Bob Cranston’s most treasured Christmas card doesn’t look terribly special on the outside.
“It says ‘guess who?’ on the front, and when you open it up, this big beard comes down and it’s Santa Claus,” the 70-year-old Sarnia man says with a chuckle.
“There’s scotch tape on it because it’s gotten pretty battered.”
That’s because the card, which he shares with lifelong friend Doug Widdup, 71, has been around for 56 years. The pair have been exchanging it back and forth every Christmas since they were 13.
“We did everything together,” Cranston recalls, pointing to a friendship that began in Kindergarten at Confederation Central School. Both men grew up on Kintail Street in Sarnia, and were inseparable.
“When we got to be in our early teens, we realized, one day, we’re likely going to go our separate ways after school, so we decided to send a card back in forth just to keep in touch with each other,” he said.
After high school, Widdup moved to the U.S. and lives there still.
Coincidentally, the pair also spent a year together while attending Western Michigan University.
Each year, one has written a little note inside the card and sent it to the other — jotting down milestone moments like when they got married, or when Cranston became a dad.
“I ended up moving back to Sarnia and he went to California,” said Cranston, noting they hadn’t seen each other in years, until he and his wife decided to visit last spring.
“That’s when my wife came up with the idea to take a picture of us with the card. He’s going to take it to the local paper there and have them write something up.”
This year, it’s Cranston’s turn to send the card, which he keeps in a special file folder.
“We are hoping, at some point, to see if we qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records,” he said. “I don’t know how many people have been exchanging the same card for 57 years.
“I said to him, ‘don’t die on me. I want to see how long we can keep this thing going.”