Exciting discovery of historic childhood texts

Today, and on every day in many locations across the world, drawers that have down the years become  convenient filing places for all sorts of everything that can be labelled ‘Important’, are being tidied. In one such drawer there has been an  exciting discovery of childhood texts  that are important social and historic documents.

There are two texts, each set upon double pull-out centre pages of  lined  20th (?) Century school copy books. The dimension of each manuscript is identical – 16 centimetres by 20 centimetres, in a double fold.  It is clear however that one of these manuscripts pre-dates the other by as much as 1 or 2  or possibly even 3 years. Both are on lined paper – designed to enable scholars to keep ‘straight’ when learning to write – a skill no longer  required as texts and  emails auto select to straight lines.  The writing implement appears to be of similar origin in both cases –  HB or 2 H lead pencil, popular in the late 20th Century, when ink pens were considered messy and those of a certain age were dissuaded from using the high-tech ‘biro’ which made for slovenly script.

Terrible warning
One of the documents, has interesting script on the reverse. Note the embellished lettering in ‘SANTA’  and the more austere style of the warnings, each bounded by lines.  A thorough search of all online resources – digitized newspapers and magazines and pension records  – did not reveal that an individual named ‘NOT SANTA’  suffered any great peril for having accessed private correspondence. It can be deduced therefore that ‘ONLY SANTA’ opened this document and that privacy was maintained. (It is also earnestly hoped that the warning was time-bound and has now expired) 
Text of request to the mythological figure, Santa

Text of request to the mythological figure, Santa

The main body of the text is headed by another highlighted form of SANTA, but with less embellishment than the former. Intriguingly, the words ‘Dear’ and ‘Santa’ are on separate lines. The request for  Crossbows and Catapults indicates a possible interest in conflict.( One wonders if this was an enduring interest.) Research shows that this was a game popular in the mid 1980’s. Item number 3 is of  some interest as it is not specified and the reader is left to guess the writer’s intention. Santa would of course have had ‘inside knowledge’ and would have been able to ‘fill the gap’

2013-04-18 18.37.46

The second letter.

The other letter is of a much more basic form –  no embellishment  of the word ‘SANTA ‘,  although it stands out clearly from the other script.  Once again the words ‘Dear’ and ‘Santa’ are on different lines. The list has grown and indicates an expanded list of requests. It is clear that the writer is of high status with access to a television and magazines, given the requests for no fewer than  6 items of Celtic ‘livery’. Subbeto ( Subbuteo?) normally came with a fabric pitch –  it is to be hoped that the request for a plastic pitch was met.We will never know.

One of these letters has a full name and address, regrettably no longer legible which is just as well as the ‘peril’ warning may still be in effect. These documents are a wonderful record of childhood as well as of social history. It is a matter of great regret that the year has not been recorded and it is to be hoped that this post will serve as a reminder to people who put things away in drawers that the date should be added to any such documents so that when they are rediscovered decades later, there are properly contextualized.



Filed under My Oral History, Social Change, Social History Ireland

13 responses to “Exciting discovery of historic childhood texts

  1. Lyn

    The suspense is killing me – who wrote the letters or, at least, who owns them??? I know another of your readers (she will know who she is) who should have a truck load of those letters – she is one of Santa’s helpers and I believe does a lot of his secretarial work. 🙂

  2. How I loved these… the absolute wonder of childhood … wish that it would stay with more people longer. I am quite concerned though, for the one who opened these originally… what disasters or great perils befell them? For as you know, a child knows these things… they understand and totally believe in all the magic of the world and that is as it should be… For without magic and dreams, belief and hope, what have we?

    May we all remain children at heart.

    • Chris, It has to be acknowledged that Santa opened them – otherwise how would he know what is requested? The ‘peril’ may only apply if ‘NOT SANTA’ got to them before Santa – who knows? It must be by some magic that these things end up in drawers… Magic and dreams are fabulous – and often squashed out of our busy lives – maybe we should actively try to reconnect …where should I send my letter ??!!

  3. Leith Landauer

    Is there an archaeologist in the house?

  4. SV, looks like you could have been rummaging around among boxes and old suitcases in my house as I slept last night. Such great letters and I just love the extent to which the writer/s are thankful for last year and understanding about the one to come.

    Clearly, these are draft letters! Just think how perfect the actual ones were in terms of straightness of the lines, no ink blobs, no crossings out and the address very much to the fore.

    I’m a tiny bit surprised that there’s no reference to the long journey from the North Pole and an invitation to have a little rest by the burning embers.
    But then, Santa has his own unique magic for each child.

    PS. I was only thinking about catapults and crossbows as I collected sticks in the woods yesterday.

    • Oh so you have such treasures in your house? I noticed the gratitude and understanding shown in the letters alright – I have no recollection of having had any such consideration or concern for Santa back when I was writing my own Santa letters.
      Drafts? Hmmm .. I am not so sure – At least one appears as though it had been written in great haste – just imagine omitting item number 3 – clearly the writer was under pressure. On the other hand it may be in invisible ink – that is a point that could be investigated.
      And did you collect any sticks that had potential as crossbows or catapults ?

  5. Clearly a boy’s letters – catapult, football gear, Subbuteo. Circa 1975 I’d guess. Intriguing, but I think you know more than you’re letting on SV 🙂

  6. What a WONDERFUL analysis of these “historic childhood texts” Angela. Altlhough having recently unearthed a boxful of these amazing treasures I am sadly lacking in the required skills to analyse them as beautifully as you have… but no worries, I do have a few basic skills.
    e.g… Am wondering if when finally burrowing down to the bottom of the box, one of the notes which would occasionally appear on my pillow under the bedspread with the carefully written text “I hate you mum” will surface? … hmmm, I wonder who the author could have been? ha ha ha 😀

  7. Catherine – It is a matter of wonderment I think rather than any analytical skills, and I am sure you have that in spades! In the same drawer where these were discovered, there are 4 or 5 letters written to me by my younger sister after I emigrated to England. They are dated 1964 and 1965 are are absolute gems- full of vernacular sayings and phrases from north Donegal – I will need to run translations and explanatory notes alongside them, if I post them up. I am wondering if these things should be hidden away, for they are a very valuable part of social history. I only have one person nowadays who writes ‘real letters’ to me since my aunts who were wonderful letter writers passed away. I am slightly concerned now that even letters to Santa will disappear – dear heavens! will they end up texting or emailing him? Perish the thought! I also noticed in recent years that there are special post boxes for letters to Santa addressed to the North Pole or whatever . Back in the days, these treasures were left on the mantlepiece for Santa to ‘magic away’ in the dead of night – hence the reason why they ended up in drawers after Santa had dealt with the requests! I don’t think anyone in this house ever had the courage to put an ‘I hate you ‘ note under a pillow ( they merely thought it and acted it out instead!) . I would love to see these – go and look for them and post them on your blog!(without names of course! )

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