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Christmas 1922
By Christine Dickinson

In 1922, as he was laying the floor in his new house, 33 year old Geoff Capes was thinking about Christmas with his young family and a wide circle of friends - tentatively he anticipated a more secure and stable future, as he moved a load of bricks inside to dry them by the fire. He was prepared to work hard and he enjoyed the vibrant social life that this new community offered.

This was just the fourth Christmas since he had returned from the trenches in France. The intervening years had been difficult because finding work had not been easy. Finally he had been hired as a bookkeeper, and he and his wife Nell, and their two young daughters, Katherine and Phyllis, had moved to Merville. The previous July they had lost their home in a terrible bush fire, which had claimed homes and livelihoods. Geoff had re-established himself as the part owner of a building supply business in Courtenay and he was in the process of building a new home for Nell and his daughters, now aged nine and seven years, on Cumberland Road.

On Christmas morning, in the tiny cabin, which was their temporary shelter, the family began the day by opening gifts from each other - mostly useful items. Later they went to the home of their good friends Stella and Heber Cooke who were "giving a Christmas tree to the children." Several families were present, and they played games and nibbled at sweets before opening the small gifts on the tree. As evening approached the adults departed to attend one of the social highlights of the season - dinner at the Elk Hotel in Comox. Of the forty present, most of the men were attired in evening dress and the women in the sparkling and elegant fashions of the decade. There was noise, laughter, many toasts and clever speeches. After dinner they danced and played bridge. Geoff and Nell had a grand time and wearily made their way home at 2:30.

Katherine and Phyllis outside house, 1927.

Although the business had to be attended to, and there were bricks to be laid and concrete to be mixed for the hearth in the new house, the festivities of the season were by no means over. There was the public dance held by the Elks Lodge at the Gaiety Theatre. Again Geoff and Nell danced the night away and went home at 3:30. On the next two evenings they returned to the Elk Hotel, first for another lavish function held by the Musical and Bridge Club, and secondly for a private dance hosted by Ben Hughes and Captain and Mrs. Halley. At this latter event the Capes and their circle were still apparently in great spirits to the very end as they wound their way home in the early hours.

It is not surprising that the young couple spent a quiet New Year's Eve in their little cabin with friends. The New Year was full of promise, hard work and new challenges.

Christine Dickinson, Educator and Co-Author of Atlin -- The Story of British Columbia's Last Gold Rush, currently volunteers in the archives working on the indexing of Geoff Capes' diaries.