Prince Albert area residents have consistently recognized the Christmas season, through good times and bad and including those from both sides of the law.
A perusal of archival Daily Heralds reveals a strong tradition of looking out for one another and keeping in touch with family during the holidays, even during times of war.
The following are some tidbits the Daily Herald’s archives had to share about a handful of Christmases of Prince Albert’s past.
Christmas 96 years ago
Deep in World War I, headlines in the Daily Herald from 1916 were mainly about the war effort.
Among headlines like “War cannot stop till Germany down on knees” and “Thinks France should consider enemy’s offer,” the Daily Herald managed to squeeze in the occasional tidbits of Christmas cheer.
“The shadow of the war is difficult to remove from the activities of the holiday season,” an editorial reads.
The impending triumph of democracy, however, will “assure to generations to come the genuine Christmas happiness undimmed by the distress that war imposes.”
On Boxing Day, the Daily Herald displayed the headline, “Christmas was merrily observed in Prince Albert.”
“The skating rink and moving picture theatres were crowded,” the Herald’s report reads. “The skating rink was crowded to capacity with a throng of skaters, who evidently required no advice in the way of merrymaking.”
Christmas 90 years ago
Out of the war effort, local residents were able to raise money for local families during the Christmas of 1922.
Prior to the holidays, Christmas hamper chairman Harvey Wagner reported 150 families set to receive hampers.
Several churches in Prince Albert reported well-attended Christmas services, which the Herald summarized in editorials.
Christmas 80 years ago
In the days leading up to Christmas of 1932, young boys from the community were busy selling Christmas trees door to door.
“Truth confirms the rumor that this business, too, has been hit by the times and prices are down below those of last year, which were almost ruinous to the boys,” the Herald reported.
Postmaster R. P. Laurie reported a considerably increased volume of mail during the holiday season of 1932 over 1931.
“This may be attributed, in part at least, to the fact that there are more railway lines in operation in northern Saskatchewan than previous,” the Herald reported.
Local youngster Noel Duff, son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Duff, of 830 13th St. W., celebrated his 12th birthday on Christmas Day.
As such, the Daily Herald reported young Duff to have received a greater quantity of presents on this day than others.
“When times of depression roll around there’s likely to be economy among those presents. However, Santa Claus did well by Noel.”
For the first time, missionaries at “lonely and isolated parts of the new diocese of Saskatchewan, some on missions established as far back as 90 years ago, were brought within sound of the cathedral service.”
This, is thanks to Bishop-elect Walter Burd’s radio broadcast from St. Alban’s Cathedral.
The Elks’ Christmas Cheer and Relief Fund raised more than $3,500 in 1932.
Christmas 70 years ago
Prince Albert was again in hard times during the Christmas of 1942, as a result of World War II raging overseas.
With sugary snacks a must-have during the holiday season, Canadians stocked up on butter in advance of Christmas, out of fear of the government imposing limits through war rations, resulting in a shortfall.
“This selfishness is going to cost the Canadian taxpayers money which we could usefully employ for other purposes,” a Daily Herald editorial reads, adding that a half pound of butter per person per week shouldn’t have placed a hardship upon anyone.
The postmaster reported that Christmas-time mail necessitated the hiring of 22 additional men and women to help out.
The shadow of the war is difficult to remove from the activities of the holiday season. - Prince Albert Daily Herald editorial, circa 1916
“Of the 22 extra persons, 14 are working inside and eight men have been put on outside deliveries,” the Herald reported, noting that most of these were women and high school boys.
“Working at a high speed and a higher tension, the clerks put in hours from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and have each day’s mail cleared up by midnight. The quantity of the mail on all of the main railway lines is said to be responsible for the lateness of all the trains.”
Although the Daily Herald covers of that week were devoted to the more urgent matters related to World War II, they made one exception was made on Dec. 24, with the displaying of a large picture of Santa under the headline, “Who says there isn’t a Santa?”
The picture was taken outside of Tisdale, where Santa paid a visit to more than 700 children.
Christmas 50 years ago
While previous Christmases saw Prince Albert area residents set new records for mail, the Christmas season of 1962 set new phone call records.
“Telephones users in the Prince Albert area will place an estimated total of some 2,200 calls on Christmas Day,” the Herald reported. “This compares with 2,004 received for the same period last year.”
This year, the city endeavored to ensure everyone enjoyed a merry Christmas, despite their lot in life.
“The inmates at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary will start the day with a half of a grapefruit each, cereal, eggs and home-cured bacon, toast, jam and coffee,” the Daily Herald reported.
“Lunch will consist of a turkey broth, assorted cold cuts, home fried potatoes, lettuce, salad with sliced tomatoes, a plum pudding with rum flavour sauce.
“The dinner will be the largest meal of the day with roast turkey and cranberry sauce and gravy, creamy mashed potatoes, buttered cauliflower, hot mince pie, fruit cake and shortbread.”
Retail outlets in Prince Albert stayed open until 9 p.m. during week leading up to Christmas Day.
Christmas 40 years ago
Again ensuring holiday cheer spreads to everyone in the community, 22 men at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary were granted leave during Christmas of 1972.
The previous year, 34 men from the maximum security institution were granted leave for between one and seven days, with two breaking curfew.
“I believe we could boast of the best record of returns from temporary leaves of absence of any institution in the country,” penitentiary director J. J. Ellis said at the time.
“We’ve close to 400 men in this institution and there were close to 400 (temporary leaves of absence) granted during the year,” he said, noting that there were four breaches in that time.
An inmate, whose name was withheld, wrote a letter to the editor defending these leaves of absence.
“Our families suffer more than we do, just because daddy got himself into trouble,” he wrote. “The wives and children are looked down on. They must live on next to nothing in most cases. Can there be no happiness in their hearts, just because of daddy?”
The Victoria Union Hospital and Holy Family Hospital saw as many people discharged from hospital as possible prior to Christmas Day, but this wasn’t possible for everyone.
“Open visiting hours at both hospitals will ensure that they do not lack for company,” the Herald reported, listing various other efforts to keep them in good cheer.
Prince Albert MLA Dave Steuart joined MP John Diefenbaker and Mayor Frank Dunn in wishing residents a happy Christmas in the pages of the Daily Herald.
“It is my sincere hope that we will all rededicate ourselves to fulfilling our role on earth: to love God through our fellow man,” Steuart wrote.
“I wish you all a Merry Christmas and may happiness fill each day of the New Year.”