Echoing the glory of Christmas morning, children at Okanagan Landing Elementary were overjoyed with a giant surprise recently.
Dressed in their pyjamas, Melissa Hayhurst’s Kindergarten class shuffled to the school library where they were passed special tickets to board a life-sized Polar Express train.
Entering the caboose, each of the children took a seat in one of the 24 little chairs set up inside. Treated with hot chocolate, they were then told the story of The Polar Express by Mrs. Hayhurst.
“I’ve been doing it for four years,” said Hayhurst, who used to construct a giant train out of paper with her father. But after her father passed away two years ago, the teacher wanted to make this tradition a little more special. Therefore she asked her uncle and his Scavenger Car Club friends if they would help — in memory of her dad.
Andy Maksymchuk, Doug Hayhurst, Tim Maksymchuk, John Wolfe and Ray Dase all pitched in to bring the train to life.
“We were approached, we had nothing to do, we’re retired for years now, and were asked, ‘would you take on a Polar Express,’” said Doug Hayhurst, Melissa’s uncle. “I looked at Andy and he looked at me, ‘I don’t even know what that is.’
“It turns out to be a train heading for the North Pole to see Santa Claus,” said Hayhurst, known as a handyman for his unique woodwork.
So the retired gentlemen got to work and enjoyed the chance to create something special for the children.
“It started with a lot of imagination and approximately three weeks of work in a heated shop and this is the result,” said Hayhurst, dressed for the occasion as the fireman, complete with grease smudges on his face, while Maksymchuk wore overalls and an engineer’s hat.
While the Kindergarten class was the first to use the Polar Express, other classes got the chance to hop aboard as well. It will also be stored at the school and used year after year.
The project was also another chance for some members of the Scavengers Car Club to come together. The club is celebrating its 60th anniversary next year.
“We drifted apart over our working years, everybody either got married or left town,” said Maksymchuk. “And now we’re still coming back into town for retirement.”
The members reunite socially two to three times a month.
“It’s quite remarkable actually,” said Hayhurst.