Decades-long Christmas tradition started in Minden
By Jenn Watt
Christmas cards are a lost art for most, but for a pair of childhood neighbours, it’s a 62-year-old tradition.
Arthur Clarke and David Harding have been sending the same card back and forth since they were 13. Now both 75, the former Toronto neighbours have used the annual practice to keep track of family events and milestones.
“It was one of those old fashioned cards where they folded it twice – folded it in half and folded it again, so there was lots of blank space inside,” says Clarke, who now lives in Bracebridge.
Clarke recalls that back in 1953, his mother bought him a box of cards that read: “A Bonnie Good Luck Christmas. I never make a practice of giving things away, but to a friend as fine as you here’s luck on Christmas day.” The card asks the receiver to send it back: “So, I’m sending you this good luck coin providing that you promise me to give it back next year.” There was a gold seal that looks like a coin inside.
Harding had recently moved from Toronto to Minden after his parents bought the Rockcliffe Hotel.
“Dad worked for Imperial Oil in Toronto and then he went up to Minden and bought the Rockcliffe Hotel and from there he opened up the bakery in town and then for years we owned the Pioneer Grill,” Harding says.
Of all the other children Clarke sent the card to, only Harding sent it back. Clarke returned the favour on odd years, Harding on even ones. Each year they noted the date, current location and family information.
“It’s really history in the making; it’s so unusual,” says Harding, who now lives in the small town of Sparta, Ont., near Lake Erie.
Harding grew up in Minden, attending school in the hamlet and high school in Haliburton until he got a job with the bank and started his career as a manager with Canada Trust. That job took him all over Ontario and his movements have been tracked in the Christmas card along the way.
He has fond memories of Minden and keeps a place near Irondale, where he visits with his brother Rick Harding. (Some may recall Rick Harding jumped from Minden’s Bobcaygeon Road bridge this summer for the 60th consecutive year. He now lives in Lindsay.)
“I enjoyed my childhood so much in Minden – swimming in the Gull River, diving for golf balls, going to Pike’s Peak on a Saturday morning, you know, the lookout – we called that Pike’s Peak,” he says.
“We used to have one afternoon just before school got out that all the school kids would leave and walk from the old schoolhouse at the north end of Minden down to Pike’s Peak and have a luncheon and frolic in the grass. It was a marvelous, beautiful childhood.”
The men both have adult children now and the hope is that the kids will eventually take over the tradition.
Asked if the “bonnie good luck” card has brought the men good fortune, both say they think so.
“My life has always been lucky,” says Harding. “My biggest concern in the morning is what I’m going to put on my corn flakes.”
Clarke is bit more circumspect: “We’re still both here.”