The Clement C. Moore poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was the catalyst that launched the career of Santa Claus in the United States. Originally published as “A Visit from Saint Nicholas“ in the Troy, New York Sentinel in December of 1823; the verses brought the image of a soot-covered Saint Nicholas and his eight reindeer shuttling Christmas gifts from house to house, and the “jolly old elf ” dropping down the chimney with a bag of toys.

So it’s no surprise that with this image in their heads American children first starting hanging their letters to Santa in the chimney, the theory being that smoke from the fire would magically transport the children’s wishes to the North Pole. This method probably also helped the family save a few scarce pennies on postage. By the 1890’s American children trusted the US Postal Service more than they did fireplace smoke and began mailing their letters to Santa Claus.

Another method of getting the kiddies message to Santa Claus was to publish the letters in local newspapers. A few years ago I reprinted some letters that local children sent to Santa in 1941. This year I’m going to add a twist and reprint some letters that Marengo that wrote to Santa in the 1930’s, at which time the Marengo Republican News ran a column titled “Hunches by Dutch.” The column was commentary on local goings-on and the characters involved; and it was presented in a somewhat satirical and tongue-and-cheek manner by the newspaper’s editor Dutch Weedman.

Although not a letter to Santa; here is one example of Weedman’s work from the December 20, 1934, edition:

“While getting ready to welcome Santa Claus with wide open arms, a chimney large enough to permit him to enter the old style route and by hanging up our little sox, we hope that Santa in keeping with the spirit of the times, has acquired a couple of extra reindeers. We further hope – that he doesn’t knock off at the end of a six hour day – in the spirit of the government’s way of doing things.”

These letters were published in the paper in the decade of the 1930’s, and were written by local citizens – many of them business people:

“Dear Santa Claus: Christmas is so close at hand that I’m writing my annual letter. This year I again want to see my wife have a very nice Christmas. I want you to see that my office girl, Mildred Yerke, has a nice Christmas, too. I’d like to see you make my shop crew, Ben Weaver, Rudy Husfeldt, Dutch Weedman, Sperry Griebel and Bill Hensel very happy. I’d like to see you. I’ll hang up my stocking.

Yours

Edwin W. Dean”

“Dear Santa Clause

Since I experimented with an auto fan last week, let’s say it was for posterity’s sake and may the people profit by it. Santa, I really would like to have two artificial fingertips (latest models) for Christmas, and I mean it. Also a course in ‘Learning to Write and Do Things Right Handed.’”

Your well known friend,

George Hance

 “Dear Santa

Honest, Santa, from past experiences because of being so tired, for Christmas this year I want just one thing. Please bring me someone who will tear out the Christmas window decorations for me before time for my annual Decoration Day straw hat display.”

Sincerely,

Harry Buell

 “Dear Santa Claus;

I have been a good little girl, and so I thought I might get what I ask for. I would like a new boy friend, one that I could really fall for, one that wouldn’t keep me out late at night. He doesn’t have to be a Clark Gable, but fairly good looking.

That’s all I ask for.

 “Pudgy” Webb”

 Dear Santa Claus

I’m going to hang up my sock at home, so bring my presents there. Anyhow, you couldn’t get down my theater chimney for the fire and smoke would drive you away. Keeping my customers warm takes all of my time and plenty of coal, so the fire never goes out. If you really want to do something for me that I’ll appreciate, haul the ashes away.

Your true friend,

Bill Clark

Each month to close this column requires some thought. This month wasn’t any different. In the December 23, 1937, edition Dutch inserted this Season’s Greeting graphic at the end of his column, and below it he wrote his holiday message to Marengo. I’m going to borrow that message not because it’s an easy way for me to close this column, but also as an example of the type of community Marengo was in those days – fun-loving and good-spirited.

Seasons Greetings!

“The above is my most sincere wish to the readers of this column and my friends. Also the enemies, which are, we hope, enemies in word and not in heart and for the most part, just peevish enemies because of little items that may have appeared in this column during the past year. Yes, in going into a huddle with our thoughts, it seems we haven’t abused anyone since the last Christmas – just ‘ribbed’ them some, maybe – so to them we’ll, also, send the same message. Season’s Greetings from Dutch”

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