December 26, 1908
Was it a success, the first Mayor's Christmas tree in Kansas City? It was, even more than a success, and if the committee had counted on delegates from Kansas City, Kas., Armourdale, Argentine, Rosedale, Olathe, Kas., Independence, Holden and Pleasant Hill, Mo., and a few from Chicago, Ill., all would have gone off swimmingly. As it was there were more present than presents.
The women sacked and separated 5,000 bags for boys and girls, and 2,500 sacks lay on tables on each side of the hall. Besides those, about 700 Christmas bags had been prepared specially for children in hospitals and those who were ill at home and could not come to Convention hall. It was the intention to deliver them by wagons late yesterday afternoon.
In one short hour every sack was gone, including the ones prepared for the hospitals, and many children were still in line. Over 700 tickets were given to them to come to the hall at 2 o'clock this afternoon when an effort will be made to supply them. Captain J. F. Pelletier of the purchasing committee bought toys, candies and nuts last night and a committee of tired women will be at the hall at 8 o'clock this morning to prepare them. It is estimated that fully 1,000 children who were last in line failed to get a Christmas sack.
It was stated that he doors to the main floor would be opened at 1 p. m. and that the distribution would begin at 2 o'clock. But the children began gathering at 10 o'clock, and as the wind was raw, they were admitted to the balconies of the hall.
Shortly after 1 o'clock some one gave the word "Ready" and the girls and boys rushed from the balconies and jammed into one living mass before the entrance to the arena. The wee ones were being smothered and, in order to save lives, the crowd had to be admitted to the floor.
On the right side was a big placard reading "BOYS" and on the left another reading "GIRLS." Instead of mingling about the hall and looking at the trees and watching the antics of the five Santa Clauses under the two great evergreens, the boys massed before the chute leading to their side and the girls did likewise on the other side.
Patrolmen William M. Meyers, Elvin Gray, T. L. Savidge, George H. Moseley and Thomas McNally, who were rigged in full regalia as the five Saints Nick did all they could to detract the attention of the children, but they had their eyes on those Christmas bags, and the lumbering antics didn't even win a grin.
There was nothing to do but start the ball, and start it they did. The first boy to get his goodies was George Cook, 11 years old, of 115 North Prospect avenue. A committeeman placed the imprint of a little Christmas tree on the back of George's left hand with a rubber stamp and indelible ink. He grabbed his sack, sailed through the chute and squatted immediately outside the door to see what he had. He was soon followed by a mob of other boys, just as curious, and soon the doorway had to be cleared by a policeman as there was a boy to every square foot.
At the head of the girls' line stood Ester Cronkhite, 11 years old, 1700 Fremont avenue. In her arms she carried her 2-year-old sister, Alice. Both were given appropriate sacks and, heavily laden, little Ester labored on. The children were given street car tickets home. One ticket entitled tow to a ride.
Most attention was paid to the boys, as it was believed that they -- the little scamps --- would do some duplicating. Soon after it was seen that their hands were being stamped several boys appeared in line with gloves on. And so did some of the girls. When the jam on the boys' side got beyond control Detective Thomas Hayde mounted a box and, in stentorian tones commanded, "Here, you kids, quit that pushing. Don't you see you're smothering these kids here in the front? Stand back there. Quit that."
"Hully chee," said one boy, "dere's de chief. Skedoo back kids and beehave er we won't git nuttin."
From that announcement there was a line formed out of the boys and there was little crowding. "De chief's here," went down the line. "See 'im hollerin' on de box dere." That settled it with them.
On the girls side there was nothing short of chaos. About nine stalwart coppers -- out of thirty detailed at the hall -- under Captain John Branham, could no t keep them in line. They actually shoved the police to one side. "O'm demmed, eh? Oi aint timpted tuh give 'em the loight schlap," said one policeman, who had been shoved about ten feet by the little girls, "but 'twudn't do, all being gerrels, ye know."
While the bulk of the eagle eyes were on the boys to see that they played no tricks and did no repeating, the girls did a rushing business on that very line. At the head of the line were bags for little girls, and the big ones got theirs further on. Many of the "mediums," which could pass for both, got both. One was seen to get a sack, hold it under her cloaK with one hand, while with the other hand she gratefully received another.
Still others would get their sack and immediately pass it over the chute to a waiting companion on the outside while she passed on and got a second present from another woman. Many of the sharp boys whose hands had been stamped and who could not get back in line were seen to do this same thing.
"Gimme 'nother for my little brother what's sick at home an' can't come. Gimme one fer my sister with th' mumps. Gimme one fer my little cousin what has fits an' can't come. Gimme 'nother one fer my half little brother what's visitin' an' won't be home 'till New Years. Gimme 'nother, please, fer a kid what lives by me an' sprained his leg so he can't git his shoes on any more this year."
The foregoing excuses were given by the boys and girls in line, and there were possibly a hundred others. No one could refuse them, as many cried to make the play strong.
Many little ones got lost from brothers and sisters, and the five Santa Clauses were kept busy carrying them about hunting for relatives and companions with whom they had come. All were crying. R. S. Crohn found a little fellow's brother for him three times, and when he got lost again turned him over to Santa Claus. Finally a room was set apart for the lost ones and by the time the festivities were over all lost children had been restored.
Mayor Thomas T. Crtittenden, Jr. , mistaken in the time he should have been there, arrived at Convention hall with Franklin Hudson, just as the last of the bags had been given out to the children. There was to have been an entertainment, with a speech by the mayor, but that had to be left out. Devaney's orchestra furnished music while the children were waiting.
"It's the happiest day of my life," said the mayor. "I wouldn't have missed the little I have seen for anything. We will know better how to proceed next year, however, and will begin earlier. Another thing we will know is just how many children will be here and just what sort of presents to put up for them. Other cities may profit by our example next y ear and relieve us of such an unfortunate incident as took place today. We have more money, however, will buy more toys, more nuts, candy and fruit, and will be ready for the leftovers Saturday at 2 p. m."
"It was more than what we bargained for," said Franklin Hudson, chairman of the executive committee. "We were counting on our own children only -- but what's the difference, they are all children anyway."
"I don't care if they came here from Europe," said Captain J. F. Pelletier. "We were not looking for 1,500 outsiders, but as they weere here we are glad of it. I wish all the kids on earth had been here. At one time I thought at least half of them were here.
Another large bundle of Santa Claus letters were received at the hall yesterday, some of them being handed in by the children who came. They will be classified by districts and an effort made as far as possible to give each child just hwat it asked for. It may take several days yet, but the committee says: "We are not going to do this thing by halves."
Labels: Argentine, Armourdale, charity, Chicago, children, Convention Hall, holidays, Independence, Kansas City Kas, Mayor Crittenden, music, Olathe, Prospect avenue, Public administrator Crohn, Rosedale, toys