Back when I was a wee Willym – or actually Billy or if my mother was really ticked “Billyjohn” – the end of November marked a momentous occasion: Santa Claus came to town. The Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade was the big event that launched the Christmas season. After that Toyland was open, Santa was there, the Christmas windows were in full display and Santa had a radio programme on CFRB. At 5:55 every week night – he had weekends off to make the toys I guess – he and Punkinhead would tell us a story and if you were lucky read your letter on the air. As a small tyke I was infamous for going hysterical on the evening of December 24 when Santa said goodbye for another year. Even at 5 I hated adieus.
The Eaton’s Parade had started in 1905 and according to an absolutely fascinating – for me at least – section on the Ontario Archive website several of the early parades took two days to wend their way the 32 mile route from Newmarket to Union Station in Toronto – the route was later restricted to downtown Toronto. In those days the parades consisted of one horse-drawn float, a band and a few marchers. People came out from the farms that lined the mud road to greet Santa and no doubt would be running to their Eaton’s Christmas catalogue the minute they got back into the house.
And many years later we would do exactly the same thing – come home from the parade and open the Eaton’s Christmas Catalogue. But one item had already been ordered and received that had us all prepared for the Big Parade – the Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade Colouring Book. As I understand it the first one was published in 1951 and chances are I had it as a 4 year old, no doubt biting my tongue in earnest concentration as I tried to stay between the lines for the purple cows that were on in the Farmer’s dell.
Over the next few days I thought I’d flip through those pages and see how Santa was welcomed to Toronto* back in 1951.
*Eaton’s also had similar parades in Montreal and Winnipeg.
15 decembre – Santa Maria Crocifissa di Rosa