Trends from Christmases past

Good Old Days column by Jennifer Houghton

Grand Forks Gazette ad December 1959.

What memories do you have of Christmas in Grand Forks?  Has Christmas changed over the decades?

By Christmas of 1959, Canadians who had lived through the Great Depression and the First World War could now enjoy a time of peace and prosperity.  John Diefenbaker was prime minister of Canada.

Cars and radios were well-established in Canadian life. Many Christmas celebrations were accompanied by a little Elvis. The CBC was now reaching about 60 per cent of Canadian households.

Grand Forks’ population was about 2,000. That year, Santa Claus came to the “5¢ and $1 Store” on Bridge Street and was visited by over 500 youngsters.

Throughout December, residents were cutting holes in the ice of Kettle River to put down fishing lines.

The Vally IGA supermarket was selling turkey for 47 cents a pound. Singer sewing machines were $119.

Christmas was becoming commercialized but locals still remembered those less fortunate.

The Gazette asked people to donate $5 to Foster Parents Plan to send food to starving children in Europe, Africa and Asia.

In 1969, the Grand Forks population was about 3,000. Canada had celebrated its centennial two years earlier and Pierre Trudeau was prime minister.

Eight hundred youngsters visited Santa when he came to town.

Danco Home Furnishings was selling 25-inch colour TVs for $598.  The price of turkey had gone down to 39 cents a pound.

Sandner Lumber was encouraging ladies buy a power tool for that “special man in their lives”;  7¼” power saws were $29.95. Rocco’s of Grand Forks was selling gift-wrapped “lingerie for her.”

Kokanee beer from the Columbia Brewery was being served and enjoyed locally. The GGEM Theatre was playing Hook, Line, & Sinker in colour starring Jerry Lewis and Peter Lawford.

In 1979 the population of Grand Forks was around 3,300. Both Joe Clark and Pierre Trudeau served as prime minister that year.

Santa toured the town, showing up at stores, the hospital, Broadacres and Boundary Lodge.

Venture Photography was selling polaroid cameras for $39.95. Whether you were going to a disco or making Christmas turkey, you could get your hair frosted and permed at Village Lane Coiffers.

For entertainment, the TV guide was now in the weekly Gazette and featured The Crystal Gayle Special on Dec. 12.

The Carol Festival with choirs from all three elementary schools collected $176 for needy families.

On Dec 5, 1979, the Gazette published a photo of the Kettle River unfrozen and flowing past City Park.

In 1989, as the Internet was being born, our PM was Brian Mulroney. Grand Forks’ population was around 3,500.

His ‘n Her Fashions in town was having a sale on SunIce jackets. Polar fleece tops were $29.99.

The Gazette was accepting letters to Santa – letter writers got a free pass to the Aquatic Centre which had opened two years earlier. Businesses participated in the “adopt a Grand Forks family” program benefiting a single mother with two toddlers who got food and presents.

Boundary Community Food Bank was accepting food and cash. It was also collecting register receipts from Overwaitea – $5,000 worth of receipts got them a $10 food voucher. The Legion hall provided a free meal “for the needy” and expected about 25 people to attend.