Gators Pub is the kind of place where customers become friends.
You can walk in the door and – like the affable “Norm” on the 1980s hit TV sitcom Cheers – everybody knows your name.
That’s how bartender Roberta Poulton came to know Greg and Marion Parkyn 11 years ago, when she first started slinging drinks at Gators, part of the Fraser Valley Inn in Abbotsford’s old downtown core.
They became friends who sometimes socialized outside of the pub. Roberta always thought the Parkyns were good people with kind hearts.
Two days before Christmas, the Parkyns stopped by Gators to pass on their season’s greetings. They talked about how excited they were to spend Christmas Day with their grandkids – a boy, age 4, and his sister, age 7.
A heap of gifts awaited the kids’ Christmas morning arrival.
Later that night, Roberta received a phone call from the Parkyns. Something horrible had happened.
The couple had returned to their McMillan area home at about 6 p.m., after spending the afternoon visiting friends and family, to discover their place had been ransacked.
Their Christmas tree was toppled over, and all the presents beneath it had been taken. The only things that remained were a pair of boys’ pajamas and a small stuffed animal.
Jewelry, cash and even Marion’s brand new running shoes had been taken. Some pillow cases were also missing, and these were assumed to have been used to cart away the goods.
Greg and Marion felt like Christmas had been taken away from them.
Roberta knew exactly how they felt. About 20 years ago the same thing happened to her when she lived in Alberta.
She had just finished wrapping all the gifts for her seven sisters, nieces, nephews and other family members, and returned home from an outing to find that every last present was gone.
As soon as she got off the phone with Greg and Marion, Roberta knew what she must do.
She told everyone in the pub what had happened, and urged them to help replace the kids’ toys. She texted and called everyone she knew, and her co-workers did the same. One of them posted the plight on Facebook.
The next morning, on her way to work, Roberta dropped by the Parkyns’ home.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll have Christmas for you,” she told them.
All that day at Gators, customers and friends dropped off new toys for the kids – Barbies and bead sets for the girl, and Hot Wheels sets and Play-Doh for the boy.
The gifts kept coming and coming.
“All right, everybody! Load up my truck!” Roberta declared at the end of her Christmas Eve shift.
Greg and Marion were flabbergasted when Roberta pulled up to their home. There were more than enough toys to replace what the Grinch had stolen, as well as $350 in cash.
The couple were amazed at what had been accomplished in just one day and ecstatic that their grandkids wouldn’t have to know that such nastiness existed in the world.
Mostly, they were thankful to have such amazing friends.