Fairview Historical Society Articles Archives

Fairview Christmas Angels
and the Angel Hair Tree

Submitted by Devonna Edwards

Growing up in the quaint little village of Fairview in the 1950s especially during the Christmas season, brings back precious memories. Fairview was mainly a blue collar community, made up of hard working, honest men and women who struggled to raise their large families.

Many children of Fairview had presents under the tree on Christmas morning due to the business men who owned stores in the area, as well as organizations and churches such as the Fairview Legion, St. Lawrence Church, St. John’s Church and the Fairview United Church. Many businesses in Fairview kept families clothed and fed and if sick, medicated between pay days.

There were no credit cards at that time and the business men allowed families to purchase their items (by the honour system) on credit. Their bills would always get paid, partly or fully each month. A few of these many Fairview business men were:

John O’Brien who owned O’Brien’s Pharmacy on the Dutch Village Road always gave credit to families who could not afford medication or needed gifts on special occasions, such as Christmas. Due to his kindness many children experienced the joy of Christmas. He opened his pharmacy in 1953 and it operated for 25 years.

Benjamin Katz known as “Benny” owned a store called The Hub which he opened in the early 1950s. His first store in Fairview was located on the east side of Dutch Village Road. His second store, also called The Hub was located on the west side of Dutch Village Road corner of Rufus Avenue. He was born in Lithuania which had been part of Russia before 1917. His general store sold everything from boots, clothing, and hardware, etc. Through his practise of giving credit to families of Fairview, many children were clothed and had shoes to wear. Benny died in 1992, but The Hub still operates today under new owners.

Fred Hodder owned a small grocery store on Birch Street in the 1940s and after his store burnt down, he rebuilt it and sold it a few years later to Ron and Joe Maher in the 1950s, who operated the store into the late 1970s. It was called Maher Brothers Clover Farm Supermarket and after Joe died, his son Ralph helped to manage the store. Both Fred Hodder and the Maher family were the kind of Fairview business men that kept many families fed in-between pay cheques. Pat Maher said, that before Christmas scores of excited children lined up as far down as Dutch Village Road, to see Santa Clause in the Maher’s Store.

Wilbur Bowser known as “Hun” owned a small grocery store on Frederick Avenue. In the early 1950s during an outbreak or measles or chicken pox entire families were quarantined to their homes, and Hun Bowser would deliver their groceries. He was a compassionate man, who told them that he did not expect payment until the family was back on their feet. Due to his help the quarantined families did not go hungry.

Coulter’s corner grocery store was located on Dutch Village Road, corner of Andrew Street. Years later the store was known as the Village Grocery. Mr. Coulter also allowed credit and helped keep local families fed.

George W. Veinotte bought land in Fairview in the 1920s, there he built a house with a General Store attached. It was located on Dutch Village Road corner of Frederick Avenue. His first store burnt down and he rebuilt soon after. His store was a general store that supplied the residents of Fairview with food, clothing and just about everything else on credit. At that time Fairview residence all used baskets to carry their purchases and his daughter Ann Tattrie said, that on Christmas Eve he filled baskets and delivered them to the poorest families in the village.

Pete Henderson’s Store was located on Dutch Village Road in an old building that once was an old school house, called The Dutch Village School which opened in 1872 and closed in 1918. Pete bought the old building in 1930, at that time it was known as The Dutch Village Store. He renovated and operated a grocery store and gasoline station, he also sold horse feed at that time. He supplied Fairview families with goods from his store. The building was demolished in 1964 and Pete built a new building which continued to operate as a grocery store until the 1970s.Today St. Lawrence Place stands next to where Pete Henderson once operated his store.

The Angel Hair Tree

In the 1950s my Mother, Mary, decided to add a new addition to our Christmas tree after it was decorated, “Angel Hair.” She took it out of the package and pulled the white Angel Hair apart before placing it all over the tree. Wow! The tree looked spectacular with the coloured lights giving a soft glow under the Angel Hair.

The day after Christmas some of us decided to wear our new clothing, which we had left under the tree in open boxes on Christmas morning. My beautiful pink sweater felt so soft as I slid it over my head, I felt like a fairy princess but not long after the itch started and I wasn’t alone in my misery, soon some of my siblings were scratching in unison, what in the world was going on? In haste we discarded our new clothing, but the itch was still happening. My Mom soon figured out the cause, it must be the new decoration, “the Angel Hair”.

What a Christmas! Baths, calamine lotion and laundry soon followed, than the Angel Hair had to be removed from the tree and disposed of. Needless to say, no more Angel Hair for us ever! Years later we learned just how unsafe Angel Hair was, it was made with fiberglass and asbestos which were both an irritant to the skin and very dangerous to breath. Adding to that information, we also found out the beautiful silver tinsel that took us forever to put on the tree was full of lead.

Fake snow used in the 1930s was made of asbestos, a known carcinogen. The practise of making fake snow from asbestos ended with the beginning of World War 11, because the fire retardant material was needed on Navy Ships, unknowingly dangerous to the sailors.

All ten of us children survived that memorable Christmas and can now laugh about the year we had an

“Angel Hair Christmas.”

Have a safe and Merry Christmas! Everyone!

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