At Christmas time everyone went downtown to see the Christmas windows of the big stores. Before television or even in the early days of television, these windows were where children really developed their Christmas Wish Lists.
Yeah - that's how it was done in the "Old Days"!
Santa Claus was nowhere to be found until after the Santa Claus Parade - which was never held the day after Remembrance Day. The Santa Claus parade was in December.
When I was young, it was the Eaton's store that sponsored the Santa Claus Parade - and what a parade it was! I still can remember standing outside with my family in the cold weather, stamping my freezing feet and blowing on my hands through my hand made wool mittens ( usually two pairs doubled up on each hand)... waiting for that very last float of the parade.
You could hear Santa's Ho Ho Ho, long before you could see the float and so you strained your little body and craned your neck. You tried to squeeze between your bigger brothers so you could see further... and then, there he was! Santa Claus!
The very next weekend you were standing in a long line, on one of the top floors of the Eaton's store downtown, waiting to see Santa. First you walked through Santa's village, which was a large collection of Christmas scenes, each in their own case. Most were animated - all were awe-inspiring to a young child. You forgot you were in line as you moved along to the main event ( Santa) because you were so entertained by the scenes coming alive in the little wooden boxes all along the route.
And then you were there...
And it was HIM! You had seen him before - yes it was the very same Santa you witnessed riding into town behind his eight reindeer just the week before. You had memorized everything there was about him. His suit, his beard, even the shape of his nose - and you knew there sitting before you on the big chair waiting for you to walk up close - was the REAL Santa.
I have a picture of myself taken on the REAL SANTA'S knee. Here's my proof!
I must admit - I was terribly cute - wish I still had those little white boots - my walking doll would fit them perfectly!
Okay back to the story!
Then one evening in late November roughly 56 years later, you are sitting in your sun room, it's early evening, maybe a Sunday evening and you are watching a rather corny Christmas movie about a family lodge that needs to be saved in time for Christmas. The family members in the movie are working to restore this lodge so they can have a grand re-opening at Christmas time. If they can't get the lodge ready by Christmas, somehow all will be lost.
Christmas at the lodge has always been the special time for the lodge family as well as regular patrons to gather and share special traditions in this place they all love.
The family have been working hard, and one evening they take some time to sit and share their memories. They pull out a picture of two children sitting on Santa's knee - and all of a sudden the movie becomes utterly fascinating to me!
I pause the movie, start to whoop and holler, until my own family comes racing up from the basement, I am sure by now convinced I am dying or something.
I can't even speak - I am pointing to the screen with tears streaming down my face. My son Jonathan sees it immediately, and then so does Gary - and we all sit dumbfounded staring at the TV screen.
Do you see it?
IT'S THE REAL SANTA. The same Santa sitting in the same chair in the same room! The REAL SANTA!
I know this - I myself saw him arrive in town all those years ago, I sat on his knee, and here he is in a movie 56 years later -looking just as he had when I was little.
If I have a point to this story it's this...
I know that this story is something perhaps only I was lucky enough to experience - I know this because things like this happen to me more and more in my adult life... but I wish children of today could experience this feeling.
Santa is everywhere starting November 12th. In every mall, store, party, celebration, some hockey games, children's birthday parties... It's too much - is there any wonder left to it at all?
Maybe I'm just getting old - but more and more, I believe the simpler life was the better life.
And I do know that somehow those two children sitting on the real Santa's knee were doing so in 1957, not 2013 . Maybe they were in the same line waiting to see the real Santa the same day I was.
What are the odds of a picture from that era, taken in my home town, showing up on a movie on a television screen 56 years later, viewed by someone who was at that very location, who sat on that very same knee -
However you look at it - it's quite the story...