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Local History

Thrilling Santa

Beginning November 10, 1935, the Springfield Leader & Press began a campaign to assure Springfield children that Santa really does exist. The newspaper started with a letter to Santa contest and then proceeded to hire Captain F. E. Kleinschmidt, an arctic explorer, to travel to the North Pole.

Captain Kleinschmidt sent in-depth descriptions of his travels, complete with photographs, to the newspaper. Once he and his wife reached the North Pole, he gave an exhaustive account of all the wonderful, magical things in Santa’s workshop. This culminated in Santa visiting Springfield by train and an appearance at the Electric Theater (later known as the Fox Theater) and a movie by Captain Kleinschmidt. The following article is edited due to it's length.

Santa Comes and Children Get a Thrill
Springfield Leader & Press, December 7, 1935

"Youngsters see Movies of Arctic Lands and the Palace Where Toys are Made"

"'There he is! There he is…' The big engine of the Santa Claus Special chugged and puffed cautiously down the track—and there, in the window, was Santa Claus himself. He was big and beaming and smiling; and his great white beard gleamed snowy white against his red suit.

"What seemed like ten thousand excited children glued their eyes on him—just gazed, fascinated. They had been gathering for an hour, until it seemed as if every child in Springfield must be there, milling up and down the platform of the Frisco station and lining the streets with a living wall of boys and girls (and also men and women!)…

"The Santa Claus Special came in from the east on track 2 and a long train stood in front of the station on track 4, which helped to keep the overflowing mob of youngsters from spilling all over the tracks. But some of the bigger boys swarmed all over the locomotive like flies. They filled the walks and even the street, until cars trying to pass had to crawl along an inch at a time, and several officers and a volunteer army of Springfield Newspaper's men kept clearing them off the tracks and out of the middle of the street the best they could.

"The Boy Scout band played on the station platform, and then moved down and formed in Main Street and played there—and the Girls Drum corps, gay in their kilts, lined up and played too.

"Finally, after what seemed like quite a long time…the Santa Claus Special appeared…And there was Santa Claus—sitting in the window, smiling and waving. The minute the train stopped, with Santa Claus car on Main Street, the whole crowd that extended at least a block up the street pressed down against the car in one big surge.

"After Santa Claus had waved and greeted the children, he started to come down out of his car to get into a waiting automobile to go up town but the children surrounded him so he could hardly move. Finally, after he had shaken the hands and patted the heads of all who could crowd near, with the help of the chief of police and some other officers he managed to make his slow way to the car. And there the whole thing was to do over again.

"'My, oh my!' said Santa Claus, almost breathless, 'I certainly am glad to see you all, so many fine boys and girls. But what a time I had getting here! For a while I thought I never could make it, when my plane broke down...' Then Mayor Harry D. Durst stood up and said, 'Santa Claus, I want to welcome you to the city of Springfield. We are mighty glad to have you here to visit us, and I want to report to you that all these boys and girls here have been very good—every one of them—and I hope you have something for them all on Christmas day.'

"Next Superintendent Harry Study got up and he said, 'Welcome Santa Claus. The whole city welcomes you—the gates are open, and you have the key. We are certainly greatly pleased that you have come, and we hope you like it here. And I, too, want to report that all these boys and girls have been mighty good this year—they have been good every single day!' But privately, one small boy confessed in Mayor Durst's ear, 'Well not EVERY day.'

"Presently, very slowly, the car started, with half-a-dozen men trying to brush the children off, riding on the running boards to shoo them—and a score of others trying to clear a way through the crowd... So they went—up Main Street to College, and along College to the Square, and around to the Electric theater. And by the time Santa Claus got there, the whole crowd was already there!

"As quickly as he could make his way through the crowd without neglecting anybody, Santa Claus went into the theater -- and then the children began to follow him in. That is, those did who had the yellow tickets that admitted them to the first show at 9:15 o'clock of the pictures Captain F. E. Kleinschmidt took when he went north a few weeks ago for the Leader and Press to search for Santa Claus. The pictures showed the search and how it was successful.

"And Santa Claus just being in town, somehow, put everybody into a fine, friendly mood. Harassed women trying to herd half-a-dozen small children without losing any of them in the crowd, still smiled as they grabbed the littlest one from under some stranger's legs. Children confidingly held the hands of men they never saw before, leading them to safety as the parade moved. And on the line of march a ragged and unshaven old man smiled at a dainty little girl in a white velvet coat. 'Well, well,' he said, 'Did you see Santa Claus?'

"'Yes, I did,' said the child.

"'Well, well!' responded the old man as she passed on, 'Isn't that fine! Isn't that fine!' And he continued to smile as other children hurried on, too -- because Santa Claus was in town!"

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