Growing up in the Horgan household, Christmas wasn’t the happiest time of year.
It was the holiday season when little John Horgan, then 18 months old, lost his dad to a brain aneurysm. Though it didn’t really affect baby Horgan, it affected his mom and three elder siblings.
“Christmas was a tough time because it reminded us of when he got sick, it was a sad time,” said Horgan, entering his first holiday season as B.C.’s premier, a role he assumed on June 29. “Our Christmas turkey was given to us by the church, we had neighbours helping with food, [and really] Christmas was not something in the early years that was special to me.”
It was a far cry from 2017, where the Christmas spirit is so strong in the Horgan family, he’s enacted a house rule, no Christmas decorations until Dec. 15.
“We have the Dec. 15 rule at our house largely for [my son Evan]. He’s the guy on the roof putting the lights up as of Dec. 1, so we had to curb his enthusiasm,” Horgan said. “But I think back to how sad Christmas was in my formative years, and how it became better with Evan, who was born on Dec. 31 because his birthday followed.”
However, there were some good memories, Horgan said, such as the first present of the year, a parcel sent in the mail from his aunt in Ontario.
And time changed things, eventually for the better.
By Grade 9 Horgan was failing multiple classes at Reynolds secondary and was showing up at downtown pool halls instead of class, he said. He had height and showed athletic promise, and that’s when he had his fateful moment with Reynolds basketball coach John Lusk. It was Lusk who pulled Horgan aside and helped put him back on track.
“He helped me realize I had more potential, and since then Reynolds has a special place in my memories,” Horgan said.
By Grade 12 he was the president of student council and captain of the basketball team. Being president of student council was about getting more student dances, and wasn’t the true start to his political career, he said, although he clearly knew how to turn on the charm.
“I got in because I got appealed to everyone,” Horgan recalled. “I liked Star Trek and could hang out with the nerds. I was in sports, I was involved in drama, I was making sets for school plays, and I could hang out with [the smokers].”
During those Reynolds years Christmas got better at home, Horgan said.
“My [siblings] and I used to go up to the BC Hydro right of way in Cobble Hill… We’d cut a handful of old trees from under the transmission lines, enough for all our different houses.
“Then we’d all descend on our home on Genevieve Road [a small Saanich street between Rogers and Lily streets in north Quadra], with all my [siblings’] kids,” Horgan recalled. “It was a fun time, we’d all go caroling to neighbours, door to door raising money for charity. We had depended on others in the community to help us out and were mindful of that, giving back.”