A Pair of Parades

When I phone my mother, Blanche Ruth Jamieson Moses, born in 1924, to wish her a happy birthday, she challenges me.

“So how old am I? ”

“You don’t look a day over eighty!”

She rarely talks about the past—she’s so present—so when she mentioned that, once upon a time, she’d been in the Santa Claus Parade, she got my attention.

The first Santa Claus Parade, such as it was, took place the second day of December 1905. Santa Claus arrived by train at Union Station and was greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Eaton. Santa then walked through the streets to the Eaton’s store.

My own experience of that parade, once upon another time, was always on television and only in black and white. Though my parents might take or send me into the actual city of Toronto in the summer for the CNE or to visit family who lived here, the televised town where that parade took place, sometimes through electronic snow, was always somewhere beyond the horizon. It was not any part of my quotidian imaginings, although at night it was certainly often a distant light.

Published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 4. Purchase the book to read the full piece.

Toronto locations referenced in this piece

“The first Santa Claus Parade, such as it was, took place the second day of December 1905. Santa Claus arrived by train at Union Station and was greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Eaton . . . ” —Union Station

“Santa then walked through the streets to the Eaton’s store . . . ” —Eaton’s Store

“Though my parents might take or send me into the actual city of Toronto in the summer for the CNE or to visit family who lived here, the televised town where that parade took place . . . was always somewhere beyond the horizon . . . ” —CNE

“Grandma ran a boarding house over on Bleecker Street, in a row of houses in the block, I think, north of Carlton, a block east of Sherbourne . . . ” —Bleecker Street

“It was probably in the last year I attended York University, 1976, that my friend Wendy and I decided we’d make the journey down from Downsview, at that time a solid ninety-minute commitment on the TTC each way, to attend The Parade . . . ” —York University

“Which may explain why they’d made the move in the first place and starts to explain how a Cayuga/Tuscarora Indian girl ended up way back then in—I’m imagining—a red and round bounce of a dress accompanying Santa’s sleigh down University Avenue . . . ” —University Avenue

“We were also dispirited by all the popcorn, wrappers and cigarette butts the crowd left behind, by the surly cops herding the crowd back with steel fences at the corner of University and Queen, and by the kids cranky in the cold . . . ” —University & Queen