Christmas in Cranbrook, 1965

Half a century ago, Cranbrook was poised for a number of changes

“The Funtouchables” – just one of many nightclub acts to perform at the Stop & Go Inn.

“The Funtouchables” – just one of many nightclub acts to perform at the Stop & Go Inn.

Jim Cameron

In December, half a century ago, Cranbrook was poised for a number of changes that would result by the early 1970s in a city that looks much more like it does today than that of days gone by.

For the moment, however, the Cranbrook Mall had not yet dropped its fat foundation directly across Baker Street, rubbing out a city park in the process. The charming old Royal Bank had not yet been replaced by the new, the YMCA/Armoury still stood sentinel at the west end of Baker Street and the highway still came through the business district past a clock tower that was still attached to a Post Office.

Crestbrook lumber mill and the old airport took up much of the area to the east side of what would soon become “The Strip,” and the St. Eugene Hospital was still the hub of medicine in the district.

The population stood at around 7,000 and would continue to grow, forcing the city to expand its borders to the east and south in addition to the construction of apartment blocks throughout the residential area.

The weather for the first half of December, 1965, was, on average, 1.3 degrees F. warmer during the day and 3.1 degrees F. cooler during the night than 2015. There was snow on the ground from a heavy snowfall in late November and there would be a great deal more snow arrive in late December — 28 inches of the wet and heavy stuff — cancelling flights, closing the sixteen month-old Skyway (Salmo-Creston) Pass and generally making a nuisance of itself.

Still, by 1965, many homes had televisions to help pass the long winter nights. TV shows premiering that year included Lost in Space, Hogan’s Heroes, Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie, The Wild Wild West, Green Acres, I Spy, Days of Our Lives, F Troop and The FBI. Top music hits of December included: We Can Work it Out by the Beatles, Turn, Turn! Turn! Turn! by the Byrds, I Hear A Symphony by the Supremes, and Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel while the top box office releases were Thunderball  and Dr. Zhivago,

The final week of November saw the deaths of three people in three separate automobile accidents, two from out of town and Gilbert “Gib” Parker of Cranbrook, age 18, who was a passenger in a two-car collision on the corner of 5th Avenue and 3rd Street, the first vehicle fatality in the city in four years. Safe-driving week began a few days afterwards. The Senior Citizens Club, boasting over 200 members, enjoyed their annual turkey banquet, the Courier stating that “members range from 92 and up and members as young as 12 years…with Mrs. McBurney the oldest at age 88.”

The yearly municipal election, held on December 11, saw Mayor George Haddad (returned to a third term by acclamation) head up a city council consisting of Ed Delamont, Eddie Leonard,  J.S. “Bus” Johnston, Dave Bjerstedt, Don Sherling and Sam McLeary. 1,032 ballots were cast in the election, the 35.7 percent voting turnout among the lowest in the history of the city. Aside from the upcoming issues of a new hospital, airport, post office, industrial park (a priority for the Chamber of Commerce) and a downtown mall. A major concern was the local water supply. Chamber of Commerce civic affairs committee chairman Don DeBuysscher bluntly declared, “The water tastes like hell and smells worse.”

Joe Sherbo, proprietor of the Stop & Go Inn, began importing “professional nightclub acts” — singers, dancers, musicians, comedians — to perform in the restaurant, at times backed by local musicians Bud Dunlop, Stewart Taylor, Maurice Mackay and Doug Kerr as “The Blue Notes.”

The annual Festival of Christmas Music took place in the Mt. Baker High School Gymnasium, now (more or less) the lobby of the Key City Theatre. Sponsored by the Cranbrook Teacher’s Association and Cranbrook Rotary, the festival featured over 500 voices from eleven local choirs.

Boy Scouts sold Christmas trees for $1.00 each in the empty lot next to the old Post Office, the Scandinavian Sisters planned holiday dances and banquets at the Blue Bird Inn, Swanson’s Men’s Wear actually sold wear for men while a Lyon’s Shoe Store advertisement read: Christmas Booty for All Ages.

On the afternoon of Saturday, December 18, Santa Claus once again hitched a ride on the fire truck for a tour of the town. Sponsored by the Kinsmen Club he ended the journey at 1:30 p.m. outside Mt. Baker School where he handed out goodies to Cranbrook youngsters.   There were a number of letters to Santa in the newspaper that year.

One young lad wrote, “Dear Santa: I would like these toys: Trik Trak, 8 games in one, Martian Magic, Monopoly, Strategy, Football. I would also like Jet Putt Golf, Rock’em Sock’em and Popeye’s Punch Me. My sister would like a long toque for skiing. My mother wants jewelry. My other brother wants some tie tacks. My dad wants a garage door shutter which is approximately $149.49. I don’t think he will get it. Good luck at Christmas. Please may I have these toys Yours Truly, Ron Webb.”

Did Santa come through? Did young Ron receive all that he sought? Like much of Cranbrook’s history the answers are shrouded in the mists of time. But that was Cranbrook then and this is Cranbrook now and Janus sincerely wishes the best for you and yours over the holidays. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!