Christmas in Lytton in the 1960s meant waking up to oranges and ping pong balls in our stockings

My parents used to put a large sheet under the fir tree in the living room to hide the presents and make us guess on Christmas morning over their coffee, when I was growing up in the village of Fraser Canyon in Lytton, BC.

As they got ready for the big day, we tore up our socks, which always included mandarin oranges, MAD comics or magazines, and ping pong balls. Those things were exotic in the Lytton of the 1960s, then a community of 550 located 260 kilometers northeast of Vancouver in the shadow of Jackass Mountain.

There were about 2,000 people from half a dozen First Nations gangs in the immediate area. Nlaka’pamux’s presence dates back a minimum of 7,000 years, making it the longest continuous settlement in North America. Outsiders began to settle there during the gold rush of the 1850s.

The little-noticed community finally made headlines when it burned to the ground last summer.

Suddenly little Lytton became famous. The fire that swept through my old house was mentioned around the world as an example of the brutality of climate change, including at this month’s COP26 summit in Glasgow on global warming.

Star reporter Peter Edwards pictured with his parents and sister Melanie.

We didn’t have as many worries when we grew up in the Lytton of the 1960s.

Our little world seemed like it was going to last forever.

The great Christmases were a constant for me.

Once the Christmas stockings were opened, my two older brothers and I retired to play a Christmas version of ping pong that was unofficially called Mutilate Your Brother.

No one called ping pong “table tennis” at Lytton, and certainly not when it comes to MYB.

The only rule in MYB was that you had to keep running around the table in a clockwise direction between shots and keep the ball in play. There was no actual record of annotations. The objective was to impale a brother’s private parts in a corner of the table making him jump to return a well placed drop shot.

If you did it right, you would also topple the table.

It wasn’t pretty, and my parents tried hard not to look. Still, it was so much better than when we played floor hockey and hit a leg on the piano.

My dad had hopes of something better for my little sister, Melanie. With three children, I always had two spare parts, one of which was me. He only had one daughter.

The girls offered Daddy a mysterious hope. So when he got what seemed like a good gift idea for her at Christmas, it took her whole life, like The Year of Mary Poppins, when images of the brave English nanny played by Julie Andrews suddenly seemed to disappear. be everywhere in our house, even on a bath mat.

It was a shock, and curiously triumphant, when one of the boys found magazine photos of Andrews topless on a sunny beach and showed them to my mother.

One Christmas morning in the mid-1960s, the sheet under the tree couldn’t hide the shape of the best Christmas present – our first television.

It was a top-of-the-line piece of furniture and it resembled a porcelain piece of furniture with a bright, hypnotic screen. We did not dare to play hockey on the floor. We were happy to let him control us.

Star reporters Peter Edwards, pictured playing hockey at home.

Dad didn’t need to read Marshall McLuhan to see his powers. He loved calling it The Idiot Box as we sat paralyzed in front of its glowing screen.

My poor mother probably saw it as a way to numb us a bit before we go back to smashing things or breaking each other.

While it may have been an idiot box, my fascination with television got me my first post when I saw a mistake in a TV show about a bear and submitted it to the Bloopers section of a West Coast TV guide. My thoroughness was published and my addiction to the printed word officially began.

Television connected historic little Lytton with worlds far, far away, like the California sitcom of the “Beverly Hillbillies” or space travel or the Maple Leafs and their 1967 Stanley Cup win. Back then, everything seemed possible.

That television quickly became part of my childhood rites of passage. When I turned 11, I was allowed to stay up until 9 on Sunday nights to watch “Bonanza” without resorting to whining, begging, or threatening looks.

Leading “Bonanza” was “The Ed Sullivan Show”, something transplanted from vaudeville, with acts from around the world including ballet, the Muppets, Rodney Dangerfield, the Beatles and Elvis.

Owning a television also comes with civic responsibilities, such as welcoming neighborhood kids on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons and eat hot dogs until they have their own televisions.

As we celebrate Christmas with enthusiasm at Lytton, I don’t recall anyone ever trying to impersonate Santa Claus.

There were only two stores in the city and neither featured a Santa Claus. Lytton was too far away to bring in an impostor Santa from out of town.

It’s probably better that no one from Lytton tried to impersonate Santa. Much of what the Padres del Pueblo organized ended in alcohol and scandal. My poor mother never got over the afternoon when my sister and her friend accidentally fell into a bonfire while watching a particularly lively village soccer game at a community function.

We held Christmas contests at Lytton Elementary School, when we pretended we were in Bethlehem wearing bathrobes and putting homemade camel heads on broomsticks. It was somewhat disconcerting. The idea of ​​finding three wise men in one place seemed as mysterious as any of the religious conversations.

We also sang Christmas carols and everyone was encouraged to participate. I thought it was like that everywhere. When I arrived at Ryerson Elementary in London, Ontario, I was quickly identified as one of the unsatisfying singers and seriously told to only speak the words in the school choir.

That was a clear sign that he was no longer at Lytton.

I couldn’t sing well at Lytton either, but no one got paid to tell me to shut up. I found it particularly ironic and harsh that my career as a public singer ended in the middle of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”

Like the Lytton newspaper boy in the late 1960s, Christmas was a prime time for tips. I remember going to find two of my teachers who lived together in Snob Hill and saw them surrounded by empty beer bottles.

One of them was lying on the floor with his legs up, resting on the sofa. The other staggered and stammered something incomprehensible. Apparently they had just had their own Christmas party. I remember getting a generous tip of shredded dollar bills that Christmas season.

I look back fondly at that Christmas, and the smells of turkey and pumpkin pie and the occasional screams of my brothers crashing into the ping pong table. It wasn’t always pretty, but I had a constant sense of family and community and not once did I imagine going through with nothing that I really needed.

I am proud to be where I am now, at The Star, with its Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund that aims to make sure all children have Christmas presents and happy memories.

Readers have been helping for 115 years and I hope you will too.

If you have touched the Santa Claus Fund or have a story to tell, send an email [email protected] or call 416-869-4847.

OBJECTIVE: $ 1.5 million

TILL THE DATE: $ 841,834

How to donate:

By credit card: Visa, Mastercard or AMEX. Call 416-869-4847

By check: Mail to: The Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund, One Yonge St., Toronto, ON, M5E 1E6

Online: To donate, scan this QR code or use our secure form at:

The Star does not authorize anyone to make requests on its behalf. Tax receipts will be issued.

TO BE A VOLUNTEER: [email protected]

Leave a Comment