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Warm childhood memories of Christmas are rekindled by the 19th-century fireplace

Gerard Dalton, from left, fondly remembers his mother with an image carefully hanging their stockings as children on the mantle of the fire – just in time for Santa. His brother George, right, says the 19th-century fireplace has become a welcoming symbol of warmth and giving.
Gerard Dalton, left, fondly remembers his mother with an image carefully hanging their stockings as children on the mantle of the fire – just in time for Santa. His brother George, right, says the 19th-century fireplace has become a welcoming symbol of warmth and giving. - Desiree Anstey

“It will soon be 100 years since our family first sat around this fireplace”

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. -  Flames flicker in the pit of a towering early 19th-century slate fireplace that is the centerpiece of a sitting room dressed in holiday ornaments that smell of oranges, cinnamon, and pine.

Although there are no stockings carefully hung from its mantle, for George Dalton and his brother Gerard, it rekindles warm memories of living in the historic LeFurgey home, located at 205 Prince Street in Summerside, and waking up on Christmas morning to open presents as children.

“It’s really a flame of memories for us and we are very grateful as a family to have the continuum of the fireplace, because it will soon be 100 years since our family first sat around it."

- George Dalton

“When my dad moved into the beautiful gothic LeFurgey home in 1925 with his first wife, Mary Caroline Durant, and their five children, the fireplace was there. I believe it’s been around since 1866 and came from Britain,” said George.

“Mary became bed-ridden and died four years later. Then my dad remarried our mother, Helen Holland. We became nine siblings and were kept away from the fireplace that was located in the parlour of the home. Only on special occasions, such as Christmas, we ventured into that room,” he said.

“It’s really a flame of memories for us and we are very grateful as a family to have the continuum of the fireplace because it will soon be 100 years since our family first sat around it. We were a large and busy family. My dad was a prominent businessman, so it was a very special occasion for us all to be together.”

But when nothing was stirring, not even the mouse that popped out of their fruitcake one Christmas Eve, the fireplace became the central hub where everyone gathered for its welcoming warmth and symbolism of giving.

“I wanted a dog for so long as a child that I pretended Buttons, the family cat, was one. I would sleep with it in my bed until one day it got fleas and they were all over the bed covers,” said Gerard with a laugh.

“Then one Christmas my dad got me a puppy called Brian. I was sitting on the steps that lead to the basement while holding the little dog and singing Christmas carols. I started to cry because I was so happy, and my sister upstairs could hear this and came to see what the matter was,” he said with tears in his eyes.

Gerard and Dalton both acknowledged that their family helped spread this warmth over the cold shoulder of the season.

“In those days, you didn’t have the food banks, but fortunately some kind-hearted people took on that role. We would always have a meeting at our home with Lorne Driscoll before Christmas and identify families in need,” said George. “We would then delivered Christmas trees, along with hampers to them.”

As George placed another log onto its dying embers he motioned, “This is the ambiance of Christmas at its best.”

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