An Old Time Christmas

Christopher bookTom Christopher, who lives in Butlerville, NL, is a lyricist. He collaborates with Heather Reilly, an illustrator who lives in Dildo, NL. Together they have produced a book, An Old Time Christmas, for which Tom wrote the lyrics, and Heather provided the illustrations.

Tom has been writing poetry and song lyrics for a decade. He began by writing poetry for his own enjoyment. Then, it was discovered and enjoyed by others.

He writes about real-life experiences because, he says, he wants to “touch base with the common person.” His lyrics revolve around such perennial topics as the fishery, military, family and relationships. He even addresses social issues, like drinking and driving.

A few years ago, Tom wrote a set of lyrics with a decidedly Christmas theme, “Santa Almost Missed Our Town.” His first book, with this song as its namesake, was originally one of the songs from a Christmas album by a local music group, DaNdA.

Tom’s latest book, An Old Time Christmas, was written as a poem after a taping for a Christmas special.

A father tells his son what he discovered one special night in Newfoundland back in the 1960s, when he stayed awake on Christmas Eve to learn the truth about Santa Claus.

The book is superbly illustrated by Heather Reilly, an author with a background as a music teacher.

The connection between the lyricist and the illustrator is, Tom explains, “a very happy coincidence.” Tom and his fiancee, Darlene Butler, first saw Heather at a craft fair and noticed her books. An enthusiastic, energetic and creative person, she has added immeasurably to the final product.

The cadence of Tom’s poem, along with Heather’s brilliant and colourful images of the holiday season and memories past, makes for a winning combination.

Tom is forever dreaming up ideas for new lyrics.

He says that those ideas “come from everywhere and everything. I could hear somebody say something, see a road sign. If one or two words stay with me, I will build around it. It’s similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle; the only difference is you are using words. They all have to go in a certain place and fit together right.”

Tom firmly believes that children help to keep the magic of Christmas alive. His latest book is dedicated to “the child inside us all. As we grow older, memories of Christmas time when we were children become nearer and dearer to us. Christmas keeps the children in us all alive.”

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An Unforgettable Rescue

Everett Moore and Beulah Morgan

Everett Moore and Beulah Morgan

A 95-year-old man sits on his sofa, looking at the woman to his left. His eyes well up and his bottom lip quivers.

“I’m not the hero in this story,” he says, his voice cracking.

He’s reliving a vivid memory from his past, one that happened more than six decades ago.

The woman, too, is deep in thought. Her face registers joy.

“But you are a hero, Mr. Moore,” she insists, turning to face him. “You saved my mother, Elsie Porter, from drowning.”

The silence is deafening, but for the sniffles.

Today, Everett Moore of Clarke’s Beach and Beulah Morgan of Conception Bay South share a special bond that will link them forever–a fateful day in February 1952, when Everett came to the rescue of Beulah’s mother.

Three Pentecostal preachers’ kids–Lewis, age six, David, four, and Beulah Pelley–were playing on Clarke’s Beach Pond.

Inside the house, Doris Pelley, the pastor’s wife; her sister, Elsie Porter; and their mother, Elizabeth Kennedy, were chatting.

Suddenly, the door burst open and in rushed one of the boys.

“Mom,” he shouted breathlessly to Doris, “Beulah’s gone down through the ice.” Beulah Pelley was almost two.

The three women ran outside. Without a thought about her personal safety, Elsie dashed the 20 feet across the ice and jumped into the frigid water.

Gathering her niece, Beulah, into her arms, Elsie threw her to Doris and their mother. One of them caught the young girl and carried her into the parsonage.

But Elsie Porter herself was now in trouble. She was unable to climb to safety and getting weaker from the cold water.

Not far away, Everett Moore owned one of the few telephones in town. His wife, Laura, got a desperate call from Doris Pelley, asking for help because Elsie Porter was in the water.

Laura shouted to her husband, the proprietor of Moore’s Grocery Store, across the road.

“I just went,” Everett says matter-of-factly. “There was no way Mrs. Porter could get out of the water.”

Adrenaline propelled him forward. He knew the ice was too weak to bear his weight. Grabbing a 15-foot ladder, he pushed it out on the ice ahead of him and gingerly walked toward the woman in distress.

Elsie was up to her neck in five feet of water, but her feet were on the bottom. She flailed her arms helplessly.

“I broke the ice with a stick,” Everett says. He then walked Elsie to shore.

Everett Moore is unassuming about his involvement in the near tragedy, convinced he only did what anybody would have done.

“The real heroine in this story is Elsie Porter,” he says modestly. “She was the one who got the little girl in. All I did was make a pathway for her to walk to shore. I was the right man at the right time.”

Another cascade of tears.

“Tears are in my eyes today because I’m a very emotional person,” he says.

Beulah Morgan, Elsie Porter’s daughter, dries her eyes and gazes at Everett.

“I could’ve lost Mom when I was 11 if Mr. Moore hadn’t been there,” she says.

Beulah Pelley, the little girl in the water, is now a grown woman. Doris Pelley died in 1982. Elsie Porter died in 2001 at age 88.

For years, Beulah Morgan had longed to meet the man who saved her mother’s life. In 2004, her dream became a reality, when she came face-to-face with Everett Moore. A dramatic conversation ensued.

“Mr. Moore,” Beulah said, “do you remember Pastor Ray and Doris Pelley, who lived in Clarke’s Beach some years ago?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he answered. “They had a little girl who fell through the ice.”

“Yes, I know the story,” Beulah said. “The lady in the water was my mother, Elsie Porter. And you rescued her.”