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Photo courtesy of Hamilton Spectator Collection, Hamilton Public Library
by Brendan Oliver
“It’s not the things you do at Christmas, it’s the Christmassy things you do year round that count.” — Jimmy Lomax.
One of the greatest and most charitable Hamiltonians of all time was Mr. Jimmy Lomax who grew up in Crown Point’s north end. For more than 50 years Christmas in Hamilton wouldn’t have been the same without Jimmy and his Operation Santa Claus.
James William Lomax was born on August 24, 1943 to parents Clifford and Orma. His parents resided on Bayfield Avenue just north of the Jockey Club. Jimmy attended Lloyd George Elementary School on Beach Road.
For much of his childhood, Jimmy was in and out of hospital suffering from bronchiectasis. In the days before OHIP, Jimmy’s father, a crane operator, worked three part time jobs including one at Stelco to cover his son’s medical bills.
One of the best parts of Jimmy’s childhood was his Christmas visits from Santa Claus played by family friend Curly Alkerton. Those visits made Jimmy vow that if he ever got better he too would one day wear the suit. In later years, Jimmy would say: “Other kids wanted to be firemen, policemen or Steelworkers. But I believed in Santa.”
Doctors gave Jimmy just three years to live, when he was seven, and his parents brought him home to live out the remainder of his life. Jimmy defied his doctors’ prognosis and was given a clean bill of health at the age of 15. It was then that Jimmy started to give back.
With a $5 donation from a gas station owner, Jimmy purchased some leftover Halloween candy and began spreading Christmas cheer. Wearing a Santa suit made by a teacher at Lloyd George Elementary, Jimmy went to area hospitals and nursing homes distributing treats to patients. It was the beginning of Operation Santa Claus.
Jimmy dropped out of Delta Secondary, at 16, and took a job as a steelworker. He remained a steelworker all his life and retired from Stelco after 38 years.
Jimmy always told people that he would never marry unless he found someone who had a heart of gold. He found that person in Susan, a former schoolmate and family friend. The couple were married and soon welcomed a son, Ryan, who was born in December and was named after actor Ryan O’Neil.
Over the span of 51 years, Jimmy and Susan grew Operation Santa Claus into a $200,000 a year operation serving 80,000 needy people in the Hamilton area. To keep the operation going, many fundraisers were held including the annual Beach Strip Garage Sale.
Each Christmas Eve from 10 a.m. to midnight, Jimmy would dress in his custom-made Santa suit and visit nursing homes, hospitals and private residences to spread good cheer to people who wouldn’t otherwise have a Christmas. Jimmy’s appearance while being Santa was very important and he once said, “I can’t stand to see a sloppy Santa.”
Tragically, in May of 1986, son Ryan died of a rare form of lung cancer. Christmas then became a very difficult time, but Jimmy and Susan continued their work knowing that their efforts gave hope to so many.
Jimmy received numerous honours, over the years, including the Ontario Medal for Outstanding Citizenship and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1984 and was once named as Reader’s Digest’s Heroes for today.
One of his most cherished awards was the honorary diploma given to him by Delta Secondary School. The school also created the Jimmy Lomax Community Service Award which is awarded each year to one community-minded student.
In June 2010, Jimmy retired from Operation Santa Claus after being diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year. On October 9, 2011, he passed away at home peacefully in his sleep at the age of 68. Following his death, the flags at city hall were lowered to half-staff in his honour.
In a statement, then Mayor Bob Bratina said, “Jimmy exemplified the best of Hamilton and Hamiltonians… a humble east-ender who found a way to make a difference in people’s lives. We have lost a great man and a great friend.”
Jimmy’s celebration of life was held at Laidlaw Memorial United Church where he went to Sunday school as a child. In attendance were several dignitaries and several professional Santas dressed in their suits. As his urn was brought into the Church “Here Comes Santa Claus” played.
In late October 2011, just a few weeks after his death Jimmy Lomax park opened on the Beach Strip where he and Susan lived for so many years. That same year Operation Santa Claus became part of the CHML/Y108 Children’s Fund and Jimmy was inducted into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.
by Andrea Jackman
Rumours spread and infiltrate many people until they find one person willing to thrash out the truth. So, when I heard the rumour of “a large mural at Memorial (City) Elementary School that had been painted by a Group of Seven painter,” I had to investigate. I sought out the mural and aimed to assess if the rumour is true.
Getting access to the mural was a bit tricky. It took months of inquiries with the school and Hamilton Wentworth District School Board to get the curtain drawn back on the stage. I was finally received this September by Fatima Ziric, Memorial’s vice-principal, to view the mural. As the suede indigo curtains were swept away, an aged projector suspended by chains and stuck open blocked the majority of the image; not an optimal way to view art. Thus, I returned several days later when it was removed.
Spanning over twenty feet in length and thirty feet in height, the immersive mural is definitely impressive. A ruined European-like castle stands upon an advantageous hill in the background, surrounded by a small body of water, which places the viewer in the foreground surrounded by a trail lined by sweeping birch trees leading to a beached boat awaiting departure. Encasing this image is an optical illusion or trompe l’oeil of three painted, suspended stone like arches and wood panelling below.
Finally immersed by the mural, every part of me screamed that the mural was not authored by a Group of Seven painter, even if A.Y. Jackson did frequent Hamilton and A.J. Casson studied here. However, years in the arts and gut feelings do not always satisfy debunking a rumour, so I shared the digital image of the mural with several art professionals.
The image first went to my colleague Robert (Bob) Daniels at Earls Court Gallery, open since 1973. He too instantly agreed that the aesthetics and handling of the paint did not connote any traits of a Group of Seven painter. In fact, he initially thought of Hamilton painter Henry Nesbitt McEvoy, but he passed in 1914, and the school opened in 1919. Daniels’ second inclination and my initial reaction, was Juanita Lebarre Symington (1904-1980). It is the type of subject matter and project she would undertake, but that means the mural had to be done after 1925, as that is when she was a prominent Hamilton artist.
To support this claim, a Spectator article from October 1925 states that Memorial Hall was decorated with the bronze plaques and a painted Latin inscription border. However, still no direct reference to the stage mural. Further, in the Hamilton Public Library Archives, a 1948 Year Book illustrates a stage performance with the mural behind and no visible cracks. Thus, I suggest that the mural was done between 1925-1948.
I also distributed the image to curators Andrew Hunter (at the Art Gallery of Guelph) and Tobi Bruce (at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.) Both have extensive knowledge of the Group, Hamilton’s art history, and have witnessed the mural in person. Unaware of each other’s opinions, they too agreed that the impressive mural was not done by such prestigious authors.
So, what seems to be the consensus is that the rumour is debunked. It is more likely one of those stories that get passed down to the next generation with a few details missing. As it is shared and key words exaggerated, we end up with such a rumour. What I believe is true about the rumour is that the painter was as equally capable, and until further information surfaces, we will be at a loss of its true authorship.
Illustration by Elizabeth Seidl
by Bev Wagar
With a murder charge on the docket, security was tight at Horticultural Court. The usual shrubs on guard duty were joined by a contingent of red cedar trees who parted briefly to allow the accused, Ailanthus altissima, alias “Tree of Heaven” to pass. The stench was awful. Ailanthus moved quickly—too quickly—and put roots down on the stand before the courtyard crowd could respond. The extreme allelopathy of this tree caused much shuddering and wilting, but despite their distress, the onlookers were out for sap, hoping to see Ailanthus, notorious Asian thug and gang leader, sent straight to the chipper.
The court clerk read the charge and Ailanthus, with a sneer, replied “Yes, I’m guilty. Foolish humans brought me to this land 200 years ago and it’s been a candy store, let me tell you. My roots have killed thousands of you. Not one of you can compete with my rhizomes and clonal colonies. I’ve ruined countless gardens, ravines, and parks. Me and my gang are out to get your forests, too. Just try to stop me,” the accused laughed maniacally.
Ailanthus had visibly grown several feet taller already and was casting shade over the wildflowers in the front row. The tree’s roots were reaching into the jury, a mix of sugar maple, beech, trillium, and native viburnum.
Then ailanthus did something unthinkable—it cast seeds, thousands of them, all around the courtyard. It was a female tree! Most of the onlookers ran for cover. Only a few ornamentals, the cedars, and the judge, M. (Mama) Nature remained. Judge Nature looked uncommonly worried.
“Is there anyone here to provide a defence for Ailanthus?” she asked. A hybrid tea rose looked up from her book of poetry and stepped forward.
“The accused was the subject of a famous novel and movie called ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’. It survived drought, neglect, and decades of isolation in a bed of concrete. It became a source of joy and inspiration for a downtrodden inner-city neighbourhood.”
“The amusement of a few humans is irrelevant” Nature stated flatly. “Humans have carelessly unleashed too many alien plants into unsuspecting ecosystems. I am far more concerned about the survival of my forests. Humans keep cutting them and this Ailanthus keeps moving in.”
By this time the Ailanthus had sent up a few clonal shoots and most of its seeds had sprouted. The cedars, wary and beginning to feel the toxins from the Ailanthus’ rapidly spreading roots, had begun to desert their posts. The rose, the jury, and all the onlookers had gone. The courtyard was bare, the stink overpowering, and the gloating smirk on Ailanthus face exuded pure evil. Nature alone would decide this case.
“Surely you know about the Circle of Life. In China you evolved with insects who ate your leaves and roots. You were part of an interconnected web of food and feeders. Now, in North America, there are no creatures to curtail your invasive behaviour. Something needs to feed on you.”
Ailanthus roared with rage as its huge pinnate leaves shook and snapped like whips. Then it attacked, releasing a squadron of high-speed clonal shoots. Reaching into her dress pocket, Mama Nature quickly tossed a handful of spores of Verticillium nonalfalfae, a native fungus, near the trunk.
“You will die in 10 to 16 weeks and the soil will be inoculated against your return. This fungus has no effect on most of my native flora. I have presented it, as a scientific discovery, to human conservationists. Your decades of murderous thuggery may soon be over.”
With Ailanthus already beginning to squirm and wilt, Mama Nature turned and floated out of the courtyard. It had been a trying day and her creatures needed some dormancy. Yuletide celebrations had begun in certain lands. So, looking forward to a winter recess, she headed north.
By Kathryn Shanley
Dundurn Castle, the former home of one of Canada’s most notable politicians Sir Allan MacNab, makes for a great evening tour location to get even the most die-hard Scrooge supporters into the Christmas spirit. This is even truer when the castle is lit up and dressed in its finest, the aroma of freshly baked Scotch shortbread filling the air, while a table laden with mouth-watering delectable goodies sits ready to tantalize your taste buds as you prepare to experience a Victorian Christmas.
The Garden Club of Hamilton decorates the castle every year with wonderful greenery, lovely dried flowers, and beautiful wreaths, striving to maintain the authenticity of a Victorian Christmas. The holidays just wouldn’t be complete for me without experiencing the feeling of stepping back in time and enjoying the grandeur of Christmas at Dundurn.
Your guided tour begins in the castle’s magnificent entrance hall with the stunning black walnut staircase adorned with fresh boughs of greenery. The joyful singing of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” can be heard throughout the castle as interpreters in period costume lead visitors in a lively carol sing. During the Victorian era (1837-1901), families gathered around the piano singing their favourite Christmas carols while sipping steaming spiced punch.
After entering the elegantly decorated drawing room from the entrance hall, you’ll be impressed by the delightful Christmas tree decorated with candles, delicate fans, cornucopias, tiny trinkets, and treasured handmade gifts. The tradition of decorating Christmas trees was adopted by North Americans after Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, brought the custom from his homeland of Germany to England.
Though the drawing room is splendid, one of the tour’s highlights for me is a visit to the grand dining room with its French-door windows and breathtaking view of the bay. The splendid dining room table is elegantly set in readiness for a festive Christmas dinner. Up to two dozen guests could be seated around the table including Sir Allan himself who is believed to have sat at the head of the table. The Christmas dinner could last for as long as four hours with the grand finale of traditional Christmas pudding, laced with brandy and set ablaze, being brought to the table and served by the head of the household.
Venturing upstairs to the upper hall, imagine the scene on Christmas Eve, of the MacNab family singing carols around the piano and playing roaring games of musical chairs and charades. Victorians loved telling ghoulish ghost stories of days long past and listening to excerpts being read from books like Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Children hung stockings soon to be filled with candies, nuts, and trinkets if they were from a rich family, or candy, an orange or a piece of coal for luck if they came from a poorer family. Canadian children in the Victorian era may have dreamt on Christmas Eve of ice skates, sleighs, and snowmen typical of a frosty Canadian winter.
Victorians not only enjoyed their winter wonderland at Christmas, but after visiting the stunning dining room, it’s clear they loved a good Christmas feast while sharing the warmth of fellowship and family. I feel a certain kinship with the Victorians—it’s all about the food! The aroma of fresh baked bread wafting from the kitchen is irresistible. Hearty soups, relishes, cayenne cheeses, and homemade bread are served on a table in front of the iron stove ready to be sampled and savoured. Another table is laid out with homemade buttery shortbread, lemon cake, orange gingerbread and my favourite—carrot pudding. Who could resist sampling this array of traditional Victorian Christmas delights.
by Tara Aronson
It was five years ago while running as a candidate for HWDSB Ward 3 Trustee that Larry Pattison realized he would miss Halloween with his two daughters due to an unfortunate parenting schedule.
So he came up with an idea to host an alternative Halloween—just like the real thing but on a different date. Larry and his neighbour, the late Kate Andrus, embarked on a journey to recreate Halloween for parents who might experience scheduling challenges due to divorce, separation, work, or other responsibilities that may get in the way.
Always a dynamo, Kate named the event Pumpkin Prowl and designed the two-sided event flyer, which was painstakingly printed by the hundreds on her failing finicky printer. Larry went door to door, asking neighbours to hand out candy a week early. That first Pumpkin Prowl saw twenty kids dress up and go trick-or-treating in Crown Point, visiting all the neighbours who agreed to participate.
Since then the number of participants has doubled each year. The 2017 Pumpkin Prowl engaged 250 kids, had 40 neighbourhood houses handing out candy, including several community partners who provided activities for the kids. There were bouncy castles, a petting zoo, games, and coffee and hot chocolate compliments of Gage Park Diner. Vagabond Saints sponsored and printed cotton trick-or-treat bags for the first 100 kids, and Jet Propelled developed beautiful marketing materials for the cause. Councillor Matthew Green helped support the event with a $1,000 sponsorship.
The response has been overwhelming. Crown Point residents are coming out in droves; parents and grandparents of trick-or-treaters are offering to volunteer for this year’s event. For the organizers, going from a small, intimate event with a few kids to a project of this scale has been both humbling and inspiring.
Preparations for the event’s fifth anniversary include a name change that honours one of the founders: the Kate Andrus Pumpkin Prowl.
“She was an intellectual giant whose legacy will continue to live on in hearts, minds, and advocacy of our city,” notes Councillor Green. Kate is truly missed, and this community event wouldn’t be what it is without her.
This year promises to be even more spectacular. There will be activity booths sponsored by the Special Needs Resource Centre, Beautiful Alleys, Pride Hamilton, Messy Play Studio, My Free Hamilton, Erich’s Cupboard, Determination Martial Arts, and Mountain Kidz Club. There’ll be a petting zoo (weather permitting) from Urban Zoo, bouncy castles from Jump Start Rentals, and of course, there’s a special secret guest from Penny Pincher Costumes Inc. Wonderful supporters Vagabond Saints and Jet Propelled are back again with their marketing genius.
What makes this event truly special for Crown Point though is the community itself. It’s the neighbours who open their doors by agreeing to hand out candy to hundreds of kids, the volunteers who come out to help make the event run smoothly, the community members who donate candy so our neighbours don’t have to foot the ever-growing bill, and the kids who participate in a community event dedicated to them and their families. From a father’s simple need, a community festival has grown.
Get your costumes ready for this year’s prowl on Saturday, October 20, 2018, at Belview Park and visit the website for details at http://www.pumpkinprowl.ca. Everyone is welcome!
The Point is a community-driven volunteer effort supported through advertising. See the links on the left to learn more.
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by Sean Hurley
Ian and Joan Dewar-Adair are a familiar sight in Crown Point, walking their two, very large white dogs around the neighbourhood of Cannon and Kensington. Both dogs, Lochaber, a Great Pyrenees, and Fiona, an Abruzzenhund, are rescue dogs. It’s not enough for the couple to rescue dogs, though. They also rescue some Christmas joy for sick kids.
Joan told me by email that she and Ian arrived in Crown Point ten years ago and will be celebrating their 20-year anniversary in 2019. They met when she was a singer, classically trained, and he was already retired. “We moved into Crown Point,” she told me, “as it is near the Scotiabank at Centre Mall where I was working at the time.” When Joan retired they decided to stay because “it is near to downtown and all the places we normally go, including beautiful parks. The people around us are very good neighbours so we have decided to stay here.”
The couple did the usual things retired people do. They enjoyed hobbies, volunteered, and engaged their interests. However, a family crisis added a new mission to their lives. “Many years ago, a hospital out West was instrumental in saving our grandson’s life,” Joan explained. “Since we cannot pay back we have chosen to pay forward by raising monies for McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation. Each year we hold a Burns Day Dinner at the Hamilton Club where I am a member, with the proceeds going to the Foundation.”
As for Santa and Mrs. Claus, here’s Joan to tell that story:
“It all started when a man from Toronto called on us to ask if Ian would play Santa for him as Ian has a real beard. It was for the Sick Kids in Toronto and without thinking twice, I spoke up and said we would do it.
What neither of us knew was that CBC, CTV, CP24 and a whole group of radio stations were going to be there filming and interviewing him. He really was rather upset that he hadn’t been better prepared.
It wasn’t until a little three-year-old Shirley Temple look-alike came screaming across the room calling ‘Santa! Santa! Santa!’ and threw her arms around his legs that he fully understood the importance to the children of what he was doing. At that point we were hooked.”
The pair now go as Santa and Mrs. Claus to McMaster Children’s Hospital and the Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre each Christmas “to see and spend time with the children. We read to them and sing songs with them. Parents and staff enjoy an interactive Twelve Days Of Christmas as much as the children as evidenced by the number of phone cameras clicking away.”
According to Joan, “We also did the Easter Bunny and helper for McMaster this year, and we do a Halloween witch and warlock as well as various Dickensian characters. Along with these I do the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland.”
Joan said the couple are available to do both corporate and private functions with the proceeds going to McMaster and they can be reached at 289-339-7242.
“The main reward we have from doing all of this is the joy on the faces of both children and adults, and the knowledge of the continued belief the children have in the magic of Santa and Christmas.”
A special request: Ian and Joan are helping to raise money for McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation through The Inside Ride: “The Inside Ride, presented by the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation is Canada’s first indoor cycling challenge and fundraising event dedicated to raising money in support of children with cancer and their families.” To sponsor their team, go to www.hamilton.theinsideride.com, click on the “Donate” button and paste in The Uptight Prig and The Artsy Fartsy
where it says “SEARCH FOR THE PARTICIPANT OR TEAM YOU ARE SUPPORTING”.
The Point is a community-driven volunteer effort supported through advertising. See the links on the left to learn more.
Want to get the electronic version? Subscribe.