First Snowfall of the Year

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The first snowflakes of the season fluttered down softly, carried gently by the light breezes, back and forth across my path, until they finally touched the earth, and vanished. The very first snowfall of the year seemed magical, and we gazed up in wonder as if we’d never seen the fragile white crystals before.

It had been many, many months since the last few signs of snow had disappeared late in the spring, and I wondered to myself if these first light flakes of the new season would stay on the ground. Almost in unison with the first snow, the merchants of Perth began to decorate their windows for Christmas, and up and down Gore Street there were signs that Christmas was coming.

James Brothers, Stedman’s, and Beamish had bright lights and shiny garlands in their windows, and Shaw’s always had a festive window display.

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A walk down to Haggis’ candy store was not to be missed, as Mrs. Nee’s colourful candy canes, creamy Christmas fudge, and salty nuts were temptingly displayed.

sophia-haggis  candy-counter

The Perth Apothecary always had a beautiful Christmas window with all of their lotions and potions packaged so beautifully, ready to place under the tree. However, the signs of the season weren’t visible only in the town of Perth.

Out in the country, we turned on our outdoor lights on December 1st, and even though the lane was long, we could see Dad’s handiwork as we drove up the Third Line, coloured lights draped round and round the spruce tree. Dad took great pride in his annual Christmas display, though it was a far cry from the elaborate decorations on the more stately homes in Perth. It’s strange how, as a child, the lights on your own home, no matter how modest; seem brighter, and more magical than all the rest.

spruce-tree

That first, delicate snowfall of the year falls so silently, whispers so softly, and serves to remind us that Christmas is on its way. It’s time to gather the boxes of decorations from the attic, and time to test our outdoor displays. There are Christmas cards to prepare for mailing, and special foods and drinks to assemble for the big day.

Whenever I see that first snowfall, and the lights and displays all around, I am reminded of our own humble spruce tree on the Third Line, and the weeks of preparation that followed, leading up to the most glorious time of the year.

……….

 

“First Snowfall of the Year”, an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line”  ISBN  978-0-9877026-30, available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm, and Blackwood Originals in Perth, Mill Street Books in Almonte, Perfect Books in Ottawa, and online- http://www.staffordwilson.com

L C Calendar book cover

photos of James Brothers Hardware and Shaws of Perth courtesy of ‘Perth Remembered

photo of Sophia Haggis Nee, of Haggis’ Candy Store,  -‘The Kingston Whig Standard’

2 comments on “First Snowfall of the Year

  1. Tami Cleland van Wyk says:

    Hi Arlene, I grew up in Perth until I was in grade 4 and then for work purposes, my family moved to Ottawa. I lived in Perth at 8 Hughes Crescent and had this wonderful yet vague memory that my mother had taken me to a magical candy story on the main street of town when I was very little and I picked out two huge candy canes – a white and red one and a green and white one. When I got home my younger brother wanted the red and white one and so I tried the green and white one. It was the best tasting candy cane I had ever had and was not minty tasting at all…I am now 43 years old and still think of that candy cane each Christmas. My family had lived out in BC for several years and didn’t return to Ontario till the late 1990s. I searched for a candy store on Gore St. in Perth and then tracked down it’s name from your writings here as well as your mention of the Candy canes. I also read that the original owner; Sophia Haggis Nee had passed away in 2012. Do you know if she had shared her candy cane recipes or bought them from somewhere? I would love to enjoy one of her candy canes again if possible and to share a favourite Christmas childhood memory with my own children. I would also like to puchase a copy of your book- Finding the Spirit of Christmas in Lanark County. How is the best way to go about that? Thank you Tami Cleland van Wyk

    • Hello Tami – One of the surest signs that Christmas was coming were the huge candy canes on display in the window of Haggis’ Candy Store in Perth. My Mother, who was a keen competitor at the Perth Fair and later became a judge, made candy at home and was always very interested in watching Sophia and learning some new tips. We were very fortunate on one of our visits to see Sophia in the middle of producing her candy canes and it was quite a process! I wish I had the recipes as well, but I’m not sure what happened to them when the store closed. The store was located at 60 Gore St. E and is now a wonderful, bright, cheery, book store called ‘The Book Nook’ operated by Leslie Wallack. Sophia Nee passed away in 2012 in Kingston, Ontario and I don’t know if she left her recipes in anyone’s care; hopefully she did. She had a daughter Barbara, so perhaps she is the ‘keeper of the recipes’. I’m not sure how to contact Barbara, but I believe her surname was ‘Beer’.
      The story you mentioned – ‘Finding the Spirit of Christmas in Lanark County’ is part of a collection of stories in a book called ‘Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line”. The book is available in Ottawa at Perfect Books at 258 Elgin Street – 613-231-6468 and Books On Beechwood – 35 Beechwood Avenue – 613-742-5030. You can also purchase the books online at http://www.staffordwilson.com. The website also lists many other retailers in the area who carry the books. Thanks very much for sharing your story Tami!

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