MEMORIES OF CHRISTMASES IN WINNIPEG

MEMORIES OF

CHRISTMASES IN WINNIPEG

by George Siamandas

EATONS CHRISTMAS WINDOW DISPLAYS
Lorne Cameron was Eatons Advertising Manager from 1948 to 1991. The Portage windows featured toys for the children. Every toy that was available was featured in the windows on Portage Ave. The Portage and Hargrave St window was always reserved for the more religious nativity scene. And music played as you stood outdoors, with Christmas carols at the Nativity scene and other festive music on Portage Ave.

Christmas didn’t start as early then not until mid November. But the planning cycle was year round. They had local control then when Eatons operated as five separate division stores. They chose whichever nursery rhymes or themes they wanted to. At Christmas Eatons staff went from 5,000 to 17,000 including people like Bill Norrie. The displays were costly. Nothing was bought. The sets were all built in house by a man named Neil Cooper. He also did the parade floats till about 1967.

At one time tours came down to see the displays from the city and country. The music and animated windows ran from 7am to 11pm. And of course the windows not open on Sundays. The windows continued into the 1970s. They continued until the mechanical equipment used in the displays wore out.

THE SANTA CLAUS PARADE
The same people planned the Santa Claus Parade. Eatons had a costume room with 3,000 costumes for the parade people to wear. A seamstress worked year round. Mr. Cameron walked the parade for 19 years. They worked all night the night before the parade. The Parade ended because it was too costly and because of the beginning of the broadcast of the Toronto parade on TV. You no longer had to go downtown to see it. TV killed the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade.

BISHOP TACHE’S CHRISTMAS RECOLLECTIONS
The Winnipeg Daily Globe dated 1882. That “Christmas Number” of the Winnipeg Daily Globe devoted its entire first page to Bishop Tache’s 38 years of recollecting Christmases in the west. Bishop Tache describes his first Christmas in Winnipeg in 1845. There were just 15 houses. In St. Boniface the main buildings were the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace. Provencher was Bishop in Tache’s early days as a priest and he describes Provencher as a most handsome man of about 300 pounds and over 6′ tall. Very majestic in his robes.

Tache describes Midnight mass on that -30 night. And at that time there was no stove, and several window panes in the church were broken. More than a thousand people stood for more than two hours. In the absence of an organ two priests played clarinets backed up by two half-breeds on violins. Tache observes that the church was overcrowded with more Protestants than Catholics. And waiting outdoors were over 200 sleighs, some of which Tache recalled were ox drawn carts.

By 1882, Tache observes how much progress had occurred in Red River. Mail is now twice a day, the snow shoe has been replaced with “lightning express trains with dining and sleeping cars”. The trading post he first saw in 1848 had become a city of 20,000 by 1882.

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS CELEBRATED IN THE WEST
First Christmas in the west was celebrated in 1694 according to a note in a HBC journal reporting a &5 pound note to a Fort in Rupertsland. The first celebration in Manitoba was in 1715 at Fort York. The next one occurred in 1812 the Selkirk settlers first bleak Christmas in Manitoba.

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