Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

Christmas memories from 60 years ago

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In 1955 a young couple starting out in life together needed to have a place to live, a job and transportation. My parents began their married life in a one-bedroom apartment at 131 West 12th Avenue in Vancouver, in a three-storey house that is still standing.

1955 Jack Williams Apartment West 12th Ave

Jack and Susie Williams with their first their first Christmas tree 60 years ago. They couldn’t take selfies back then! Photos courtesy of Loretta Houben

They had the front apartment on the second floor and shared a bathroom with three people. The rent was $45 per month.

Susan Williams Christmas 1955My mom, Susie, grew up on a farm in Oregon so her move to the big city of 80,000 people in the Lower Mainland was a shock to the system, especially living on such a busy thoroughfare!

She commuted by bus to her job at Scotia Bank at the corner of Commercial and Broadway. My dad, Jack, drove the car to his job at the Douglass Paint Company on Granville Street.

That first Christmas was a cold one with snow. Jack and Susie visited the Woodward’s department store on Hastings Street, admiring the beautiful Christmas display windows.

They shopped at Woolworth’s across from Millar and Coe, also on Hastings, for their decorations, including the new bubble lights.

They bought a small Christmas tree for $1.25 from a tree lot on Commercial Street and set it up in their bedroom, as they had no living room. They bought modest small gifts for each other, and spent Christmas at Susie’s parent’s home in Oregon, driving down the one-lane highway to the USA.

They rarely ate out, and didn’t go on a cruise until their 40th anniversary in 1995. They never flew to Europe or Disneyland.

Between them, Jack and Susie earned enough to pay for food and rent. They also saved up for their first home, which they managed to buy in 1956—two lots at 4683 Union Street in Burnaby for the vast sum of $6,350. In 1959 they upgraded, for $9,000, to a two-bedroom house at Tyne and Euclid in Vancouver, where they lived until 1963.

With their growing family of daughters, they purchased a brand-new home for $14,500 at 3382 Monmouth Avenue, where they lived for 35 years.

What do you think? Would today’s young couples be able to purchase a single detached home with a yard after saving for one year like young people 60 years ago? Do you think times have improved since 1955?

Any way you look at it, I think my parents did a fantastic job of “pinching pennies” and making their married life work in the growing metropolis of Vancouver. In September 2015 they celebrated their 60th anniversary.

Loretta Houben is a long-time resident of Renfrew-Collingwood. She coordinators the RCC News’ Seniors Connection page.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Lunar New Year, Ramadan, Winter Solstice or other festivals of light, do you have a favourite holiday memory to share? We’d love to hear it! Email

Copyright (c) 2015 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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