By Linda Emley
There have been many letters to Santa in the Richmond News over the years and I thought it would be nice to share a few.
“Dear Santa Clause, I am a little boy 3 years old so I am having my sister write this for me. I would like a choo choo, a tractor and a jeep and please bring my sister a record player. I hope it snows so you won’t have any trouble with your sleigh and reindeer. You can fill our stockings and if you have some left, fill all the bowls you can find. Get a lot of rest, eat well and take care of yourself so you can make the trip. Love, Jerry Lawrence.” (1958)
“Dear Santa, My letter is a little different from others you will receive because I haven’t been as good a little girl this year as I could have been but if you will only bring me a record player I promise to try harder next year. Love, Sally Gooch.” (1958)
“Dear Santa, I think you are a very nice person. When you come Christmas night I will have a glass of milk and a piece of cake for you. I’m not making very good grades at school but I am very good at home. I don’t have any book reports yet, but I am going to very soon. I want a bride doll for Christmas. Your friend, Sue Claypole.” (1959)
“Dear Santa, My name is Karen Carter. I’m 6 years old. My sister is helping me write this letter to you because I missed seeing you in town. I wanted you to know what I wanted so you wouldn’t have to guess and bring me the wrong things. I want a doll, baby buggy, make up kit, and some candy and oranges. Love Karen. P.S. I have two sisters named Janet and Patsy, please bring them a boyfriend a piece, if you have them.” (1959)
“Dear Santa Clause, Please bring me an alarm clock that goes off real loud. Both me and my brother can use it. My brother Donald has to get up and catch the bus to Richmond and sometimes he doesn’t wake up in time. I would also like a sled and a set of Dominoes. I will leave the door unlocked on Christmas night because we do not have a chimney. Thank you very much, Your friend, Bobby Blakeman” (1962)
“Dear Santa, I am in the first grade and am trying hard to be a good boy. But please hurry and come as I can’t hold out much longer … Billy Bathgate.“ (1962)
“Dear Santa, I want a Dick Tracy radio, a high loader, a truck, and a bulldozer. My mother wants a new hat. My sister wants a new hat. My brother wants a new hat, too. My father wants one, too. Stanley Blankenship.” (1962)
“Dear Santa, Will you please bring a sack full of switches for Lincoln School.“ (I laughed when I read this 1968 letter written by one of our sweetest fourth-grade teachers because I knew she was only joking.)
“Dear Santa, I have tried very hard to be a good girl. I’ve stayed out of the street while playing and help mommy clean house and most of all been quiet while daddy watches football … Thank you very much, Santa. Forever a friend, Tracy McGill.” (1968)
“Dear Santa, I am sorry I did not tell you want I wanted when you stopped by last Sunday night. I did not know for sure whether you were the real Santa because you did not have white eyebrows. You kind a reminded me of someone I know. Thanks anyway for the cookies and orange. …. Love, Erin Dueker.” (1968)
“Dear Santa, I am a little girl, 5 years old. I go to Kindergarten at Orrick, I try to be a good girl. I have a sister Jackie Gene who is 3. She isn’t quite as good as I am, but she tries. …. We will leave the patio doors open and the fireplace lit so you can get warm. Thank you, Love, Donnette Swafford.” (1968)
“Dear Santa, I have been a good boy this year so please bring me a Rocking horse, some cars and trucks, and some clothes. Don’t forget the boys in Vietnam, especially Uncle Pete. Your Pal, James Ruckdeschell.” (1968)
“Dear Santa Clause, I am in the second grade. I have tried to be a good girl. I would like to have a watch and a box of candy. That is all I want. My sister wants a doll house and my brother wants to drive the car. Your friend, Linda Martin” (1964). (I remember this Christmas because I wanted a watch to go with the small diamond ring that my mother had loaned me. I thought it would be so cool to have a black velvet watch to wear with it. I broke the ring a few days before Christmas and never did get to wear them together but I did learn a valuable lesson about what really matters in life.)
In 1897, the New York SUN published a letter, “Dear Editor: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus? Virginia O’Hanlon.”
There was a rather long reply which included the now famous words, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.”
Francis Church, who wrote this, had been a war correspondent in the Civil War, so his words of hope were as important to him as they were to Virginia. I always wondered what happened to Virginia, so I looked it up. In the 1910s, her husband deserted her and their young daughter. Virginia moved on and get her doctorate. She became a school teacher and a principal before she retired in 1959. She received many letters in her life that asked about her famous letter and she always replied and included a copy of the original editorial. She claimed that this experience had shaped her life in a positive way. Laura Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas died in 1971 at the age of 81. Macy’s and the “Make a Wish Foundation” run a charity based on Virginia’s letter, so the spirit of her words still lives on.
There is one Christmas wish that we need to keep asking for each year and that is, “Let there be Peace on Earth”. We can only hope that sometime this wish will come true.
You can write Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her at Ray County Museum during business hours.