit to be found.
There was not enough time to order one from the T. Eaton Company or Simpsons Sears – that would take about two months. Someone would have to act fast to get a suit for Santa.
My parents, Harry and Marge Jones, decided they would do it. The suit was made from calico flour bags and dyed red. White flannel was sewn around the cuffs and tail of the jacket. Quilt batting made a fine beard. Now Santa has a suit.
On Christmas Eve Santa would arrive at the school house with gifts for the children. This was also a way for some young fellow to give a gift to a young lady without identifying himself.
After the gifts were passed out there was a lunch of homemade ice cream for the children and fruitcake and Purity syrup for the adults.
24 bottles of rum and whiskey
This story was told to me by my father Harry Jones, who worked in Baine Johnson’s shop.
One Christmas in the early 1950s, Battle Harbour got a surprise Christmas package. Jones and the other workers went out to the coastal boat Clarenville for freight when it arrived for one of its regular stops in the fall.
The purser yelled out to him to come on board and sign for an express package. The package was hoisted down into the motor boat, along with the rest of the freight.
When they brought the freight ashore he put the package in the cellar behind the shop. Knowing that he hadn’t ordered anything and curious as to what it contained, Jones opened the crate and to his surprise found 24 bottles of rum and whiskey.
He left it in the cellar until Christmas Eve. That’s when the bar opened. Men who came to the shop for last-day Christmas shopping were invited to the cellar for a few Christmas drinks.
Harry Jones never found out who sent him the crate. At that time he was living in the Grenfell Cottage and from time to time would give lodging to people travelling on or waiting for a coastal boat. He never charged them anything, so maybe the package was sent as a thank you.
Christmas trees for Battle Harbour
During the 1950s and 60s, when people were still living in Battle Harbour in winter, Christmas trees were hard to find on Battle Harbour Island.
About this time of year, the final coastal boat for the season – the Nonia, Bonavista or Cabot Strait – would be leaving Mary's Harbour, calling at Battle Harbour on the way. Someone in
Mary's Harbour would cut 10 or 12 trees, not always perfect ones, and put them on the coastal boat to be dropped off at Battle Harbour. The trees were appreciated as much as any store-bought tree today.