Editor's Diary -- They keep coming

Fred Hatfield
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Santa is always a big hit at the Bob Reid Memorial Children’s Christmas Party in the town’s south end, as can be seen by the youngsters who crowd around him.

 It was cold. And icy. And slippery. I’m writing about last Monday on Queen Street where the annual children’s party was held once again.

But the weather didn't keep hundreds of people, mostly kids, from showing up.

The numbers have gone down over the years. But so has Yarmouth’s population.

There was a time when upwards of a thousand kids turned up at the south end playground on Main Street awaiting Santa’s arrival from the nearby St. George Fire Company’s station.

Those of us who turned up back then, (I was, I’m happy to say, one of them), always talk about how cold it was as we waited along the fence for a chance to see Santa and get the bag of treats. It was always worth the wait, though.

While some things have changed, the annual party, now dubbed the Bob Reid Memorial Children’s Christmas Party, is still made possible because of Yarmouth firefighters.

Firefighter Bob Reid, headed up the party for years with a lot of help from fellow firefighters and some, if not all, of those still connected with the event well remember his involvement.

Although I suspect the current crop of firefighters keeping the tradition alive must find it tough some years.

There was, afterall,  a time when the firefighters had bingos, for example, that brought in money. These days I suspect getting the money to treat hundreds of kids isn't easy. But they keep doing it.

Last Monday saw the typical crowd of kids running around the youth centre building on Queen Street. I’ve covered that party for more years than I can remember and sometimes wish I'd think to bring ear plugs because when the doors open at 7 there’s still a half hour to go before Santa comes and the noise gets louder with each passing minute, or so  it seems.

I see a lot of familiar faces at the party. Not just the kids. But the firefighters like John Murphy, Oliver Gascoigne, Normie Amirault, Stewart Deveau and Martin Doucette among others who seem to have been around there as long as I have been covering the event.

When I was there last Monday a woman asked if I had covered the party 14 years ago. Probably, I said. She thought so. Then she pointed at a young woman in line with her child and told me I had taken a picture of her for the paper 14 years ago when the mother was just a  kid herself coming for her bag of treats. Now, like I say, that person is there with her child.

It is indeed a generational thing. I used to be able to tell by looking into the faces of the kids walking by Santa after he handed them their treats who their parents were. Not so much any more, although Santa seems to know them all. But that’s no surprise, eh?

I’ve been there when people I went to the old south end school with have shown up with their kids, and later their grandkids.

No doubt all of the youngsters have heard the stories about when their parents, and even their grandparents, used to line up at the playground for their chance to see Santa and rush home with a big of treats. Candies and fruit and a popcorn ball. Talk about Christmas joy!

Back then, and this is the old man in me writing now, a bag of treats was something special. Candy wasn’t part of our normal diet, fruit was often rare,  and anything we gathered at a school party or from Santa at the playground was a bountiful harvest.

I wonder these days if the treats mean as much to the hundreds who keep showing up at the old youth centre?

I hope they do because as years go, by the running around and screaming with joy in the youth centre and the visit from Santa, plus the bag of treats and the Cook’s chocolate milk-which I understand the dairy donates- will be the stuff of memories like those my age had a half century or so ago.

Afterall, Christmas is the time of memories, right? And we should all say thank you to the firefighters who keep this memory alive.

Organizations: Christmas Party

Geographic location: Queen Street, Yarmouth

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