by Iris Ashwell

We were very poor in the hungry thirties, otherwise known as the Depression years. My husband was a contractor who was out of work and we had three young growing boys.

Christmas approached and we skimped and saved all we could. We waited to do all our Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve so that we could have as much money as possible. At that time, we had an old touring car with no windows, only plastic flaps. Driving to Vancouver to get our Christmas gifts and food, we did our shopping and stored all the parcels on the back seat of the car. Suddenly I remembered one gift that I had forgotten to get and rushed back to get it while my husband walked up and down the street to keep warm.

When I came back, we started to get in the car and by chance happened to look in the back seat. All our gifts and parcels were gone! The presents for the boys and their stocking gifts, the food for the Christmas dinner – all gone! There was nothing in the back seat and we had no money left to buy anything else. We rushed off to look for the police and told them what had happened. They said that it had been a common occurrence that Christmas. A car would pull up and double park while the contents were transferred from one car to the other. If we hurried, they added, we might be able to catch them. We looked but could not find any trace of our parcels and Christmas dinner.

Now we had to go home and face the boys. How do you tell three young sons that their whole Christmas is gone? No presents to put in their stockings, no Christmas dinner. We woke the boys up very early Christmas morning to tell them the news. I felt so upset and sick at heart! The boys took the news fairly calmly and we began what we thought would be a very bleak Christmas.

Suddenly the news of our loss got around the neighbourhood, and family by family came over to give us some of their food and presents. One kind neighbour brought a pork roast for Christmas dinner and candy for the boys. Others brought gifts that they themselves had received earlier. Toys, books and games covered our living room floor. The Christmas tree was lit with shining red candles and as my husband read the story of the birth of the Christ Child, the true spirit of Christmas was brought home to our family in a very special and loving way. We developed a lasting friendship with our neighbours which had come out of our misfortune.