As another Christmas rapidly approaches, it is interesting to recall back 50 years ago to the Christmas Red Deer enjoyed in 1967.
The year had been a terrific one. Canada had celebrated the centennial of confederation in banner style. There was a wonderful outpouring of national pride and faith that an even more glorious future lay ahead. It is often said that Canada never appeared as proud and united as it did in its national Centennial Year.
Every province, every community, almost every organization and a great many individuals took on a centennial project. In Red Deer, the official centennial project for the City was the construction of an impressive, two-storey Public Library.
In March 1967, there had been the great news a “hometown boy”, Roland Michener, had been appointed as Canada’s twentieth Governor General. Although born in Lacombe, he had moved as a baby with his family to a new home in Red Deer, where his father became one of the community’s most successful businessmen, the mayor and later the local M.L.A.
As the year started to draw to a close, there was further excitement in the community on the news that the new Governor General would be making a vice-regal visit to Red Deer at the beginning of November.
Quite understandably, one of the key events for the visit was having the Governor General preside at the official opening of the new Centennial Library on November 3.
Another major public project was the construction of a new campus for the Red Deer College on the southwestern corner of the City. While the main building was actually not complete when the Governor General came to Red Deer, there was still a strong desire to have him officially “open” the new campus while he was in the community. Nevertheless the heating system in building was not hooked up yet, so the speeches were kept brief.
Not every project involved new construction. A serious proposal was made to improve the appearance and attractiveness of the Downtown by restoring and enhancing the old historic buildings. The proposal was dubbed the Norwich Plan, after the city in England which had successfully revitalized its retail core by highlighting its historical buildings.
As it was, the Downtown was still a vibrant part of the community as the central retail hub. Two large department stores, Eaton’s and the Bay dominated, but other outlets such as Kresge’s, Woolworths, McLeod’s and Stedman’s, as well as the locally-owned stores, were very popular.
The annual Christmas shopping season went very well. The fall had generally been warm and dry, but more seasonably cold and snowy weather began to set in during the last week of November. Really cold weather and a significant blizzard did not hit until a few days before Christmas. Hence, people did not have much of a challenge as they went about their shopping and other errands.
There were Christmas specials galore. Girl’s dolls were 98¢ to $2.99 each. Scrabble games were $5.98. Seal skin boots for those trudging through the snow could be had for $22.95 a pair. Souvenir Centennial coin sets were $7.95. For those interested in the latest in technology, wood console colour T.V.’s were offered at $699. For the holiday feasts, butterball turkeys were 47¢ per pound. Mandarin oranges were $2.37 for a 9 lb. case.
The local Post Office reported one of the busiest Christmas seasons on record. People sent a truly impressive number of Christmas cards and parcels as holiday greetings and gifts. Extra staff were hired to handle the huge volumes of mail.
A couple of days before Christmas, a mild chinook set in and the weather improved. Temperatures rose to the near freezing mark and stayed there for Christmas Day. Local churches reported very large turnouts for the traditional Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.
As the wonderful Christmas of 1967 drew to a close, there was a genuine chorus of a very Merry and Prosperous Christmas to all and best wishes for a Happy New Year in 1968.