In our house on Lauder Avenue, on New Year’s Eve in 1945, as my family awaited the midnight hour, my brother and I played the board games that we had received for Christmas. “Elsie the Cow” and “Snakes and Ladders” were our favourites. The adults were quietly chatting, remembering the days when they were young, and lamenting how swiftly the years had passed. Later in life, I was to learn that these two topics were the perennial favourites of older people. Eventually I was to adopt these same topics as my own, particularly on New Year’s Eve when the passage of time was most readily evident.
On this Eve of Eves in 1945, in the background, the radio was playing, “Sentimental Journey”—Gonna take a sentimental journey, gonna set my heart at ease. It had been one of the year’s biggest hits, along with the wartime song “Bell Bottom Trousers.” Shortly after the hour of ten, my mother told us to climb the stairs to bed. She said that we were too young to stay up until midnight. Reluctantly, we complied.
In our bedroom upstairs, around eleven o’clock, because sleep eluded us, my brother and I peered out the bedroom window. The street was empty, the severity of the cold having forced everyone to remain indoors. We heard the wind whistling through the empty avenue below, as well as in the narrow driveway between the houses. We thought about the noisy parties that were being held elsewhere, as we had heard our dad talking about the downtown clubs and restaurants, where the revelries would increase in volume as the final hour of the old year ticked away. However, at our house, all remained quiet.
Though my brother and I were fast asleep when the midnight hour arrived, we knew what would occur. Unlike the downtown scene or even the local beverage room, the Oakwood Hotel, my parents would indulge in only a small sip of the “sinful juice.” My mother did not consider port or sherry alcoholic, even though it actually contained more alcohol than either beer or wine. I suppose she rationalized this by thinking that at least they were not consuming hard liquor. Many maiden aunts throughout the years have engaged in similar reasoning, declaring that they never drank spirits, although they did occasionally enjoy a tipple of sherry. Wise old ladies!
On New Year’s Day, my father read in the newspaper that at the Royal York, a cute young blonde had wandered among the tables holding a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, slurring her words as she inquired, “Anyone want a snort?” An elderly gentleman whispered to a male friend, “I’d appreciate a snort with her any day.” The reporter stated that they had both grinned like schoolboys. The articles also said that when the magic moment arrived, a scantily clad “Miss 1946” arrived in the ballroom. Shouts and cheers exploded as the tensions of the war years receded from memory. The crowds chorused the words “Happy New Year!” with greater sincerity than previous years, when the constant casualty reports from Europe and the Far East had dampened the celebration. The reporter noted that soon after midnight, in the downtown, the most common phrase was, “Is this taxi taken?” The following morning, the most common phrase throughout the city was, “Has anyone seen the Aspirin bottle?”
When my brother and I were considerably older, we discovered why the Aspirin bottle was an integral part of the New Year’s celebration.
The above is based on the book,”Arse over Teakettle,” a novel about growing up in wartime Toronto.
For a link to this book: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/arse-over-teakettle/
To view other posts about the Christmas season in Toronto throughout the years.
Decorations for Xmas in the Eaton Centre at night
A popcorn man on the street in downtown Toronto during Christmas
Photos with the Eaton’s Santa in 1941 and 1943
A church Christmas pageant in Toronto in 2012
Downtown Toronto’s lights and Christmas displays – 2012
The Christmas windows at the Bay Store are magical at night
Christmas at the historic St. Lawrence Market in 1921 and in 2012
The Christmas windows at the Bay Store on Queen Street, 2012
The amazing gingerbread houses on the underground Pathway in Toronto
The gigantic metallic reindeer in the Eaton Centre
Christmas cards mailed in Toronto during the years 1924-1926
The Christmas buffet lunch at the Arcadian Court at the Simpson’s Queen Street Store in Toronto (the Bay)
Christmas at Mackenzie House on Bond Street.
Christmas at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market
The Christmas Market at the Distillery District
Memories of the Christmas windows of the Simpson’s store on Queen Street
Christmas at the Kensington Market
Memories of Toyland on the fifth floor of the old Eaton’s Store at Queen and Yonge Street
The Christmas lights on Yonge Street in the 1950s
The history of Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade
The 1940s Christmas radio broadcasts featuring Santa Claus
Christmas at Toronto’s historic St. Andrew’s Market
Christmas trees and seasonal decorations in Toronto
Celebrating the 12 days of Christmas in old Newfoundland
A humorous account of a Christmas concert in old Newfoundland
Link to the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/