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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

Two Friday morning ferries between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen were cancelled due to high winds. (CP PHOTO/Richard Lam)
High winds force morning ferry cancellations in Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h will ease around midday

Sooke resident Nathan Hanson popped both his driver’s side tires on a pothole near a construction site on Sooke Road. Hanson said he was following a line of traffic and was just before the 17 Mile Pub when he drove over the pothole. (Photo contributed/Nathan Hanson)
Driver blows two tires on pothole near construction site on Sooke Road

Ministry of Transportation says keeping highways in good condition a priority

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of deceased Hells Angels prospect from Sooke to be divided between wife and secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

On Feb. 27, a construction vehicle remained on the site of the former encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue as part a clean-up effort. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Encampment between Pat Bay Highway, McKenzie Avenue cleared, all residents relocated

Efforts to disband encampment resumed after January fire

(Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich council opts to wait until amalgamation study can take place safely in-person

Victoria council, province must weigh-in on next steps for citizens’ assembly

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

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 March 2

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

The Nanaimo bar display at the Nanaimo Museum. (City of Nanaimo Instagram)
City of Nanaimo points to correct recipe after New York Times botches batch of bars

City addresses ‘controversy’ around dessert square’s layers

A man holds a picture of Chantel Moore during a healing gathering at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on June 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. First Nation demands transparency in probe into second fatal RCMP shooting

‘Police have killed more Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members than COVID’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Comox Valley-raised Shay Sandiford has earned a spot on the Canada skateboard team. Facebook
Vancouver Islander selected to Canada’s first-ever national skateboard team

Courtenay’s Shay Sandiford has his eye on qualifying for this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Most Read