Letters to Santa revealed

Bob Wakeham
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As most of us have acknowledged and realized forever and a day, Newfoundland is a place with a unique intimacy, where everyone seems to know everyone else, directly or indirectly, or at least believes it to be so.

Our place of habitation, for instance, has such a relatively miniscule and close-knit population that at this time of the year it sometimes appears that just about every youngster in the province bares his or her soul in letters to Santa Claus that are published in The Telegram.   

Believe it or not, I can actually recall writing several of those letters to Santa back in the ’50s, with the help of my father, of course, asking for what now sounds like pretty benign stuff, compared to  weapons now on order from Santa that seem capable of napalming several small nations.

I would rather meekly request a set of plastic six-shooters, Randolph Scott-style, with rawhide holsters; a floor hockey game so I could take advantage of my brother’s much younger age and destroy him time and again, exerting a devastating impact on his self-confidence; and a toy train for the basement floor that actually surpassed the highest speed of The Bullet (not that that was much of an accomplishment). The Christmas train also had the added bonus one year of being able to block the odd rat from making its filthy way up the wooden steps into our kitchen on Balbo Street in Gander. (It was a time when Ben and his buddies made frequent appearances throughout Gander as the new “Town Site” was being constructed. 

Anyway, those rats who bounced off our toy train, dazed but still alive, were often caught in a trap that was not quite big or sophisticated enough to dispatch them to rodent heaven to be anointed by their patron saint, St. Robert of Rats.

So it was time for Dad and me, the Balbo Bashers, to finish them off by waving hockey sticks as if they were my grandfather’s First World War bayonets, crushing their skulls on the cement floor. (Good thing, too, that our long-tailed boarders didn’t make it to the main floor: Mom wouldn’t have stopped running until she reached Port aux Basques.)

As you can tell, Gander was never dull. And just imagine: bonding with the old man during the bloody slaughter of rodents. The year of the Rats: 1958.

Back to the matter at hand: in return for writing those letters that appeared in The People’s Paper, all of us youngsters were rewarded by the magnanimous owners of The Telegram with an over-sized blue pencil with “The Evening Telegram” engraved on its side, which we immediately sharpened to a lethal point which, if mishandled, could easily have cost a sibling or two a beautiful blue eye. 

I guess what I didn’t realize at the time was that thousands of children in Newfoundland were reading my gift list to the big guy up North (I naively thought it was for Santa’s eyes only), and were taking in my deepest thoughts and desires (well, not all that deep).

All these years later, I have exploited my journalistic prowess to uncover several letters to Santa that haven’t appeared in The Telegram, at least not as of today, their authors deprived so far of a shiny new pencil with a gigantic rubber attached to its end.

Here are a few examples; more may be in the stars.

•••

Dear Santa,

First of all, I think you might be confused by tabloid rag stories written by those scumbag journalists as to which of my homes you should visit on Christmas Eve. I’m sure you read the papers, Santa, and you may have concluded that I live in both Prince Edward Island and Ottawa. Well, you see, I was a bit confused myself and I couldn’t see why there was anything wrong with having the Canadian public compensate me for such confusion. I don’t want to bore you with all that foolishness, dear Santa, and please ignore the verdict from those journalistic vultures that I had been a  naughty boy this year and deserved nothing but rotten P.E.I. spuds in my stocking (I was once part of that despicable gang of yellow journalists until I saw the light when a high-paying, do-nothing job in the Senate came my way from my friend, now former friend, the prime minister). Even my own party stabbed me in the back, Santa. But if I go down, I’ll take them with me. Oops, sorry, Santa, not very Christmas-like. Didn’t mean to show my nasty side because I really was a good boy in 2013;  just misunderstood. So please deliver my gifts, those maps of Ottawa and Charlottetown I asked for, to both of my homes. Just in case I need them for evidence. 

I’ll have a bucket of chicken, the $9.99 dark meat assortment, with month-old coleslaw and cold fries, under the tree at both addresses for you to eat, Santa. I hope I can stay away from the grub until you get here.

Your friend,

Mike

•••

Dear Santa,

I’m not really sure if I’m prepared to tell you what I want for Christmas this year. I like to keep things as secret as I possibly can. But you can contact the crowd at the CBC and The Telegram, and they can show you how to uncover my Christmas list by using the access to information legislation, the enlightened Bill 29, the one that had us compared (by journalists out to get me) to the most draconian, undemocratic of countries. But don’t hold your breath, Santa. We don’t release much here in Newfoundland; even the number of staples used by civil servants is off limits. Hint, hint on presents, though: I wonder whether you could convince Jerome to come back to the caucus. He was our stalwart. I don’t have much else left in the legislative bullpen. Even Tommy the Oz can come back if he so wishes. We’re desperate. And perhaps find me a good public relations type who will always recognize the absolute stupidity of placing my mug in front of the “Lest We Forget” monument in the lobby of Confederation Building, dedicated to our war dead. And, finally, Santa, please, please, please, make Muskrat Falls work. If it doesn’t, I’m screwed. It was Danny who promised me there would be clear sailing. Maybe for him, Santa. Not for me.   

Your friend,

Kathy

•••

Dear Santa,

There’s a couple of mutineers from the Good Ship Michael who deserve a couple of lumps of coal in their stockings. Now, there might be not much room in those socks because they are each blocked with 30 pieces of silver. As for me, I want to thank you, Santa, for the gift of letting me honestly believe for the past year or so that my little New Democratic Party was actually going somewhere, and that I might conceivably become the Opposition Leader, or, cheered on by the ghost of Jack Layton, actually become the leader of the government. It was nice while it lasted, Santa. But it’s all gone down the crapper. Now we’re back where we always were, bringing up the rear. And I think we’re going to be there for quite a while. But thanks again for that brief interlude of hope and optimism­.

Your friend,

Lorraine

•••

Dear Santa,

As you may know, there’s no more acute recipe for political disaster than being perceived as a nice guy, someone without an edge to call his own. So, Santa, if you could install a nasty side to my personality, I’d really appreciate it. And give me some dishevelled clothing for Christmas, as well, Santa, something from the Salvation Army, so I can occasionally look and dress like the ordinary Newfoundlander, as Steve Neary used to call them.  

Your friend,

Dwight

•••

Dear Santa,

I may as well cut to the chase, or to the case, as it were (a 24-pack would be preferable). I’ve been a very, very naughty boy, Santa. I’ve been hanging out with the wrong crowd, the ruffians, gangsters actually, smoking crack (but only when totally inebriated, of course, and that must count as a qualifier). So I’m not sure what I want, Santa, or what I deserve. Sometimes I don’t even know which world I’m in, to tell the truth. I do know that my brother Doug says that if you don’t bring me something nice, he’s going to do some serious damage to your elves, maybe throw them off the CN Tower one by one. Then he’s going to start in on your reindeer. He mentioned reindeer and summer barbecues in the same breath. So do not make him mad, Santa. Please surprise me with a wonderful gift. A video of “The Wild Bunch” or “The Lost Weekend” wouldn’t go astray.   

Your friend,

Rob 

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: The Bullet, CBC, New Democratic Party Salvation Army

Geographic location: Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Balbo Street Ottawa Port aux Basques Prince Edward Island

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