Mayor Richard Atwell’s memories of Christmas past

Recollections of ‘cabin fever’ during the blizzard of ‘96

Nine-year-old Richard Atwell poses with his prize Millennium Falcon Christmas present in 1979.

Nine-year-old Richard Atwell poses with his prize Millennium Falcon Christmas present in 1979.

Before Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell was a Royal Oak resident, he was a White Rock kid.

“That’s where I would have been when I got the Millenium Falcon as a Christmas present in 1979,” Atwell recalled.

The coveted Star Wars toy is sure to be under some trees once again even though it won’t be part of the star fleet in the newest Star Wars movie. That movie, Rogue One, is sure to be a big part of the 2016 holidays.

“I’m not sure if I’ll see it right away but yes, I’ll probably catch [it in theatre],” Atwell said.

As a child, Christmas traditions for Atwell included some kind of Lego under the tree, as well as some technical building pieces with gears to build working machines. That was long before Atwell’s family moved to Sunnymede when he was 17.

Atwell was actually born in England and grew up in White Rock until he was 10. His family then lived in Kamloops until they moved to Victoria and Saanich. His parents are in the same Gordon Head house they bought in 1991.

On the Atwell table at Christmas dinner you’ll always find Yorkshire pudding, and on the coffee table, a tin of Quality Street chocolates.

“I loved that, mom makes those every year, and we do the British tradition of pulling Christmas crackers, wearing the funny hats and all.”

“The Saanich Christmas I remember most will forever by the winter of 1996, when the blizzard blew snow to the top of our door,” Atwell recalled. “It was horrible snow, we weren’t quite trapped, but there weren’t many places to go. Everywhere was closed, so we ended up getting cabin fever.”

In November 1994, Atwell gave his dad a kitten for his birthday. A month later the cat, which was bigger but not fully grown, ‘went crazy for the Christmas tree,’ and climbed to the top.

Aside from his favourite holiday flick, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, a lot of family movies would make their way onto the television during the holidays.

During the Christmas of 1992, Atwell had earned some extra money at a co-op job and purchased his mom a Sony Handycam.

“We should have all those Christmases on videotape somewhere,” he said.

If you spot some Saanich Christmas carollers this year, you might spot Atwell among them. The mayor took part in some carolling last Christmas and enjoyed it enough that he’ll likely be out again this month.

“Christmastime is just a special time of the year, and I know that people get caught up in getting presents and such, but really, it’s more than that, and the last few years I’ve really come to love the spirit of it.”