It has been a regular site for decades around the holidays off Comox Road at the entrance to the Town of Comox – a display of wooden Victorian characters celebrating the season.
Recently, due to their deteriorating condition, the characters were replaced with a ‘Happy Holidays’ sign – something which caught the attention of Highland Secondary School teacher Charlotte Hood-Tanner.
“They were there forever – for 25 years I’ve lived in this Valley – and one Christmas they quietly moved and we got Happy Holidays sign which was fine, it was still lovely,” explained the grade 8 to 12 teacher.
After making a connection with a parent at the school who is Town employee, the duo worked together to bring the characters out of storage and make a project for Hood-Tanner’s grade nine and 10 students.
“I am trying to quietly create this little initiative that I call Create Communities, and it’s about creating things but also being able to share them with the community because not everything has to be shared with ourselves,” she explained.
The project involved bringing the characters back to life – creating new ones based on the current theme but adding a bit of a contemporary look – thanks to her students.
“We just decided that we wanted to keep true to the Victorian theme, but there’s students who thought it would be nice to have a more inclusionary, subtle overtone to the collection.”
She noted the while the figures are something for the entire community to enjoy, it also allows the students to participate in an act of selflessness.
“This is like a legacy project. It’s fun to do with my nines and 10s because they’re often been the group that doesn’t have ‘a something.’ Our seniors often get involved in different things within the community, and our eights are pretty well taken care of, but our nines and 10s sort of just find their own way. I thought it would be nice to offer them some sort of a leadership exercise to help them come of age and become great leaders in 11 and 12 so it seemed to be a great group to do that.”
Grade 10 student Brynn Vandervaace said she recalled seeing the figures at the top of Comox hill and when Hood-Tanner brought the idea of restoring and recreating the figures, “everyone agreed it was a good idea.”
She noted students began working on the project around mid-May. Templates were created and students took the same premise of the original figures and added a few personal details.
“They have a hat, gloves. We just made them different colours, we made them more vibrant. Out guy (Wonka) was pale, pale white and he looked like snow … we gave him a tan. It’s giving back to the community, and we had a ton of fun making them.”
The updated characters are set for display on Friday, Nov. 29.