by Brent Eades
This month’s Pick of the Past looks at Christmas editions of the Almonte Gazette over three decades, in 1935, 1945 and 1955.
December 19, 1935
Although the world was in the depths of the Great Depression, life in Almonte appears to have been reasonably prosperous and comfortable in 1935. Stores were offering luxury items as Christmas gifts, farmers were apparently having a good year, and the O’Brien Theatre was open every night and for matinées on the weekend. (Tickets were 10 cents for kids and 25 cents for adults.)
The front page features a Christmas poem by John Masefield, and a story about “names copied from an old directory of Almonte businessmen.” It notes that druggist P.C. Dowdall opened his Almonte store in 1880, and was was still in business in 1935.
At the right is a story about the arrest of the manager of the O’Brien Theatre in town, after he claimed to have been attacked and robbed after leaving the theatre with the night’s receipts. The police weren’t buying that story, apparently.
The Canadian Pacific ad notes that there were two trains daily Almonte to Vancouver, and two to Ottawa.
Lee’s Hardware was selling the “World Cruiser Radio” with “Air-Pilot.” There can’t have been many phones in Almonte in 1935, as Lee’s number has only two digits, ’18.’
P.A. Tweedie’s “profit sharing coupons with each purchase” promotion shows that so-called ‘customer loyalty’ programs have been around for a while.
Children were wanted for the Community Christmas Tree event at the Town Hall. (This sounds like a custom worth reviving, come to think of it.)
The Superior was in business in 1935, though it appears to have been more of a candy and malt shop than a restaurant. I Googled ‘Sea Foam Kisses’, but alas can only find references from newspaper ads in the early 20th century. Too bad, they sound good whatever they were.
December 20, 1945
The Second World War had been over for about five months. Almonte doesn’t appear to have changed much since 1935, although the Gazette now features some snappy Christmas graphics.
The main story was about the high school commencement the week before. School board chairman J.H. Martin “had warm words of praise for principal W.F. Thom and his staff… the year 1944-45 stood out as the year of highest academic achievement in the history of the school.”
The Legion in Carleton Place, under president G.W. Comba, was raffling off a house, “value $4,000.00” (about $53,000 today.)
As did most newspapers at the time, the Gazette published news about who was visiting whom. Mrs. Arnold Hussey spent the weekend with her parents, while Miss Betty Lee was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Stewart Mars in Toronto.
The Superior was hoping for relief from the stringency of war-time food rationing.
There was a Poultry Fair that filled Mill Street with “sleigh loads of turkeys, geese, etc.”
December 22, 1955
Here we see the same ‘Merry Christmas’ graphic as in 1945. The gentlemen in the photos are Arthur W. Smith and Harvey Shaw, the newly elected reeves of Almonte and Pakenham respectively.
The story “Old time items by former Almonter recall memories” is interesting. The former Almonter was a fellow named Dugald Campbell, who learned the printing trade while working for the Gazette at the turn of the 20th century. Mr. Campbell recalled earning $75 for delivering copies of the Gazette around town on New Years Day, “which was a great deal of money in 1900.” Indeed it was.
Flint’s in Carleton Place was selling televisions already in 1955, as they did until they closed in 2012. The 1956 17″ Admiral model cost $199 — about $1,700 in today’s dollars.
The tension between the movies and television at this time was apparent in the O’Brien Theatre ad. Speaking of the latest ‘Lassie’ movie it says, “You’ve seen him on a small postage stamp screen. You’ve seen him on T.V. Now see Lassie in his most exciting picture on the Giant Screen And In Technicolor.”
That debate continues 57 years later.