Santa and Punkinhead


Your Eaton's Christmas Memories

Thank You for Sharing Them

These memories have been sent to us via the response box on the home page of the Eaton's exhibit. We hope they touch you as they have us.

To go to Your Eaton's Christmas Memories, Part 2, click here.



"As a child growing up in the 1940's in Toronto, I have very vivid memories of the Eaton's Santa Claus Parades. Standing on windy street corners for what seemed like an eternity, wrapped in a warm snowsuit with a blanket about my shoulders, I always waited in great anticipation for the parade to begin.

I loved the marching bands and the floats, which to my young eyes were so magical. Every Christmas season, my family always made a special trip from North Toronto to Eaton's downtown store to see the Christmas windows.

Photo: 1953 Eaton's Santa Claus Parade - Marching Band


1953 Eaton's Santa Claus Parade
T. Eaton Co. fonds
Reference Code: F 229-400-0-29
Archives of Ontario

Photo: Santa's Toyland window display (detail), 1953

Santa's Toyland window display (detail), 1953
T. Eaton Co. fonds
Reference Code: F 229-308-0-703
Archives of Ontario

Of course, there was intense rivalry between Eaton's and Simpson's to create the most exciting windows but as a child, I was not aware of this rivalry and simply savoured the various intricate scenes with all the moving figures bustling about.

For me, the parade and the windows were truly magical experiences. Ones that are so hard to explain to children in this very wired world. I am glad that I had the privilege of being from that earlier pre-television generation. Perhaps magic was easier to experience then."

Nancy Mohan,
Kingston, Ontario

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"I hadn't thought about many of these memories for years, and yet scrolling through your website, they are all back, crystal clear.

The Santa Claus Parade was a highlight for me. My parents took my two brothers and I every year even though I don't think it was much fun for either of them. It was always cold and so crowded. I'm sure we had to park a long way away, so getting all three of us to "just the right spot" in all our winter clothes must have been a real struggle. There were no fancy strollers or backpack carriers in the mid-fifties. Even when we did have a great spot along the route to watch from, it was so hard to stand and wait, holding your spot for what seemed like hours, only to be nudged out of it by someone bigger and pushier at the last minute. I know my father found that part very stressful.

We would wait and wait, with feet feeling like two blocks of ice, until finally we would hear the clip-clop of the huge police horses - they always lead the parade - and next, the bagpipes. Then we could see them - the enormous horses walking so proudly. Even they were excited and some could hardly be kept from prancing. Right behind them came the pipers with their kilts swinging as the strode down the road, their big bear skin hats making them seem larger than life. To this day, whenever I hear the bagpipes I get this vision of big strong pipers striding along, determined and proud, decked out in all their regalia. Who would dare get in their way?

Photo: 1953 Eaton's Santa Claus Parade - Marching Band

1953 Eaton's Santa Claus ParadeParade
T. Eaton Co. fonds
Reference Code: F 229-400-0-29
Archives of Ontario

Photo: Santa's Toyland Window Display, 1953

Santa's Toyland window display (detail), 1953
T. Eaton Co. fonds
Reference Code: F 229-308-0-719
Archives of Ontario

The Santa Claus Parade was the start of the Christmas season in our family. We always made one trip downtown with our mother to see the Christmas windows and to visit Santa. This was another big adventure because it meant a trip on the subway. I'm sure this is how I learned the order of the stations so thoroughly that I can recite them to anyone, anytime in spite of the fact that I left Toronto nearly 20 years ago.

We did visit Toyland, I'm sure, but the highlight for me was watching the animated windows along Queen street and lunch in the Eaton's cafeteria with lemon pie for dessert! And we definitely did our share of leafing through the catalogue. It made it so hard to choose just one thing to ask Santa for .

Thanks so much for bringing these memories front and centre again!""

Susan Galimberti,
Regina, Saskatchewan

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"This is one of the most beautiful, memory provoking displays I have seen in many years. It makes me realize how far we have come from the moral standards that were prevalent back then. It was a much warmer time and a much safer time for all to enjoy.

My fondest memory of Christmas past is sitting on the curb on University Avenue in the cold while the snow tumbled down around us waiting impatiently for the parade to begin. The excitement generated by all the onlookers sent tingles of joy everywhere. When the parade was finished you couldn't go home without first stopping at Eaton's and seeing (with nose pressed to the window) all the toys and games that we could ask Santa for when we had the opportunity to be important and sit on his knee."

Photo: 1953 Eaton's Santa Claus Parade - Santa Clause Float

1953 Eaton's Santa Claus ParadeParade
T. Eaton Co. fonds
Reference Code: F 229-400-0-29
Archives of Ontario

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"When I was kid growing up in Weston in the early 70s I didn't realize how neat the Santa Claus parade really was until one weekend my chums and I were exploring around the huge Eaton's warehouse and distribution centre at Sheppard Ave. and Hwy 400.

We thought there was no one around and we were knocking on a number of shipping/receiving doors until suddenly one of them opened. We thought we were in for it then! The man who came to the door asked what we wanted and when explained what we were up to he asked if we wanted to come in a see something really neat!

As only kids are want to do we threw all caution to the wind and followed him inside. Inside, in a corner of the enormous warehouse, were a number of the floats being readied for the parade. We were given a tour, got to see some floats in various stages of completion, the under carriage and the tractors used to power the floats. Well you can imagine how cool this was to several young boys bored from a day of uneventful exploring! ring!

Photo: 1953 Eaton's Santa Claus Parade - Pumpkin Coach

1953 Eaton's Santa Claus Parade
T. Eaton Co. fonds
Reference Code: F 229-400-0-29
Archives of Ontario

I can still remember to this day how struck I was with the size of the floats, the creativity and ingenuity of the construction and enormous size of the warehouse. Most of all I remember the considerate nature of the fellow who showed us in knowing that we would really get a kick out of seeing what was inside - he was obviously a kid at heart as were many of the folks who contributed to the annual event."

Fausto Natarelli
Centre for Leadership

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"I am 50+ years old now, but Eaton's meant a lot to me growing up, I had my own Punkinhead Doll which I wish that my Granddaughters could have as he was so unique. The Santa Clause Parade I watched every year on Television (after we got a television). I saw my first live Parade in 1962. My cousin who lived in Toronto, invited my Brother, Sister and I to come and visit her and to go to the Santa Clause Parade. It was great and afterwards, we got to go and view the Windows of Eaton's store and then visit Eaton's Toyland and Santa. These memories have stayed with me throughout the years and when I saw the Interview on BTV, I just had to visit this website and look at memories."

Thank you.
Nancy Stinsontinson
Haliburton, Ontario

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"I did not realize it as a child in the late 40's, but my family did not have much money. My Christmas memories are of my mother, the feel and smell of oranges and nuts and Eaton's Christmas windows. Each year my mother would bring my sisters and I on the Yonge street car to see the windows. She was an Irish Immigrant whose childhood was spent drawing water from a well on the farm and walking miles to learn from a schoolmaster who liberally applied the switch. Her own excitement and appreciation of the Eaton's mechanical Christmas scenes joined with ours to create a day filled with magical delight for all of us. There was only one Santa Claus and he was at Eaton's. From windows which filled our heads with visions of elves in Santa's workshop, toy trains and figures skating, we sought him out to tell him what we wanted more than anything else in the world. It only cost a street car fare, and each year the windows were better than the last.

This exhibit has brought together a wonderful bit of nostalgic memorabilia rich with an important part of the cultural and social history of Toronto."

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"I was born in 1951 somewhat after Punkinhead was created. My fondest memory, at a real young age, was of a Punkinhead mat that we had. It was roughly (if my guestimate at such a young age is correct), 2-1/2 feet wide and 4 feet long. It was light sky blue with a large head of Punkinhead in the middle. Somewhere along the line my parents said that we wore the mat out and they threw it away. Now, I sorely wish that I still had that mat. It is the only thing that I remember of Punkinhead, and every time I hear his name, I think of that mat. Thank you for providing some of the information about him on this site."

Eric Barker,
Brampton, Ontario

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"This site certainly brought back some amazing memories. The store windows at Christmas, the special trips made as a family to go and see them. Toyland was a highlight that was looked forward to and of course the Santa Claus Parade. As a child I really loved Punkinhead. It would be nice to have him still around. My heart warms and swells just thinking those precious times."

M. Cameron,
St. St. Catharines, Ontario

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"Loved the pictures and the clips. The site is great. My Grandmother and Grandfather met in 1927 while working for Eaton's and my Great Grandfather Francis Grant was a Santa with Eaton's for years even after he retired. I have a picture of him all dressed as Santa with the Eaton's cardboard holder.

Eaton's was always a big part of our lives and Christmas at Eaton's was the best. Not a year went by that my grandmother didn't take us down to see the Christmas windows then have lunch in the lower level of Eaton's. Christmas was a lot of fun at Eaton's. Thanks for bringing back all the memories."

John Walsh

Photo: 1953 Eaton's Santa Claus Parade - Santa Claus Float

1953 Eaton's Santa Claus Parade
T. Eaton Co. fonds
Reference Code: F 229-400-0-29
Archives of Ontario

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"This was a special day for me and I can still remember getting up early and travelling to Whitby to catch the bus to the big city. The parade was always wonderful. Then, we would go to Eaton's to shop, stand in long lines to see Santa Claus and go on the rides. The decorations were wonderful. I remember the year Punkinhead was introduced. I still have towels with him on them in my own archives. I also remember a ride through Winter Wonderland that was magical and wonderful to me. Hope you enjoy my memories of Eaton's past."

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"What a wonderful exhibit! I still have my old Punkinhead, a Merry thought bear that has been restored. My mother cannot remember which Christmas that Santa brought it to me. My grandfather worked at Eaton's and all the Christmas shopping had been done that year. But I was so excited and talking about having my own Punkinhead that my mother made a special trip down to Eaton's to purchase it just a few days before Christmas. Thanks for the memories."

Susan Glanfield-Goodwin

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"My family was an "Eaton's family" (my parents met there, and relatives on both sides made their careers with Eaton's) so the store always seemed a part of our lives. Our Christmas always included the parade, the windows (which I continued to enjoy into adulthood), a visit to Toyland and getting a photo taken of my sister and me with Santa. My family had very little money, so this free entertainment was quite a thrill.

I can relive Toyland in my mind - the crowds, the cacophony, the heat (with those winter coats on!) and the towering stacks of amazing toys on tables and shelves covering half a floor. I would wander in a daze, seeing for real the toys that I had been poring over for weeks in the Eaton's Christmas catalogue. With a kid's unconscious understanding of our family's lack of resources, I was able to keep my wish list down to a couple of items, but how I loved to look, touch, imagine. And my parents managed each year to come up with the one most wanted! thing - the epitome being about 1954 in a Tiny Tears doll that I first fell in love with in Eaton's catalogue and at Toyland. She was my companion for years!

In spite of what I now recognize as the commercialism underlying all of these events, there was something about it all that did touch the wonder. I think of that, and miss it, each Christmas now when I pass by Queen & Yonge."

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"This is fantastic -- I always went to the parade in knee high snow, then to Eaton's for the Santa picture. Every year I got a new Punkinhead -- as I don't have them now I have purchased the one that came out 10 yrs. ago. I still have a china bowl with Punkinhead's picture in it.

Nothing can compare to these memories. My cousin was on your cover - she was 2 yrs old approx."

Vicki Hoffman
Downsview

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Photo: Santa's Toyland, 1953

Santa's Toyland, 1953
T. Eaton Co. fonds
Reference Code: F 229-308-0-703 #47829-7
Archives of Ontario

"I am 67 years old and still remember the times my father took us kids to Eaton's Toyland. Up the escalators we would go. I'm not sure but I think it was on the fourth floor. I remember the train that would go around behind a mountain and after the ride you would get a gift. I also remember the little fellow that performed tricks for the kids. One thing I remember was this little mouse that ran over his hands. I also remember the electric trains on the counter. Loving memories I carry through the years."

Thanks to Dad and Eatons.
Sunny Sunny

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"I remember making the trip from Markham (a long way in 50's & 60's) with my Mom & Dad and 2 sisters to Eaton's to see the wonderful windows and to visit Santa, making the mysterious journey through the tunnel to Eaton's Annex and thoroughly enjoying a waffle with ice cream. We didn't make the trip every year, but sometimes we included the parade which was truly magical. The floats were so "BIG" and how did the clowns walk on their hands the whole route? A friend alerted me to this wonderful site full of memories, and I will immediately send it to my sisters."

Thanks for the memories!
Cindy (Shepherd) Clark
Palmerston

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What an absolute delight! My thanks to the many obviously talented, perceptive and caring people who put this together. It is a treasure for me. I was born in 1952 in the bush in the far north of B.C. We had no running water, power or sewer. We had a big battery operated radio I used to listen to CBC Music Lessons for Children at 1:00 P.M. once a week. Although some of the magic was lost on me (I had no musical instrument) I did okay on percussion days though. I used to clang the poker or cans on the side of the big tall coal stove in the livingroom.

When The catalog arrived I used to flop on my stomach on the felt rug in the livingroom and make lists and make more lists and dream of Santa Claus coming. I actually only received one rubber haired doll (Laurie) from that catalog. My dad and mom made the rest of my gifts, usually close models of what was in the catalog. One year under the tree was a child's table and chairs set - gloriously brilliant yellow! I was beside myself and it was one of my MOST cherished gifts. I found out later my dad had made it and painted it with the special yellow paint they used on well-heads. (They had just discovered the enormous natural gas fields in this area).

It's funny when I think of it, here I am, on my computer, being blown away by a discovery of my past! Thank you so much. Another point I would like to make. When I look at these catalog covers they obviously speak of society of the day but now they appear more like art work. Is there any documentation on the artist?

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It was a special moment to go downtown with my father in the 1950s and look into the windows of Eaton's to see what was then the most amazing display of moving characters with wonderful decorations. It would be easy to spend hours looking at all the wonderful detail but there was always children standing behind waiting for their turn to get the best view. It made Christmas magical.

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As a child, I lived at Ossington and Dupont area and the Santa Cause Parade passed by my aunt's frontroom window. I was one of the lucky ones who did not freeze to watch the highlights of the Xmas season. Shortly after, we would go to Eatons and Simpsons to see the magic of their windows. I can still remember the smell of Eatons, as we made out way to see Santa. Up the wooden escalator, or up the crowded elevator with the operator calling out the floors and what we could expect on the floors.

Thank you Mr. Eaton for my happiest Xmas memories.

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What a wonderful site to provoke warm memories of times gone by. As a small child in the late 40's and early 50's I remember waiting with excitement for the upcoming Santa Claus parade. My Aunt and her girlfriend made this an annual event, taking my brother and me to the parade. I still don't know who enjoyed the day more. We always stood at the end of the parade route so that we could cheer as Santa made his way from the float and made into the Store window via a fire truck ladder. I think it was the old Eaton's Annex store that he disappeared into. Santa's arrival was a sure sign that Christmas would soon be here. Of course Santa was the parade highlight, but who could forget the upside-down clowns, the marching bands and the wonderful floats. Once the crowds began to thin, it was time to enjoy the animated windows of both Eaton's and Simpsons. After a wonderful day it was off to Lichee Gardens for dinner, I think that was the token adult pleasure for the day. ! When my own children were born, I could hardly wait to bundle them up for a day of fun and I hope fond memories too.

Heather Black

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quels merveilleux souvenirs, je suis née en 1948 et je me souviens des cadeaux que nous recevions de nos parents qui partaient du Lac St-Jean pour aller magasiner à Montréal chez Eatons. Dommage que ce temps soit si loin. Ce serait tellement agréable de le faire revivre à nos petits-enfants. Merci et continuez c'est merveilleux.

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Dear Santa: On Christmas 1944 I was 8 years old. I received an Eatons Doll that year that had been ordered for me by my brother who had been killed in November of that same year, off the coast of Newfoundland, while serving in the Canadian Navy. I would dearly love to see a picture of the Eaton Doll produced for 1944, as I gave that doll away to a little girl who didn't have a doll, many years ago. Would that be possible? Your Eaton Memories Page is wonderful, it brought tears of joy to my heart!

Sincerely
Lorraine G. Livingston

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Hello,
I enjoyed this exhibit very much. I hope that you do exhibits on other Canadian stores as well in the future (i.e., The Bay, Canadian Tire, etc.).

Keep up the good work!

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To go to Your Eaton's Christmas Memories, Part 2, click here.

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