Saturday, November 22, 2014

Santa Claus Comes to Town 1953 - III

Every year there were surprises - new floats, new clowns (though the handwalkers were always my favourtes - how did they do it all that way?) but there were certain givens. I mean you just knew that Cinderella would be in the parade; last year she was in her pumpkin coach so there was a bit of a surprise this year she arrived perched on her slipper - and this was long before Priscilla Queen of the Desert!

From that one wagon with Santa and all the little Eatons in 1905 the parade has expanded to over 25 animated floats.  That handful of Eaton's employees (proudly declaring themselves Eatonians) in those first years has grown to a total of 2000 marchers - all volunteers.  Many are children from Toronto schools who don't seem to mind the early morning start or, in some years, the cold Canadian weather.  And the parade route has gradually expanded and now is over 6 kilometers long they have a bit of a way to go before they match that 48 kilometer, two day march from Newmarket to Union Station in the early 1900s.

Horse or man power were the main methods of propelling the floats through the city streets in those early years - it must have appeared a trifle strange to have the eight reindeer pulled along by a team of horses but then suspension of disbelief is always important at Christmas.  In 1919 the handlers for the team pulling Santa's float were dressed as lions - unfortunately this spooked the horses and they had to jettison the elaborate costumes.

When I was a young 'un the floats were pulled by bright red tractors proudly bearing the name of Massey Ferguson - the premiere maker of farm equipment in Canada.  Today the website proclaims that KIA is the official vehicle of the parade and some very sleek mini-SUVs pull the floats. 

Though traditionally the floats featured nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters any theme from childhood was fair game for the creative design teams that worked on the parade.  Many of today's floats have a more commercial aspect and may feature Barbie, Ronald McDonald and even Swarovski crystal.

And turning the pages leads us to the next colourful floats ....

November 22 - 1935:  The China Clipper, the first plane to offer commercial transpacific air service, takes off from Alameda, California, for its first commercial flight. It reaches its destination, Manila, a week later.

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