Santa Comes to Town

…. for the 110th year.

I wasn’t surprised to see that figure in the banner at the top of this year’s Toronto Santa Claus Parade website.  For several years I wrote about the Parade and traced some of its history from when, in 1905,  Santa Claus arrived at Union Station and rode with the Eaton family to father Timothy’s emporium.  For the next 77 years the Eaton Company proudly sponsored Santa’s arrival in Toronto until in 1982 the financially troubled company could no longer afford to justify or manage the expense.   At that point it looked like Santa’s only appearance in the city would be rather pathetic photo ops at local malls.

In 1913 eight reindeer were brought in from Labrador by boat and train  to “pull” Santa’s sleigh.  
They were so badly spooked by the crowds and the noise that they weren’t used in subsequent years.

However several people decided that something that was so much a tradition of Toronto life was not to be let go so easily.  Within days of the announcement from Eaton’s Ron Barbaro and George Cohon formed an not-for-profit organization to find sponsorship and financing for the parade.  They rounded up 20 companies willing to sponsor floats and film director Norman Jewison came on board and arranged for television rights to assist in covering parade costs.  The following year a troupe of sixty celebrity clowns joined the parade as anonymous donors to assist with financing and help warm up the crowds along the parade route.  This year that number had grown to 200 and the parade will be broadcast around the world.

For some reason, known only to the parade planners, in 1919 Santa arrived at Eaton’s
on a gigantic Silver Fish??? This shot is on Albert St behind the Old City Hall. archives
The Fish was to appear also in 1923 if the date on this photo is correct;  Santa had to clamber up two ladders
– no doubt cursing all the way – to reach the window into Toyland.  Being that Timothy Eaton was
tea-total it’s doubtful that there was a stiff drink waiting for him at the end of the climb.

There are several silent movies of those early parades on YouTube including a repeat of Santa on a Fish in 1929.  The title card tell us that it’s a sil’vry Arctic fish – which I guess explains it.  However by 1931 he was arriving in a more traditional manner and to the best of my knowledge in subsequent years he always arrived in a sleigh pulled by eight (papier-maché) prancing reindeer.

Happily the parade has continued  one of the great traditions of the old parade has disappeared:  the Santa Claus Parade Colouring Book*.   In previous years I have posted the first two from 1951 and 1952  and in looking over past entries realized I had started a series on the 1953 edition in 2012.  Somehow or other it got waylaid – life, work, laziness – and was never completed.  Well we should never “leave undone those things which we ought to have done” so I’ve decide to begin by reposting those first entries from 2012 and continue on thumbing through the memory pages in the next few days.

….   continued here.

*  The Santa Clause Parade website did provide a link to the replica of the 1952 colour book though the parade has changed mightily since there.

 November 20 – 1917: Ukraine is declared a republic.

Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

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