Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery
In December of 2001 we created the online exhibit, The Archives of Ontario Remembers an Eaton's Christmas. It included a page where we invited people to send in their memories of how Eaton's formed a part of their Christmas memories. The response was overwhelming and we shared those memories with other visitors to the site. In the six years since the exhibit was created, the stories have continued to come in, and we would like to share those here. We hope they touch you as they have us. If they trigger any Christmas memories that you'd like to share we invite you to email them to the Archives of Ontario.
WOW! Reading all these stories brought back memories. I am a baby boomer from the 50's.
As one of seven Phillips children living in the East End, I remember my Mom taking all of us down to see the parade. We'd visit the windows and watch the parade. Even though you were cold, you never let on. Punkinhead was a huge part of it and the train ride to Santa. I don't think Eaton's realized the impact he made on the Toronto baby boomers with his parade, his train, his punkinhead bear...I don't think there is a kid that lived in the City of Toronto, that wasn't touched by Eaton's and the magic he brought each year.
My Mom passed away in April 22, 2008. She loved dolls. She collected them. She always longed for an Eaton's Beauty Doll, all her life, but it was never part of her collection. Instead we carved a picture of an Eaton's beauty doll on her tombstone. My Mom was the Christmas person in our family. She took us to the Eaton's windows, to see the Eaton's Santa. It was huge and you were on your best behaviour, because going downtown to the parade was huge. I mean it was a rite of passage. It was the cream. We would drool over the Eaton's catologue and write out letters to santa and tell him what we dreamed of getting. It wasn't like kids of today, who want three thousand things, because back then, parents didn't have the money. Usually, it was something special and not expensive. It was a huge part of Christmas, like turkey is to christmas dinner. Eaton's was to christmas. thanks for punkinhead.
Thanks for some wonderful memories. It's amazing what you can remember with just a little help. Excellant job.
My first memory of the Santa Claus Parade was from when I was five years old and I watched it from the window of the Sick Children's hospital. What a treat that was !
Next, I remember going with my mother and my siblings and standing trembling with excitement from the very beginning. I wasn't sure if it was because Santa Claus was coming or that I might be able to see my Dad who was in the Mounted Division of the Toronto Police Force and always worked the parade.
Later on when My two boys were litle, every Christmas I would drive down to the nearest subway stop and take the train down to look at the windows then go in to see Santa. We lived in a small town then and the "Big" city, trains and buses were a wonder to them.
On another note I remember when I was about 16 years old I worked for Eaton's on their switchboard which consisted of what I thought then were thousands of connections to pull out and transfer back in. One of my duties was evey afternoon to serve tea in the Eaton boardroom. I had to carry in this heavy silver tray with the tea service on it and I remember being terrified that I would drop it!
I am 71 years old now I can remember my mother taking us children to Eaton’s store to see Santa and going to Eaton’s Toyland and getting a gift from Santa and I still have my Punkinhead book, also the wonderful displays in their windows. Such beautiful memories still to-day, thank you. k you.
When I was two years old I had badly burned my hand on a wood stove. My mother took me to see Santa at Eatons and I still have the picture today of me with Santa and my bandaged hand. That would have been in 1951.
Also my mother Lillian Cowen (nee Latter) was related to Timothy Eaton and he would come and visit the family and bring presents for everyone. My mother would take me down to the statue of "Uncle" Timothy and that was a meeting place for friends and family to gather before and after we went shopping.
Boy do I remember Christmas and Eaton's. The parade was the start of Christmas for our family. Next the real biggy was to take the Kingston Rd. St. car and transfer at Coxwell to the Queen St. car and get off at Yonge and Queen to see all the windows. Oh the magic of those windows. I actually believed them to be real for years. After the windows it was to go up and see Santa. Those rickety escalators and mom having to make sure her heels didn't get stuck. Waiting in line to go on the train around the North Pole looking at elves busy making toys, reindeer and fake(real) snow, sitting on Santa's knee and giving him my list. It was next off to see my aunt who was cashier on the fifth floor for the cafateria. I sat on her stool and played with all the pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters thinking I was so cool. Facinated with the speed she made change and at how she would send money in a tube up the vacumm that went to the office. I didn't know it then that my mom was off shopping for Santa as I helped my aunt. She worked that same job until she retired from Eatons.
I also remember the elevators with their gates and uniformed elevator operators, gloves, hats and polished shoes. There is nothing like it today to compair. Eaton's Christmas was magic.
If I'm not mistaken there use to be a magician that pulled rabits out of a hat that did a show for Christmas time and he also performed on Toronto TV too for years. Can't remember his name.
This is wonderful! As I read through the responses, beautiful memories flooded over me.
My Grandmother loved a parade and as she and my Grandfather lived in Toronto, and we didn't, their's was our home base when we 'came to town'during the early 1940s. Eaton's gorgeous windows were very much part of our special day when our Grandmother gave us as much time as we wanted to see them. I believe that she was as excited as we were about the wonderful sights and sounds of those beautiful days when Eaton's was truly the home of Santa.
I recall one parade when grownups moved in and blocked our view of the magical parade and my Grandmother asked them to step aside so that we could enjoy it, and so they did.
It was always a special time, followed by our visit to the beautifully decorated store and secret talk with Santa, followed by a treat in the cafeteria.
I treasure the memories of those days, especially as both my Grandparents died in 1948.
I think it is absolutely wonderful and well done. It took me back to my childhood days in the 40s when things were so much simpler. The radio played a big part in our lives back then also. Eaton's was the big event for us kids, I can still see the little train we rode and the gift we received at the end of the ride. Thank you for taking me back once more.
When I was five years old I received a very special doll for Christmas from Santa Claus. I can still vividly remember opening the box and seeing the beautiful blond doll dressed in a blue dress and bonnet. When I went to lift her out of the box her head fell off and stayed in the box. I was devestated! My mother promised me that we would take it to Santa's workshop and he would fix it. As soon as we could after Christmas my mother and I took the bus downtown and went to Eaton's. I remember the trepidation I felt as we approached the customer service desk and explained the problem to one of 'Santa's Elves'. They were not able to fix my doll but instead got me a new one from their 'workshop'. For as long as I believed in Santa I was in awe of the customer service department in Eaton's in Saskatoon. It was the only place we would ever go after that to see Santa and tell him our secret wishes for Christmas. Even though I am approaching 60 years of age I still remember the experience as if it was yesterday.
My name is Karen Phillips O'Connor. I grew up in the little town of McAdam, New Brunswick. We knew Christmas was on it's way when the Eaton's Christmas Catalogue arrived! As an 8 years old girl, the most beautiful item was the Eaton's Beauty Doll! She was so lovely in every way! She was always displayed inside the front cover!
We didn't have a department store in our area but we had an order office. I can still feel the excitement when, on a cold Saturday morning near Christmas our mother would send us down to Eaton's to pick up a parcel! Once we got it home she would put it in the back of her closet where, we understood with no words spoken, we were not to go near it!! Children now miss so much without Eaton's! It is so hard to explain this kind of excitement to my grandson! A shame really!
I am 61 years of age, but when I close my eyes I hear once again the playing of Toyland, I can still feel the wooden steps and the sway of the excalator taking me to Eatons Toyland.
What wonderful memories.
Before our adventure to Toyland, we would spend what seemed like just a few moments, but I'm sure an hour at least had passed, engrossed with the Christmas window displays. All of the moving parts and characters were magic to a boy of 4-5 years of age.
One year in particular was totally magical, the year I saw my first train set, a Lionel Train. The train was displayed in the window and I remember my Dad and I just watching the train scoot its way through the magic mountain.
Christmas morning, there it was in all it's glory winding it's way around our Christmas tree, I can still smell and see the smoke coming from the engine of the train.
Thank you for those magical moments, they lasted a lifetime.
What a joy to find a site for sharing my fondest childhood memories! I was born in 1947, and lived in the Main and Danforth area. Every Saturday, my mother would take me by streetcar to Eaton's and Simpson's. Money was tight, so we bought very little. The day's highlight was lunch..."hot dog and orange", either by the entrance to the tunnel, or in the basement of the Annex. Once in awhile we'd splurge, and have an ice cream waffle, or a fresh donut...you could watch them being made by that magic machine!
At about 2 years old, I was taken to my first Santa Claus parade. My uncle held me on his shoulders, so I could see over the crowds. Unfortunately, not knowing what a Parade was, I spent the entire couple of hours watching a flagpole!
Of course, Christmas was so special! Eaton's Toyland was a Wonderland...it was on the 5th floor, and there was a train ride! I visited Santa,(but always wondered how he could be in two stores and once!) I remember my Punkinhead! When I was about 5 years old, my dad figured I was too old to have such a "baby toy", and threw my friend in the garbage (the saddest day of my life!). But I still have my little Punkinhead storybook!
And the windows were so enchanting! By evening, we would stand by the windows, spellbound by the marvellous moving displays, snow in our faces as we waited for the Queen Street car, and the long, sleepy journey home.
As much as I loved the wonders of Christmas at Eaton's and Simpson's, I loved the elevators and escalators equally! Remember those scary escalators (technically, "Reno's inclined elevators" patented in 1895) in the Annex? They didn't have real steps, just slanted wooden cleats, but they moved quickly! They started at the main floor...so if you had come through the tunnel to reach the Annex basement, you had to climb a flight of stairs to the main floor to reach the escalators. (I was a naughty boy, and discovered a hidden "reverse" switch. After climbing the stairs, customers would find BOTH escalators coming DOWN from the next floor!)
Also in the Annex, my mother and I were in an elevator crash! (At least the elevator had already started to descend from the main floor, but dropped to the pit in about a nanosecond!) What a jolt! Thankfully, there were no serious injuries. Long before the crash, these elevators had padded seats!
I had every elevator and escalator in both Eaton's and Simpson's memorized! My favourite was the "D battery" elevators in Eaton's...one was an express elevator to the top (ninth) floor, the Georgian Room. I got to know the operator, Pat, who would allow me not only to ride for hours, but to operate the elevator when there were no other passengers! I was even taken up to the machine room, to see the elevator motors!
Does anyone remember the "F battery" elevators? There were just two, and only one was in operation. Only males were permitted to operate this elevator, since getting it "up to speed" took four or five cranks of a large wheel. Then it would take about 30 seconds to ascend one storey! When the gate opened, you had to jump out quickly, because the elevator car would start sinking down, at about the same speed it had ascended!
It would be nice to hear others' memories of the old Eaton's elevators and escalators!
Every Christmas when I was a little girl my mom would take my sister and I down to see the windows at the Eatons store and to see Santa. Before we could go and ask for something new we needed to go to the Salvation Army location in front of old City Hall and donate a toy. My grandfather worked at Eatons for many, many years so we would meet him before we went to see Santa. I remember there was actually a merry-go-round right in the store one year. I also have a Punkinhead bear (although he's now gone bald for some reason) and my dad hooked a rug with Punkinhead on it the year Punkinhead came into being - my kids have all had this rug beside their beds and now my 23 year old daughter has the rug in her living room. One year the Simpson Store had mice as their main theme in their windows and my mom for a joke made up a little package of raisins and gave them to my uncle (who also worked for Eatons) as a "gift" from the mice. Wow such memories.
I came across a pattern for making the punkinhead teddy bear. I remember Punpkinhead during my years growing up in Toronto and going to the Santa Claus Parade. Unfortunately, the children of today do not have such good memories of the Eaton's Santa Claus Parade or the wonderfully decorated windows in the Queen Street Store. They have certainly missed out on a lot.
What a wonderful site to visit! My mother took part in the Eaton's Parade in Montreal as a young adult - she worked for the store at the time. So when we moved to the Toronto area, the parade and the windows were a must in my life. I remember most vividly the train trip instore to visit Santa - it seemed like it took forever! When I had children the visit to the parade continued even tho we lived quite a distance from Toronto - and I still have the photos of them sitting on the curb, waiting, in their snowsuits!
The obligatory visit to view the windows was always included, of course! Such magic!!!!!uded, of course! Such magic!!!!!
Thank-you Eaton's for creating the Christmas magic in a little girl's life. I too remember a Christmas train ride in the Eaton store, and a present and a visit with Santa and elves. And when I grew up and got married, my children went to Eaton's and sat on Santa's lap and saw the magic of Christmas sparkling in your store.
50 years later, my children are grown and we live hundreds of miles apart... we don't get together at Christmas as much since I moved. I stumbled onto your exhibit and felt 5 again, tears flooding, I realized, even though I may be 50, in my heart, I am still a child looking through the windows of Eaton's at Christmas.....
It is wonderful to know that these records are preserved. In 1953 I was one of those 5 year old's pressed against Eaton's windows at Christmas.
It was a fantasy world come to life.
It is sad to see how we have lost this magic. Thanks for the display.
I always loved Eaton's at Christmas as a child and the windows were exquisite. Always loved going to Eaton's Annex and having a waffle with ice cream yum. My mother worked for Eaton's for a few years starting in 1918 and she was in the choir and I have a medal that the choir won at Massey Hall. I sure miss Eaton's, and love your articles on this site.
Thanks for the memories
When I was a child my Mother would take me to the parade and then to the Eatons toyland. What a wonderful day it was. We would stop and look in the windows just to see the displays and stand in awe at how magical they were. When I married and had children of my own I made sure they got to see what is the meaning of Christmas spirit and all its wonders in the Eaton's windows. So sorry it has gone I think children still need to have this magic.
Thank you again
My father's family were part of the Eaton Family and Christmas time was so spécial. The spécial windows on the corner of St Catherine and Universaty streets attracked many children, my sister and I were enchanted with the décorations .The Santa Clause Parade was part of the holliday season. When I finished highschool I was hired to word in the store as a switchboard operator and used to read and answer the letters sent to Santa Clause. It was magic time during Xmass season, I remember the train on the fifth floor where Santa received all the childred after the parade. Everything and everyone were so alive. I felt very sad when they closed the family store but I will always remember my time there.
Liza Martel Mayeu
Simple is as simple does.....i am glad i was brought up in the 50's and eaton's (though the windows so far away) was like going to the CNE once a year the old escalator's with the wide bars and the elevator with the operator calling out the next floor opening the x gates......thanks for the memories
I remember the story my grandmother told me of her Christmas in 1911. All she wanted for Christmas that year was the Eaton's Beauty doll from the catalogue.
Money was tight and she was sure she would not get the doll. Her father saved and made sure she awoke to the doll under the tree Christmas morning. Today (March 25, 2005) That same doll has been passed on to me 94 years later. I'm the third generation to have the doll and there are still two generations below me that it will be passed on to. It has brought 94 years of pleasure so far and it will continue to bring pleasure to our family.
My fondest memory is not when I was a kid but when I was a young Mom and watched the Santa Claus parade with my children. One Christmas parade stands out above the rest and that was one parade when before Santa went on into the Toronto store to visit with the children he put his ear up to the camera and invited the children in TV Land to whisper in his ear what they wanted for Christmas. I remember my Cathy and Shelley taking their turns going up to the television set and whispering in Santa's ear. They were thrilled. It was so beautiful and so touching, I will take that memory with me always. We lived in Northern Ontario and to go to Toronto to see the parade alive and visit Santa at Eatons was a 'pipe dream' for our family but watching the annual parade was a very special ritual. The beginning of our Christmas.
Beverley Kilburn (formerly Wilson)
My husband came to Canada in October 1964 and he went to his first Eaton's parade and has enjoyed every parade he now takes his childred and granchildren.
I must have been four or five years old the year that my Mother took my little sister and myself to visit Santa at the Eatons department store in Victoria, B.C. I know that I hadn't started school yet. My Mother had our pictures taken with Santa and we were both given beautifully painted porcelain bells. The bells hung on our Christmas tree every year until my Mother passed away.
Dear Sirs: I thoroughly enjoyed your website when I visited it a couple months ago. Today I was chatting with a cousin I have found in England while researching my ancestors and got round to telling her about Punkinhead and Eaton's Parade. I told her I would send her a pic of Punkinhead and came back here to send the website to her so she could enjoy a part of my past memories. I decided to just send the Archives webpage to her but first had to have another look at the Eatons memories page.
As a child growing up in Toronto in the late 40's and early 50's Eatons and the parade was a wonderfully, magical part of Christmas. The store windows display, heading out to the parade on the street car in the cold of winter and the throngs of people waiting with great anticipation for the spectacle that was heading down University Ave. Enjoying a visit to Santa and sitting on his knee and whispering the secret wish for Christmas. In years to follow it was a family tradition to take the nieces and nephews and eventually my own children to see the parade and after leaving Toronto in the 80's, viewing it on TV.
For a few years I worked at Sick Childrens Hospital, and can still see the faces of the ill children as they looked out the hospital windows onto University Ave. and joined the thousands of children below in the thrill of the parade. However, I think the most vivid thing I can remember is the train in Eaton's toyland that took you through "Fairyland". It is a shame that children today are missing out on the Fantasy that Eaton's brought to life at Christmas each year. Hopefully this year, if the BBC carries the parade, there will be a first time viewer in Navenby, England.
Many thanks to the numerous people through the years, who made it possible for people to have such wondrous memories.
I am, at this moment, looking at a picture take in dec. 1951 of john d. Eaton congratulating my grandfather edward bond for 25 years of service.i also have a congratulatory letter signed by john d. Eaton. As a child i remember going to toyland at chritmas and riding a train that would eventually stop at santa's chair. I would give santa my list and he would give me a gift. The gifts were much more than a candy cane. They would be tea sets, elaborate paint sets etc. I learned later that while i was on the train, my grandfather slipped santa a special gift that he knew i would like.
|Loved it. It brought back lots of memories
What a fabulous site. I had no idea that this existed. How truly wonderful! As a child I was taken to see Santa by my parents, it was such a wonderful experience. The parade was so exciting and of course, outside of Santa, Punkinhead was my favorite. The clowns and the bands were a delight. Then, going in to see Santa, standing in line for what seemed forever, didn't matter because Santa was at the end of it. I still remember the train ride and candy cane and of course the coloring book. Eatons was a magical place to be.
Now many many years later I take my grandchildren to see the parade. I enjoy every minute of it and I smile from within remembering the parades of my childhood. Thats what Christmas was! I would love for my grandchildren to be able to feel Christmas the way my memories do. Its right in your heart and soul.
Thank you for such a wonderful evening! I am certainly going to pass the word around. Thank you, thank you.
I was born & brought up in Toronto some of the fondest Christmass memories was our annual trip by streetcar to see the windows at Eatons, what a Magical time.Being one of 9 children we didn't have a lot but our trip to Eaton's was looked forward to by us all.
What a terrific site to come across!! I grew up in the late 60's - early 70's in Toronto and fondly remember the Eaton's Santa Claus parade. I always watched it on T.V. with a mug of hot chocolate in my hand and a blanket wrapped around me. Just watching everyone battle the elements made me bundle up even though I was in the warmth of my own living room.
The arrival of the Eaton's catalogue at our house always signified the beginning of the magical Christmas season. As a Canadian living in the U.S., we are currently getting ready for Thanksgiving here and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Due in part to my own memories, I wanted to see if there was any information on Canada's well known parade. You can't imagine how delighted and excited I was to come across these archives. My three year old daughter is currently enjoying colouring the printed pages from the Santa/Punkinhead colouring book that we downloaded from the web site.
I LOVED the Christmas windows as a child and, as an adult, still seek them out with my children. It is sad to think that Eaton's is no longer a part of this great Canadian Christmas tradition; however, I'm grateful that the Toronto Santa Claus Parade still exists. I only wish that a US TV affiliate would air it. Thank you so much for making these archives available to view. I have had a wonderful time over the past hour viewing them and recalling some of my own childhood memories.
Wishing all a wonderful Christmas.
As a young girl I used to watch my Dad illustrate the many colouring books of Punkinhead.
He also drew the Santa Claus for Eatons promoting the Santa Claus Parade, on the back page of the Toronto Star.
Because I was very young and impressionable, I thought my Dad knew Santa and Punkinhead. Therefore I always gave Dad my letter to Santa so he could personally hand it to him.
Seeing the Santa Claus Parade and viewing the beautiful Christmas windows, was the highpoint of the Christmas Season for me. I remember Eatons and Simpsons' Toytown and watching the toy trains wth my brothers. We were handed a toy and a book of Punkinhead after riding a real train that went around a mountain!
Now I wish I had asked my Dad for one of the colouring books he drew of Punkinhead. What a treasure that would be for me now. I am so grateful to the Archives of Ontario for this site as I thought all the many books that Dad drew for Eatons,at Christmas were lost.
I can now show my daughter and my son the legacy that their Grandpa left behind.
Thank-you Archives of Ontario for the very special memories
Christmas Memories....I was born in 1948 and when I was just a toddler, my mother and my aunt took me to Eaton's just before Christmas - it was a tradition at Eaton's to come for Breakfast with Santa. The menu was designed with children in mind and had the Punkinhead Bear on it. Some menus were like a mask, made of light cardboard, you popped the eyes out and wore it...I have one in my collection now. We went for breakfast and every child got a complimentary story book about Punkinhead, a Christmas Story. I remember distinctly, my aunt purchased the Punkinhead Bear for me to take home. I still have my bear today and I have been collecting Punkinhead items ever since, mostly on Ebay and from places as far away as California. I have at least 10 story books now, dishes, cutlery, colouring books, paints, purse and several other items all about Punkinhead. A memory to cherish, I still remember that special breakfast at Eaton's, downtown Hamilton, Ontario!
My name is Bruce vodden and i am one of 11 childen in the vodden family We Lived on Symingtion Ave. in the west end of Toronto and I remember going to the Santa Claus parade with my Aunt and older brother and sisters. We used to walk along Dupont St. and pass all the floats lined up and then watch the parade. I remember coming home and later watching the parade on our black and white tv. One year my sister Joanne was in the parade she was a candy cane
I have since discovered my Grand father, Thomas Vodden worked for eatons for over 25 years. I think it was the drug department but I am not sure.
I remember those Christmases. That was when Santa was real. He wasn't to be found on every street corner or in every store. We lived in Aurora and each year that we were able, the whole family travelled to Toronto to watch the Santa Claus parade and then to see Santa himself. I remember a big room in the Eatons store and what seemed like hundreds of kids with their parents, waiting in line for their chance to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what they hoped he'd bring for Christmas. The line was so big it seemed we'd never get our turn and then there we were. It was truly a magical time. Every child left there knowing beyond a doubt that they had just spent a few precious minutes with Santa Claus, the one and only. Later we all had an ice cream waffle before going home.
Six weeks before Christmas, each evening at about six p.m., Mom would turn on the kitchen radio for the Christmas count-down from the North Pole. Santa would tell stories and talk to all the boys and girls about what was happening at his workshop, what Rudolph was up to, how hard the elves were working and what the weather was like. Punkinhead was always there with him. Once, I received a Punkinhead doll for Christmas and I cherished him for many years. Other than going to Toronto to see Santa in person, the radio show and writing him a letter were the only connections we had to him.
As I said, those were the days when Santa was real and Christmas was about more than the gifts under the tree.
Congratulations on the excellent presentation of the Eatons material. It could turn out to be a potential gold mine for me. I am historian for the De La Salle Bugle Band/Drum Corps alumni, and we are planning the most comprehensive (almost interactive) online history, with music and video clips interspersed throughout. De La Salle (or Del) supposedly had a 99-year contract with Eatons to do the parade, and appeared in every parade at least from the 1920s to the mid-1970s. So you can see the potential the Eatons material can have for us in providing not only background documentation, but images we never knew existed.
Keep up the terrific work.
Eatons College Park !! As a child this was a great place to visit. In addition to the excitement of all the items available for sale, we enjoyed travelling in the elevators, admiring the architecture and, as our prize for being good, watching mini-donuts be made as we waited for our batch to be finished. I can almost smell them as I write.
This site is a wonderful idea. Just reading other people's memories has brought back the magic of the window displays (with the background smell of roasted chestnuts) the Santa Claus Parade (sitting for hours in the cold but warmed by anticipation), and the excitement I felt shopping in the (then new) Eatons Centre at Dundas.
I just discovered you on the Internet and was delighted to see mention of Punkinhead. I have one that I received in 1954 after moving from Ontario back to Halifax. My mother bought him for me in the Eaton's store in Halifax. He has always been a treasured part of my life and I had been trying to locate information on him. . . . I hope that I will never part with him but pass him along to granddaughter as she gets older.
Great site, didn't know it was there.
I remember going to the Parade in the early 50's after staying with my Aunt & Uncle. it was wonderful. Going to Eaton's Toyland afterward and riding the train, and getting a "special toy" or colouring book. On the "Eaton's Train" it was a fantasy world for me.
Shall never forget it!