The following article by Charles Hartley originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 25 Dec 2013. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.
Raise your hand if you ever wrote a letter to Santa asking for Christmas gifts. I suspect most of us have our hands raised. Each year the post office receives thousands of these letters. Now, have you ever received a letter from Santa postmarked North Pole, Alaska?
Some thirty years ago we visited our daughter while she and her husband were stationed at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks. Along the highway from the base to Fairbanks is the small community of North Pole which is largely a tourist attraction. There you will find the Santa Claus House where you can have letters from Santa sent to those special children on your Christmas list.
The post office in that community also offers a North Pole postmark on your Christmas cards and other holiday mail.
If you are interested in either of these options for next year, additional information is available online by searching for "Santa Claus House, North Pole, Alaska" or "North Pole, Alaska Post Office."
Letters to Santa have been written since at least the 1870's. Thomas Nast was a famous caricaturist and editorial cartoonist for the Harper's Weekly, and in the December 1871 issue he drew an image of Santa reading these letters and stacking them in two stacks, the "naughty children" and "good children." Examine the image below to see which stack was highest.
At times newspapers would also publish children's Santa letters, and we have found a collection of them which were published in The Pioneer News in the early part of the twentieth century. Perhaps you will recognize a grandparent or great-grandparent in one of them.
Students of Mrs. Ida Mae Wise at Pitts Point in 1924 shared their Christmas wishes. Joe and Lillie Dawson's boys William and Marvin both wanted a horse and a train, and lots of fruit and candy. Perhaps with Mrs. Wise's encouragement, they both remembered to ask Santa to remember their brothers and sisters.
Bernie and Vernie Druin, twin sons of William and Kate Druin, both asked for a gun and rubber boots, and for nuts, fruits, and candies. Maybe they hoped to go hunting with their Dad. They signed themselves as "Daddy's little twins."
Their brother Luther Lee Druin asked for a fox horn, a shot gun, and interestingly a poodle dog. Sadly these boys' mother died two years later and is buried at Pitts Point.
Nine year old Glennie Berry, daughter of Earl and Fronie Berry, wanted a doll that says "mama" and goes to sleep. She also wanted a paint book, and some nuts, candy, oranges, bananas and fruit. In fact, most of these children asked for these kinds of things to eat. Today we take most fruits for granted, but it's not so long ago that having oranges and bananas to eat was a special treat.
It's easy to see that Alvin Viers' son and namesake was all boy. His wish list included a wagon, a shot gun, a pair of shoes, a pocket knife, a train, and a sack of marbles.
Another special gift treasured by many boys including Charles Shelton was a new bicycle. Charles also wanted a rifle and a train. His little brother, Joseph Earl Shelton who was six years old, wanted a teddy bear and a sled. Their parents were Joe and Maud Shelton.
Lee and Donie Dawson's children got in their requests too. Raymond wanted a wagon, a bow wow dog, a train and track, and "a lot of good things to eat." His sister Virginia wanted a box of handkerchiefs, a doll, a rubber ball, and a paint book, a story book, and paints which unsurprisingly is just about what her sister Eviline wanted as well.
Thelma Atcher, John and Mary's daughter, asked for a box of handkerchiefs and some paint and story books, as well as the usual fruits and nuts. And like most of the others she was quick to remember to ask Santa not to forget "mother, father, sisters, schoolmates and my teacher, Mrs. Ida Mae Wise. I wonder how well Santa gifted Mrs. Wise.
In other parts of the county we find similar wishes.
Little Albert Shepherd, son of Charlie and Katie, wanted a little auto, wagon, gun and lots of fire crackers.
Nine year old Robert Sharp, son of R. P. and Maggie Sharp, wanted a pony, saddle, and a bunch of fire crackers.
Owen and Marie Shepherd's daughter Letta wrote asking for a new dress and a wrist watch. Her sister Hazel wanted a wagon and a doll. Their sister Elizabeth wanted a doll and dishes, and Hetty Shepherd wanted a new hat, a red sweater, and a gold wrist watch.
Henry Hardaway had an interesting list. He began by saying, "I go to school every day and try mighty hard to be a good boy." Then he asked for a pair of boots, an automobile, an old maid game, a train, two books, an Uncle Wiggily board game, and some milk chocolates, and Roman candles.
As a side note, the Uncle Wiggily "racing" board game was based on a character in a series of children's books by American writer Howard Roger Garis. It was first introduced by the Milton Bradley Company in 1916.
And James and Hattie Quick's children got in their requests too. Richard and his brother Donald both wanted a sleigh and wagon. Donald was quick to point out that he could use the wagon to haul wood. Their sister Georgia wanted a nice pair of gloves. She concluded her letter by asking Santa, "Please don't forget the poor people."
Today our children's letters to Santa are apt to include mostly electronic games and gadgets, but hopefully they still include the occasional wagon, train set, doll, and maybe even something good to eat. And maybe they (and we) will remember to not forget others less fortunate.
May your Christmas be filled with peace and joy, and something good to eat.
Copyright 2013 by Charles Hartley, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.