Back row: Harry, Mollie, Gilbert.
Front row: Cyril, Margaret, Jim.

As would be expected of a group of excited children, we were awake very early and longing for our presents. Our filled stockings were laid out in order in our parent's bedroom, but we were not allowed in until we had sung every carol we knew.

Dad usually had to work late on Christmas Eve as extra bread had to be delivered to cover the holiday period. If it was snowy or foggy, it was very late when he got home. He and Mom would then decorate the Christmas tree and fill our stockings when we were all asleep.

The stockings would contain an apple, an orange, a few nuts, a bright new penny, some sweets and other little surprises. I guess Mom and Dad did not get to sleep much before we children started to wake up. No wonder they made us go through our carol repertoire!

When we were called into Mom and Dad's room, we assembled round their bed in age order. Margaret was the first to open her stocking while the rest of us watched, eager and impatient for out turn to come. Of course I was last!

Imagine my distress when one Christmas my stocking did not contain goodies, but just a piece of coal! This was because of some misbehavior or wrongdoing during the year. I was the scapegoat, for I knew that my brothers and sister had not been perfect for the whole year. I guess this was meant to be a lesson to them as well as me. But what a hard lesson for a little girl. I wonder if it converted me to 'perfection' ever after? I think not, for I was always a lively lass. My brothers and sister would say that I was 'bossy'. But I had to be to keep them in order when I was left in charge of them a11.

Back to Christmas morning. Breakfast consisted of portions of pork pie, no cooked breakfast on this morning as time did not allow.

The year I had coal in my stocking

Dad vanished after breakfast and happened, he said, to bump into 'Father Christmas', who had relented of his earlier harsh treatment of the eldest child of the house and had sent her a doll with good wishes and hopes for her to reform in character. I was very relieved and happy!

After the pork pie was consumed, there was much preparation and cooking to undertake for Christmas dinner. During my young days there were no ready prepared foods. Parsley had to be grown, picked and chopped before one could make stuffing or sauce. Sage and thyme the same, except they had to be dried and stored before they could be used. Suet was purchased from the butcher in a lump and chopped or grated for cooking. Poultry was only partly plucked and had to be 'gone over' and then dressed. Raisins had to be stoned, a sticky job, and currants washed and dried. Candied peel had to be chopped. Soup was made by simmering bones and then adding cleaned and chopped vegetables. There was nothing available in tins or packets. You could not buy pudding or cake mixtures.

My dad in Canada in the early 1900s.

Milk didn't come ready bottled. A milkman with a horse drawn float came to the house each day with churns of milk and measures of various capacities, with which he filled your jug. Bread was delivered by a bread roundsman, like my Dad. It was not available wrapped or sliced as it is today, but there were a wide variety of shapes and sizes. A large loaf weighed 21bs. A 'Baker's Dozen' consisted of 13 loaves, the thirteenth being a make weight in case any of the twelve were underweight.

Dad was a partner in the Cobden Bakery, but having no capital to put into the business, he went on the road as a salesman calling on shops and houses.

In the early days he drove a covered cart pulled by a horse. 'Little Billy' was Dad's favourite horse and knew exactly where to stop for Dad to deliver the bread. Fog was a regular hazard during winter, but 'Little Billy' knew his way round and always took Dad safely back to the bakery. 'Little Billy' loved Dad and when Dad was ill and unable to go to work, the horse pined for him and went off his feed. Someone brought 'Little Billy' round to our house so that Dad could put the horse's nose bag on and get him to eat.

Great changes began when motor transport started to take the place of horse drawn vehicles. Dad was sad to leave his horses, but delighted to have a motor van and learn to drive. There was no driving test to take in those days!

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