Saturday, November 24, 2012

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town - 1953

 I'm not sure why I thought they were holding the annual Santa Claus Parade in Toronto early these days but the date in mid-November struck me as strange until I read a posting on JB's Warehouse & Curio Emporium. A right click on the advertisement for the 1918 edition of the parade will take you to his Notes on a parade that came right on the heels of the Armistice celebrations the week before. Santa was particularly welcome that year - but not as welcome as the boys who returned home in the weeks that followed.

So once again last weekend (November 18) as he has for the past 108 years, Santa made his way through the streets of Toronto.  His route took him along a familiar path - though he no longer stops at his old home at Eaton's - lined with cheering children and a good many nostalgic adults.   And many of the old favourites that most of us remember from our childhood were there but this year was not time-warp parade - there was an APP to follow Santa's progress, a Santa Cam that took pictures of the kids following the Big Guy's float and posted them on a website for download and Celebrity Clowns carried giant frames and invited kids to get behind the frame with them to snap photos with their smart phones or cameras.

Mind you we had technology in 1953 that was nothing to sneer at:  CFRB had daily dinner time radio broadcasts leading up to the parade, CBC televised it locally (okay so these days its broadcast worldwide) and we had the annual colouring book that any true aficionado had ordered, along with a new box of crayolas, weeks before from Eaton's.

So in the spirit of 1953 here's two links (Part I Part II) to a film made of that transmission (it was distributed to schools in the more remote areas of the country so children everywhere could welcome Santa to town.)  A bonus - for me at least - is one of those voices that I grew up with - Byng Whittaker reading 'Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Whittaker was the host of The Small Types Club,  a lunch hour children's program ( we all went home for lunch in those days) - introduced by The Teddy Bears' Picnic he'd read us stories as we munched our egg-salad sandwiches and slurped our tomato soup.  And when Byng said, “Ssssssscoot! Out to play, back into bed, off to school or whatever mother tells you,” we know it’s time to go.

And of course there was that colouring book.  I'm pretty certain I had mine and no doubt used a fine design sense to stay between the lines and give vibrant colour to the floats, clowns and bands.   |'m not sure if I would have mutilated the book by cutting out the Punkinhead puppet - after all I had a Punkinhead doll and a Punkinhead puppet - yes even then parents gave into to advertising pressure.

Over the next few days I'll be flipping through the pages of that 1953 colouring book - secretly wishing I had my box of crayolas to fill in the white with all the colours that I imagine delighted me when I finally had the chance to see them on the big parade day.

In previous years I've thumbed through the pages of the 1951 and 1952 colouring books - all of which were at one time available on the Archives of Ontario website for downloading and colouring.  I say "at one time" because it appears they have been removed along with much of the Eaton's Christmas memorabilia.

24 November - 1978:  Laurent Beaulieu came over for a drink, 34 years later he's still here!

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Debra She Who Seeks said...

I like your notation of "today in history" -- Happy Anniversary!

I miss Eatons. Timothy E was a union-busting bastard, but I still miss the stores and catalogues.

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David said...

Bonne anniversaire! You remind me of when we took up the option of civil partnership as soon as it came in here, and, proudly telling the celebrant we'd been together nearly twenty years were told that we were mere babies compared to most of the senior partnerships being celebrated...34 years is quite something.

Anonymous said...

Everywhere that I've read about Byng Whittaker's "scoot", I think they have it slightly out of order.

My recollection is that he would say something like, "... back to school, outside to play, off to bed for a nap, or whatever your mother tells you to do, away you go. Sssssscoot!" - with scoot being the final word.

- Russ Strathdee