My Dad’s mother always held court with her new husband Larry and together they had a small two bedroom apartment at Dawes & Danforth Roads in Toronto. They would decorate the place with blue and red dazzling aluminum wreaths and baubles and frilly bells and bows like some Dr. Seuss cartoon come to life. But, it wasn’t until the blinding chrome aluminum Christmas tree came out that we knew it was truly Christmas with The Vernons.

It was the Christmas of ’73 when the entire extended family was all able to return to their homestead for the first time since the early 1960s. It was a rare occasion that my Dad’s sister and her daughter were able to fly in from California to complete a Vernon reunion that included six brothers/sisters, their respective spouses and no less than nine cousins in attendance.  Did I mention it was a two bedroom apartment?

The women helped Gran cook the meal. The men stood on the balcony and smoked/drank, attempted to assemble toys from the instructions supplied  and/or take the kiddie brood out to the park for ice-skating and tobogganing.

Grandma Vernon's Xmas 1966Grandma Vernon's Xmas 1966Then the time would come for dinner to be served. The children sat at tables in the kitchen or in the living room using TV trays while the adults sat at a massive mahogany dining room table. It was adorned with candles and a crocheted table cloth handmade by Gran. The table required a centre leaf to expand it for accommodating the size of our clan.

Christmas and Cashbox Canada

Cover, Dec 30, 2011

Story:Sandy Graham

Three years ago, Bill Delingat bumped into me at a Canadian Tire Store, and handed me his cell phone to talk to Bruce Elrod of the flagship Cashbox Magazine in the U.S.A.  We made a deal between the three of us to launch the online franchise here in Toronto, standing between the check out counter and the cookware section. How Canadian is that?

As the year comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment to introduce you to the staff that makes Canada’s Premier Online Magazine appear every week for you our readers, both the music fans and the folks who make up our music industry.

The indefatigable Lenny Stoute, the Editor who patiently streams through endless words every week, explaining to enthusiastic writers that 3,000 words is not industry standard, and could we please fact check, and try to learn to use our spell check and grammar aides as well? 

Anyone who has the pleasure of being interviewed by Lenny knows he has a style like none other. Personally, Lenny is my right arm in this venture and I couldn’t do it without him.

Sheldon Kagan: 45 Years in Music and counting

Cover, Dec 16, 2011

Story: Michael E. Williams

Montreal has always been fertile ground for DJ’s, but Sheldon Kagan took it to the next level of business and entrepreneurship. As a testament to this I caught up with the 61 year old DJ/promoter/producer between gigs to talk about his forty-five years in the music business and his dreams for the future.

SK: I am in between parties. This is my 5th day straight of events.
MW: Sheldon when did the music hit you?
SK: I was 15 years old living with my parents in the Snowdon, Cote des Niege area, listening to radio and at that time there was a radio announcer named Dave Boxer on the air.

I was fascinated by him and the music he was playing. I spent all my free time, when not in school, listening to his radio shows Monday to Friday 7-11pm. I became infatuated. He had this contest to win records, shirts and tickets to meet the Beatles and Rolling Stones. I entered and, for all those years, I was the number one contest winner. Even all these years later I can tell you that the contest line number was 279 4568, 276-261.

The Christmas Spirit

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Story: Michael Williams

Government cheese is processed cheese that was provided to welfare and food stamp recipients in the United States from the 1960s through to the early 1990s. (The style of cheese predated the era, having been used in military kitchens since the Second World War and in schools since as early as the 1960s.)

How poor were we? We qualified for government cheese and I remember getting presents given to us by the National Guard, spam in a can and powdered eggs and milk in a box…Cleveland 1962.
Being a Jehovah’s Witness growing up was not the easiest thing at Christmas time or year round. You see we did not celebrate Christmas and survived so I don’t know what the fuss is about in the news now?

But it was a great time of year for us because of the vacation from school and the family gets together with Uncle Norris and Uncle Amos playing the blues on Sivertone amp and homemade guitars. Even though we did not celebrate the holiday, we lived in the spirit of it! By sharing with family and friends.

The Best Gifts Ever

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By Sandy Graham

As the Editor-In-Chief and COO of Cashbox Canada, it was my idea to share some personal moments with the Cashbox team and you, our readers. I asked all of our contributing journalists to share their one favourite memory of Christmas, and as we are a music magazine, to name their most favourite Christmas song. So the December 23 issue of Cashbox is all about music and memories. From our desk to yours.

It is hard for me to name my one favourite memory of Christmas, so I will share one from my childhood, and one from my life as a Mum.

Rekindling the Christmas Spirit – Gillian FitzGibbon

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Reflecting on Christmas past in my life has taken me on a journey filled with warm childhood memories, and missing those family moments. There are plenty of happy memories of Christmas in my life, but there is one in particular that I reach out to in order to rekindle the magic of Christmas, which takes me back to when my son Nicholas was 6 years old. We had moved in to  a rural setting  the Spring of that year and it was our first Christmas, which would be Christmas of 1991.

As a single parent, working and managing life at home had enough of life’s challenges. It was difficult finding the Christmas spirit in the midst of bills and the loneliness of a new life in a rural setting, where I can say we knew at least two people.

The Camel

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By Lenny Stoute

My dad travelled a lot so I never did know for sure where the camel came from. He was totally unlike any toy I had ever owned or seen or even heard about. Because this camel had eyebrows. Yes. Eyebrows made of camel hair. In hindsight, this camel looked a lot like the comedian known as Borat.

And a tail also made of camel hair. He had weirdly jointed legs and kind of swayed back and forth as he rode on his wheeled base. His neck and head were hinged so they also bobbed when he moved. I tell ya kiddies this camel had the groovy moves and when he came rolling out from under the Christmas tree he had me in the palm of his hoof.

Over time the camel lost various body parts, which I always replaced as best I could. After the head came off for about the 20 hundredth time, it was replaced by a dizzying succession of heads including GI Joe, Godzilla, Barbie and a dragon-headed action figure from Indonesia. But guess what? Through all those years and identity changes, the tail remained stubbornly attached to the camel’s butt and for years remained, in my memory at least, as glossy and alien as Santa himself.

Warm jammies to all and to all a good life.

My favourite Christmas sing is Joy To The World. This world can never have too much joy.

My Memories of Christmas

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By Don Graham

My memories of Christmas are filled with family, love and music. Growing up in Montreal, a white Christmas was pretty much a lock. Montreal winters were snowy, cold and long. As kids we didn’t notice because we all enjoyed outdoor activities, tobogganing, playing hockey and pleasure skating. Pleasure skating was actually a great and affordable Friday night date for young people. You could pick up your favourite girl, take her to the local rink or pond and skate away the evening, ending it with a hot chocolate and a kiss, if you were lucky.

"The Little Drummer Boy"

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By Bill Delingat

The “rat a tat tat” stuck out in my mind and the story was so different from other Christmas carols. What got me was when he was summoned by the Magi to the nativity where, without a gift for the infant Jesus (as he was so poor) he played his drum for him with the Virgin Mary’s approval, remembering "I played my best for Him" and "He smiled at me". This got me hooked as a child as I related to the whole scene of the little boy trying to do his best with the limited things he had access to. In this case his drum.

"The Little Drummer Boy" (originally known as "Carol of the Drum") was written by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennecott Davis in 1941. It was first recorded in 1955 by the Von Trapp Family Singers (Sound of Music fame) and further popularized by a 1958 recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale. This version was re-released successfully for several years and the song has been recorded many times including Stevie Wonder - 1967, Jimi Hendrix - 1969 and the great duet of “Peace on Earth and Little Drummer Boy - 1977 by Bing Crosby with David Bowie.

Christmas Dreams Do Come True

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By Kathy Hahn

All my life, all I ever wanted was a dog. Unfortunately my older sister was severely allergic to dogs. One day after school, I passed by the local groomers on my way home. They had a new litter of party-coloured toy poodles in the front window. I noticed the runt;  the smallest dog I had ever seen. She was snow white, with black ears and a black mask around her eyes. I named her Bandit. She stole my heart. I stayed until the shop closed that night, and every night thereafter.

I told my parents about her. I explained poodles had fur very close to the texture and composition of humans and people with dog allergies couldn’t be allergic to a poodle. Maybe they could come down to the shop and meet her. They did, and once they even brought my sister along. The answer of course, was still no. While Bandit’s brothers and sisters were finding homes, my having a dog was still out of the question.

The day finally arrived when I was told, someone had bought her. Bandit was going to be given away as a ‘present’ to a ‘family who would love her very much.’ My only dog in the whole world, was sold – for money - to people I did not know. I would never see her again.

Christmas eve my parents took my brother, sister and I to the groomers for my last visit to say goodbye. Bandit did not know we would never see each other again. My parents took us out for dinner after. I could not eat. I cried myself to sleep that night, the longest night of my life on the worst Christmas eve in the world.

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