As Santa leaned over the little boy’s bed in the Hotel Dieu Hospital children’s ward on Dec. 18, 1965, his bushy white beard masked a steam of tears.

The tiny, frail patient, Dondy MacDonald, just two months short of his fourth birthday, was battling a rare form of acute leukemia.

Just minutes before, down the street and around the corner at the armoury, Santa had received a noisy welcome from 1,500 cheering children attending the annual Howard Smith Paper Mill Christmas party.

This was a far more somber visit. No cheering. No belting out “Here Comes Santa Clause”.

“It was hard,” an emotional Santa whispered to the nurses and Dr. Maurice Babineau, the pediatrician caring for Dondy, who had gathered in the room.

“It was heart ripping. It was a touching moment,” he said.

And what did Santa whisper in Dondy’s ear?

“I said a prayer (for him.”

“Illness doesn’t respect a season (Christmas); there is no ceasefire at Christmas,” said the doctor.

The little boy had become a special patient for the doctor and nurses since arriving at the hospital three weeks earlier. His story attracted national attention.

He lived in Massena with his parents, native Glengarrians, but was moved to the Cornwall hospital which was better equipped to treat him. To help cover medical bills, a Dollars for Dondy fundraiser had been launched in St. Lawrence County. The family’s health insurance did not cover the specialized treatment he needed.

On Feb. 1, Santa shed another tear, the day Dondy passed away.


Families would bundle up the kids and drive through Riverdale to admire the Christmas lights. … Watching feel-good old-time classics “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, the original version (1938) of “A Christmas Carol” on a 21-inch, black and white Philco TV. … When families gathered around the radio to her the Queen’s Christmas Day message on CKSF. Newspapers printed her message verbatim. … Standing room only crowds at midnight masses. … A Christmas meal that included dumplings made from scratch, none of this dumplings in a box stuff. … Neighbourhood outdoor rinks filled with kids on Christmas Day trying out their new skates, hockey sticks or modeling matching hockey sweaters and toques. … When ash trays and a carton of smokes were given as Christmas gifts at Christmas parties. … When the Standard-Freeholder printed the Christmas Day menu for inmates at Cornwall Jail and the Salvation Army band played for the inmates. … As a kid I remember walking to the HSPM main gate with my father to pick up the 14-pound turkey that was given to each employee at Christmas. This was when E. P. Taylor owned the company. He also owned the biggest turkey farms in the country. … When the public school system embraced Christmas and government buildings called the tree in the foyer a Christmas tree. They even put an angel on the top. … School Christmas concerts in the old CCVS auditorium. Janitor Alfie Tabram playing Santa. … The Simpson-Sears and Eaton’s mail order Christmas catalogues with one-third of their 600 pages devoted to toys. … Long line-ups at the Pitt Street and Montreal Road liquor stores on Dec. 24. The lines stretched out the store and down the street. This was when customers had to fill out a slip, hand it to the clerk who disappeared into the back room and returned with the bottle that was slipped into a brown bag. … .. Loud speakers outside downtown stores blasting out Christmas carols. … The Andy Williams, Lawrence Welk, Perry Como (one featured Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and seven of their children), and Bob Hope Christmas specials. Hope was at his best in the specials from Vietnam. In 1967 the curvaceous bombshell Raquel Welch, resplendent in white boots, sweater and mini skirt, was part of the tour of 21 bases. Talk about a morale booster. … The Amos and Andy Christmas show on radio. … The Lucky Strike “Your Hit Parade” Christmas Eve special. … Santa Claus reading letters, sent to the North Pole from Cornwall and area kids, on at 5 p.m. on CKSF and WMSA in Massena. … The Christmas Day family movie at the Capitol Theatre. There were four showings starting at 1 p.m. 

THIS MONTH 1965 – Service clubs pitched in to fill and deliver 265 Christmas baskets to needy Cornwall families. The baskets contained 10 pounds of potatoes, six pounds of carrots, a box of Cornflakes, a package of lard (for cooking), dozen oranges and a tin of chocolate. … The new $10 million No. 7 paper machine at Domtar’s Cornwall mill was undergoing tests. It would produce paper for IBM cards, milk cartons and cigarette packages. … Newly-elected Liberal MP Lucien Lamoureux was looking forward to being part of the government that said it was committed to eliminating poverty in Canada. (Sound familiar?) … Rookie Wayne Horne scored two goals as Cornwall Royals defeated Ottawa Furies 7-4 at the Ottawa Auditorium. Pete Prevost, two, Gary Leroux, George Desjardins and Bordie Harrington also scored. … An illegal booze -making operation (aka still) in an abandoned barn near Glen Robertson five miles west of the Quebec border was taken down by members of the RCMP and OPP. Two Montreal men were arrested. The operation was capable of producing 100 gallons of spirits a day. … A cash box in the office of the Atlantic Hotel in Alexandria was pried open and $2,000 dollars in small bills removed. The owner was in the habit of using the money to cash cheques on Friday nights. Police determined the theft took place between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. … Iconic beat cop Sgt. Davey McCracken died at age 72. 

TRIVIA ANSWER    Sally Struthers, who played cute-as-a-button Gloria in All in the Family, turned down an offer from Playboy to pose nude for $1 million.

TRIVIA      How many ghosts were in A Christmas Carol?

QUOTED – “What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is having to look for a job the next day.” – Phyllis Diller

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