This photo from the 1960s shows children receiving gifts from Santa during a Christmas party organized by Saanich Police.                                 Photo courtesy of Saanich Archives

This photo from the 1960s shows children receiving gifts from Santa during a Christmas party organized by Saanich Police. Photo courtesy of Saanich Archives

Photos captures magic of Christmas past in Saanich

The two boys wore black slacks, the girl, perhaps their sister, a dress, white stockings, and black shoes, as they met Santa somewhere in Saanich, sometime in the 1960s.

Santa, obscured by an elf, hands a gift-wrapped present to the little girl, who cannot take her eyes off him. The room around her is whirling with activity, but her joyous gaze appears unbreakable.

Captured in a black-and-white photo, the occasion of this small but magical Christmas moment was a party that the Saanich Police had organized for families.

Kerri Ward, archives specialist with the District of Saanich, cannot say when and where the party happened. The identities of the individuals in the picture appear equally shrouded.

This photo co-exists with another photo from what appears to be the same party, and a photo from the early 1950s showing three Saanich police officers – Eric Elwell, Joe Armstrong and Ed Anderson – with Christmas hampers.

But if these photos refuse to yield most of their secrets, they along with a transcribed oral history from former Saanich chief constable Bob Peterson nonetheless offer a fascinating glimpse into Saanich’s Christmas past during a transformational period in Canada’s and Saanich’s history.

For one, they capture a society in transition. The personal hardships of the Second World War were giving way to a modern welfare state. But its maturation in the 1970s was still some time away, and private initiatives still constituted a significant component of local support systems, as the origins of the Needy Family Fund suggest.

As Peterson writes, Saanich Police started to hand out presents around Christmastime after a constable had grown concerned about the “plight and hardship” of a family near Christmastime. “He sought food and toy donations for this family and the response was very, very encouraging,” he writes.

“As a result of this response for the plight of one, it became very obvious that more was collected than was needed by one family, and other families were also assisted. This, then became an annual event which was greatly supported by the citizens of Saanich in funds and goods and subsequently a good deal of assistance was rendered to the police department by the health and welfare component of the municipality.”

Later, this Needy Family Fund ended up in the hands of the Greater Victoria Community Services, according to Robertson. However, it is not clear for how long it ran, and when it ended.

Ward says the officers must have been very familiar with the needs of the community to launch and administer it.

This familiarity in turn speaks to the fact that Saanich at the time was a smaller, more intimate community.

According to the 1956 census, Saanich’s population was 38,358. Ward said most of Saanich was largely rural or semi-rural at the time. This said, it was also changing rapidly. Saanich’s population had grown to 56,600 people by 1964, an undeniable echo of the post-war baby boom.

Affluence, once a domain of the few, was quickly becoming a mass phenomenon during this period, as the iron-clad demands of demographics and deliberate choices of Keynesian economics fueled suburban prosperity, growth and confidence, something Canada openly celebrated during the centennial celebrations of Confederation in 1967.

Historians, however, also note that contemporary consumerism has its roots in this period, and its present prevalence can easily encourage cynicism.

But the unidentified girl and her reaction to the gift she is about to receive still speaks to the magic of the season, especially when borne out of need and delivered by local hands.

 

This photo from the early 1950s shows Eric Elwell, Joe Armstrong and Ed Anderson of Saanich Police preparing Christmas hampers. Saanich Archives

This photo from the early 1950s shows Eric Elwell, Joe Armstrong and Ed Anderson of Saanich Police preparing Christmas hampers. Saanich Archives

Just Posted

New changes are being proposed to four streets in James Bay to allow better access for cyclists. Residents have until June 11 to provide feedback. (Black Press Media file photo)
New revisions to James Bay bike lanes open for feedback

Routes on Government and Montreal streets planned for 2022

An elderly man having a medical emergency in Mount Douglas Park on May 13 was rescued by firefighters and paramedics with the help of ATVs. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Rescue team uses ATVs get man in medical distress out of Saanich park and to hospital

Cedarhill Road closed as firefighters, paramedics rescue man in Mount Douglas Park

While recovering several items reported stolen from the set of a Netflix movie in early April, West Shore RCMP also seized drugs and drug trafficking items from a Colwood residence last week. (Black Press Media file photo)
Electronics, credit cards taken from Neflix set found in Colwood home

West Shore RCMP seize stolen items, drugs, trafficking materials

Saanich police used a drone to investigate a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal West Saanich Road crash

Driver who died veered across center line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 11

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Most Read