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Many years ago when I was a University of Western Ontario student I enjoyed my spare time volunteering at the Protestant Orphans’ Home on Richmond Street in London.

I vividly remember the two storey gray building that was the temporary home for 50 young children. They were not legally orphans: they all had a parent or two who did not have the means to care for their children.

Miss Florence Green was the Matron of the Home along with a staff of women who didn’t have very much formal child care training. They did the best that they could for the children. There were separate dorms for boys and girls according to their age grouping.

As a rule I would drop over on the week-end to enjoy spirited games of touch football with the youngsters at the back of the home. No splash/swimming pool or playground equipment was available.

In the summer I would pack the car with happy kids and off we go to Story Book Gardens. An afternoon in the sun at Springbank Park was a rare treat to be able to enjoy the magical setting. The children delighted to be able to feed the deer in their enclosures. A picnic lunch followed by train rides for a nickle filled up the afternoons of adventure.

Bill Chipperfield, Aquatic Director of the Y, allowed me to bring along the children for a swim in the cold days of Winter at no cost. The name of the game was to try and drown me in the deep end.

One Christmas Day Miss Green called me at my home at seven a.m. to ask if I could help? One of the young girls, Linda, a 10 year old resident, of the home had been left behind. Mom/dad had not come to the home to drive her to their apartment. All the staff had gone home for Christmas and Miss Green had a train ticket to visit her relatives.

No problem. I found Linda sitting in the office all dressed up in her prettiest dress waiting for me. We made our way over to my uncle Harry’s home that was adorned with a beautiful Christmas decorations to enjoy a delicious lunch. I made a quick stop at my father’s, London Credit Jewelers, store to pick out a present for Linda.

I called Johnny Downs, proprietor of the Latin Quarter Restaurant to book a reservation for two for Christmas dinner. At the time the restaurant was the elite of dining in London. He reminded me that it was his busiest day of the year and he was completely booked. I told him of my dilemma and he graciously made a special table for us to dine.

Christmas dinner with ice cream cake for desert and a gold plated watch turned my “Orphan Annie” (Linda) into a ravishing smiling princess. Johnny the ultimate host declined to take my money.

We left the restaurant and drove to Victoria Park to take in the Christmas lights. We parked the car and walked around to admire the Nativity Scene, Frosty the Snowman and Santa Clause and his reindeer. The cold snowy star filled sky added to the sparkle of the Christmas lights.
It seemed at the time that there were just the two of us walking hand in hand around and around the park. Linda kept checking her brand new watch to remind me that we still had lots of time: she wasn’t supposed to be back at the orphanage until eight.

When I recall my many years of Christmas past my date with Linda stands out. Ah sweet memories are made of this. I have learned: It is not what you receive but rather what you give that makes us happy.

I always wonder what happened to Linda, the little girl, who lived at the Orphans’ home? Now, a grown women perhaps with children/grand children of her own.

Merry Christmas/Happy New Year from Len & Ella.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com