Sitting around the Christmas tree this morning took me back in time, back to the days when Mom, Dad, Frank and I sat around the Christmas tree after midnight Mass on Christmas Eve into Christmas morning. When we got older, we always opened our presents after midnight Mass.
How was it possible that after that Mass every year, flakes of snow gently fell from the black sky, as friends greeted each other with shouts of Merry Christmas? At least that's how I remember it. But the best part always was the four of us sat around the tree in the wee hours of the morning, talking, laughing, and enjoying the time together.
Dad always mentioned his excitement on Christmas morning when his Mom was alive because the children didn't see the tree until that time as well. However our tree went up around the time we finished school for the Christmas break.
Dad loved Christmas and his favourite part was Christmas dinner. He always left room for the Christmas pudding which made the meal special for him because that's what his mother always made for dessert. In my youth, our puddings were always made by Dot Ralph, our next door neighbour. It was delicious but none of us loved it like Dad. He usually finished it the next day.
It is with warm and loving memories of a wonderful man that I write today about our Dad.
Samuel John Pretty, grew up in a time when many Newfoundlanders had it rough. Born in 1925, he grew up during the Depression. However, his father had a steady job as an engineer on the Newfoundland Railway so Dad's family had a steady income when many others were going hungry.
Dad was the youngest surviving child of seven, born to Samuel and Ida Pretty of St. John's, Newfoundland. Two brothers, Albert and Robert died as children. Dad had a brother Thomas, sisters Muriel, Margaret and Angela.
Young Sam's mother, Ida, was the middle girl of three. Her family, Thomas and Mary (Walsh) Stewart, lived on Water Street across from the railway station. My grandfather, Samuel Pretty, also lived in the west end of St. John's and worked at the railway. I imagine that was how Sam and Ida met as they went about their lives in St. John's.
For a time, Sam and Ida lived with her parents on Water Street. Eventually they had their own place on Water Street as well. Then in 1935, Sam and Ida bought one of the railway houses on Old Topsail
Road, also in the west end of St. John's. (The fires of 1842 and 1896 had destroyed much of St. John's. Various groups built new homes in an effort to improve the number of suitable houses in the city. One such group was the Railway Employees Welfare Association.) Dad's earliest memories however were of life on Water Street.
As an engineer on the railway, my grandfather spent a great deal of time away from home. Ida was close to her family geographically and emotionally. When Sam Sr. was away, Ida and the kids spent time with her sisters and their children. There are a few pictures of the cousins together. After her parents died, Ida continued to visit with her sisters and their families. Picnics were common in the summer.
Pictures of my father during this period, show a well dressed child. With the steady income that my grandfather had, Ida kept the children well dressed. I met a lady who grew up on a farm on the corner of Topsail and Blackmarsh Roads in Mount Pearl. My father and his brother Tom walked to that farm from their home on Old Topsail Road to buy vegetables, eggs or meat. This lady said her family was always impressed with how well dressed the Pretty boys were. This explains why my father always liked to dress in his "Sunday" best. His Mom kept him that way and he liked it. He was one of the few men we ever knew who enjoyed dressing up for an occasion.
Dad, Angela and unknown family friend