Ann Piper: Shared Christmas memories of long ago

Ann Piper was wrote for the Star/Journal from 1990 to 2004. She passed away Nov. 15, 2015

Ann Piper shown with an armload of ribbons for the North Thompson Fall Fair where she volunteered for many years in a number of capacities

Ann Piper shown with an armload of ribbons for the North Thompson Fall Fair where she volunteered for many years in a number of capacities

In 1990 Ann Piper, husband Don, and their youngest son, Don Jr., moved to Little Fort, from the Chilcotin.  With an extensive background in journalism, and at that time having been writing for over a decade for the Williams Lake Tribune,  Ann was soon working in Barriere at the Yellowhead Star, later to become the North Thompson Star/Journal.  As the editor of this newspaper, Ann regularly brought to its pages the issues, views, triumphs and failures of the communities within this region.  She advocated for what she believed in, was never afraid to roll up her sleeves and get involved, and could always be counted on to provide common sense to those who would listen. We would like to share with our readers a few excerpts from one of her columns, “Country Corner With Bea”.   The column proved to be a favourite for readers until Ann’s retirement in 2004.  Ann passed away on Nov. 15, 2015.

From Dec. 9, 1990

Comfy as an easy chair

“Isn’t she just amazing?” said The New Neighbour about a public personage on the shady side of the half century mark,  “Isn’t she gorgeous and slim?”

To which I said something pithy about the benefits science and technology offer the rich and famous…to which she gave me that you-are-so-jealous look.  She’s semi-right, of course, because who doesn’t regret what gravity and too much gravy do to our anatomy over time?

But then, as I was sorting out the books that form a large part of the annual Christmas loot for our grandchildren, I remembered something else.

I was blessed with two grandmas, both of whom wore grandma clothes and grandma shoes, and were built like…well, like grandmas, by my childish lights. Both had ample laps upon which to sit, great pillowy bosoms to lean on, warm, soft grandma arms to hug with.

One day, when I was five, I met a friend’s grandmother.  Poor thing, I remember thinking looking at that tiny, birdlike grandmother person, all got up in a suit and pillbox hat.  That must not be nice to sit on at all.

That child is probably a grandmother now, and genetics being what they are, she’s likely slim and stylish. I, on the other hand, offer our grandchildren another generation of comfy grandma-hood.

I can live with that.


From Dec. 18, 1995

When Santa came calling

You can’t set foot in town (or turn on the television) these days without confronting that old guy in the red suit…or at least one of his seemingly infinite incarnations.

It’s a wonder childhood trust lasts as long as it does, considering how much more exposure to Santa kids have today than they did two or three generations ago.

Used to be the old guy showed up once at the department store, once at the Christmas concert, and then delivered on time Christmas morning. Period.

Back in the late 60s and early 70s, we had a wandering rogue Santa Claus who appeared out of nowhere on those last pre-Christmas eveneings, barging into the farmhouse for some unscheduled one-on-one with children of a certain (jaded) age… and occasionally jigged somebody’s blushing mother on his knee into the bargain.

Bigger than your average Saint Nick and a trifle boisterous, this Santa had done his homework, knowing precisely who had been naughty and sometimes displaying an alarming grasp of the details of certain youngster’s misadventures.

Then off he’d go, ho-ho-hoing into the wintry night, leaving preteens with the whites of their eyes showing, older brothers and sisters with their eyes rolled back and heads wagging and, frequently, Mom and Dad considering a little seasonal fortification in light of his revelations.

Did he really keep the illusion alive? Maybe.  Certainly neither kids nor parents rushed to unmask the interloper…especially considering his entirely Santa-like insight into the younger set’s track record.


From Dec. 19, 1994

Home, for the holidays

If there is a day when the house should be crowded, Christmas Day is it.

Years ago, when we found ourselves far from our large and noisy extended family, Mother found a new way to fill the house when Christmas rolled around.

A nurse in a small-town hospital, she simply loaded up all the old fogeys, who frequented the wards in the depths of winter, dropped by the nurses’ residence for all the lonely single women, and hauled them all over for dinner.


World War I was reviewed in detail more than one Christmas Day at our house, most memorably by a booming Scot with snowy bird’s wing brows and a one-legged Russian with more mustache than tact. Both had canes and appeared ready to do violence until mother intervened,  They may have been fiery old geezers, but not so foolish as to mess with Mom.

One year a pair of young Australian nurses sat side-by-side on our couch amongst the old guys, and gave us a rousing rendition of “Waltzing Matilda,” then dissolved into tears of homesickness.

The house would become so warm we’d have to open doors and windows at intervals, to air the place out.  Mom drew the line at  alcohol consumption, and she could be starchier than any hospital uniform ever issued: nobody pushed his luck.

Somebody always played the piano; somebody always played Scrabble.  If we youngsters (there were always extras besides just us) got too wild we were sent outside to run laps around the house.  And we did.

Supper was certainly successful if all the men left the table, struggled back to the living room and went sound asleep before the dishes were done.

Then there was one more round of coffee, and groaned refusals of the last of the mincemeat pie, and Mom and Dad began the shuttle, returning our guests from whence they came.

The Scot and the Russian went in different carloads. And then, finally, there was no one left but us and we were glad, content to be just us again with Christmas safely behind us.


Rest in peace Ann, you will be missed.