As mentioned in previous year’s the Eaton’s parade was a Christmas highlight in Toronto, Winnpeg and Montreal. Winnipeg had their own stock of floats and costumes but the Monday after the Toronto parade (Sunday was a day of rest at Eaton’s) flatbed and freight cars were loaded and the entire parade was taken by rail to Montreal. After FLQ bomb threats in 1969 Eaton’s cancelled the Montreal parade citing security concerns. It was another 27 years before Santa would be seen riding down rue Sainte Catherine but in 1995 local business people revived the tradition. The parade is now in it’s twentieth consecutive year and as popular as ever.
Seven years before Lindbergh landed in Paris Eaton’s Santa Claus made the trip from the North Pole to Toronto’s Leaside Areodrome on Eglinton Avenue in the far north-west of the city. The air field had been used for fighter pilot training but by 1919 was serving more commercial purposes. That was also the year of the never to be repeated lions versus horses debacle. In future parades Santa would ride over rooftops but only in in a sleigh with eight tiny reindeer.
This year’s colouring book has brought out some tidbits from friends who recall those glorious parades of yore. Judy – who you may remember appeared in many of the parades – remembers having a tête-à-tête with Santa behind the scenes before he mounted his throne in Toyland. And Vicki tells me that her husband’s Great Uncle not only worked on the floats as a carpenter but one year was one of the two Santas in the parade.
Two Santas? Yes there were always two Santas – the one we saw cheerily waving at us and wishing us a Merry Christmas and another hidden in a car that followed behind with blacked out windows. I guess they had learned from Miracle on 34th Street to always have a jolly old man in reserve. I wonder just how they would have made the switch?
The moment we all had waited for – oh sure seeing Punkinhead, Cinderella and Mother Goose had been a pretty big deal but Santa! Now that was the real thing! That’s why we had lined up in the early hours of the morning to get a good curb seat and endured the cold, sometimes snow and once the rain. Christmas had now begun.
And it was off to Toyland – to the little railway that took you through a magic forest, the fish pond, a glimpse into Punkinhead’s den and finally snaking through the candy cane ropes to meet up with the big man himself. A few whispered words, an assurance that all would be well and a reminder to tune in to CFRB and it was over for another year. Time to head over to Diana Sweets for a hot chocolate and a sticky bun.
The Archives of Ontario have the 1953 Parade on video – just in case you want to see how you’re colouring scheme compared to the real one. I always thought the icy floats looked better crayoned pink or blue – even at 7 I had the soul of an artiste.
November 27 – 1895: At the Swedish–Norwegian Club in Paris, Alfred Nobel signs his last will and testament, setting aside his estate to establish the Nobel Prize.