From the Archives: season's greetings

Jenny Seeman

The post card image shows a very early view of the Dunsmuir’s Hatley Park: careful observers will note that the Italian Garden has not yet been added and the roadways are only roughly marked in, probably placing the image around late 1910. However, the postcard itself is from a much later date as it is signed ‘Mrs. Humphreys’. The card was sent to the Citerleys, a family that worked on the Dunsmuir estate, by Kathleen Dunsmuir, who married Arthur Selden Humphreys in 1917 and so the card itself must be from after this date.

Greeting cards were not the only thing to come from Hatley Park in December. In 1916, a tree from the grounds was on display at Government House and was later moved to become the focal point of a children’s party at the Alexandra Club in Victoria. According to a Daily Colonist newspaper article, the tree was “decorated with bright tinsel and alight with miniature electric bulbs. The children danced around it with delightful abandon.”

In 1917, Vancouver Island was suffering from a turkey shortage in the run up to Christmas. At a time when normal consumption would have been around 40,000 pounds of turkey in Victoria, the estimates for 1917 were that less than 25,000 pounds would be available. Reasons for the shortage included an unusually cold winter in Alberta, the source of many turkeys, and the disproportionately high cost of storage and shipment, with war duty added to the usual costs. For those hoping to substitute another meat for turkey, the war time food conservation pledge compounded the issue still further. Christmas Day in 1917 was on a Tuesday, which was a beefless and bacon-less day under the pledge. The regulation was enforced to the point that restaurants could be fined if they served beef or bacon on a Tuesday. Hatley Park’s farm was able to alleviate some of the pressure by providing 1,000 pounds of turkey into Victoria in the days before Christmas.

In later years, cadets also dined well at Royal Roads Military College. The end of term at Royal Roads Military College was celebrated with a Christmas Ball and an elaborate dinner where staff and cadets would dine together. The food would often be ceremoniously paraded in to the dining hall and it was a chance for the chefs to show off their creativity.

The Christmas Ball buffet in 1979 featured a crawfish playing a piano fashioned out of a fish fillet.

Best wishes for a happy, creative holiday with ample nourishment for all!

For more information about the archives collection, contact Jenny Seeman in the library, extension 4122.