Saddest Santa c lauses in the W odd
PY GILBERT SWAN.
Sketches by George Clark.
£ -wr y wP HERE the North and East
m M / Rivers of Manhattan become
M/t/ a long, curving line of con
-7 F crete wharves, the December
winds snapped with particu
lar cruelty at the threadbare feet of a hundred
Snow swirled in cyclonic spirals, tossed about
in feathery clouds that half obscured the rag
ged fronts of down-at-the-heel buildings. A few
blocks away, the tall buildings of Broadway
halted the rush of wind and the snow flurries
beat against the steel giants as ineffectually as
. petals. Slowly the sidewalks and pavements
took on a thin coating of slush.
And through this slush came plodding, Just
before the breakfast hour, the feet of a hun
' dred beaten men. With each footstep the melt
ing snow penetrated the thin and broken soles
of shoes, as though they were so much blotting
paper The men turned up their collars against
the wind as they made their way westward
toward the river. They pulled down battered
hats. And down by Tenth avenue they turned
abruptly into a mission.
. 20 minutes they were emerging
again. But now an amazing transforma
tion had taken place. By some magic they had
achieved gay red coats and gay red hats. They
wore white wigs and white beards. They jan
gled merry little bells. And through the storm
they now made their way to posts on fifth
avenue, where, to the eyes of the busy shoppers,
they were so many Santa Clauses.
And such is the illusioned faith of childhood
that it does not look behind the beard, the
mask and the costume. They see only the sym
bol of Kris Knngle. Eyes may be deep-circled
and cheeks gaunt behind the white beards:
shoes may have become soggy sponges—but the
millions give little heed.
Mothers take tots over to “m:et Santa” and
children break away to get a closer look.
While this army of ragged Santas stand
throughout the day In storm and sleet, ringing
little bells and chanting—“ Please help the poor
—give somp'n for the Christmas dinners.”
It’s really not so far in distance from the
streets down by the river to the glittering heart
of Fifth avenue—but physically they are sep
arated by worlds.
JUST before Christmas, Fifth avenue, like
* “little orphan Annie,” is just as good as It
And when Fifth avenue is as good%s it can
. ”**’ a little bit better than any other high
way in the world.
It is more ornate; its windows are hypnotic
and alluring; its displays are bizarre and beau
tiful: it calls upon the talent of the world for
new ideas; it shows puppets and baubles; the
value of Its wares staggers the imagination; it
is jammed with a dizzy parade of humans.
It nas 10-cent stores and millionaire's de
lights. Its shoppers range from ladies in costly
furs to shop girls who borrow their wraps from
a roommate. It reeks of extravagance and
Every comer has its Santa Claus. Every
Santa Claus has a large-mouthed pot at his
side. Ev?ry Santa chants the whole day long—
“ Help the poor—give somp'n for Christmas
And in this small army of hungry Santas
there is this year, as usual, a certain “Sandy”
Clems. The iimilarity of names is quite strik
ing. It takes but a couple of letters to change
Sandy Clews into Santa Claus.
Like Santa, no one knows for sure where
Sandy comes from. The childhood legend was
that Santa came from the North Pole. To all
Intents and purposes, so does Sandy
THE SUNDAY STAR. WASHINGTON. D. C.. DECEMBER 22. 1020.
% ' " ’ *
Manhattan Offers No More Bitter Irony Than
the Spectacle of Its Christmas Army of
Down-and-Out Kris Kringles , Soliciting
Money for the Poor When They Themselves
Are Nearly Destitute, Striking a Note of
Pathos in an Otherzvise Joyful Season.
nit-Ks oj ino staowaths.
jpOR 11 months a year he drops out of sight.
But in late November, come hail, sleet or
snow, Sandy wanders into one of the “Santa
Claus agencies,” and after a casual salute an
nounces: “Well, here I am. Can ya fix me
An old clerk, accustomed to his annual visi
Any onr who ho, „ nirkrl ran gr, a mral. Who my. thorn Un’t any Sant. Clam?
tation, reaches behind a few boxes containing
threadbare clothing and digs out a uniform!
That, largely, is the extent of the conversation.
The folk who conduct the humanitarian agen
cies “down by the river” don’t insist on family
histories of men who arrive before Christmas
looking for Jobs as Santa Claus.
That isn’t exactly accurate—they do try to
give the jobs 10 men who seem to need them
the most. They prefer to choose men with
wives and families; men who would have no
Christmas at all did they fail to get a few
weeks’ work just before Yuletide; men whose
children’s stockings would go unfllld if the
$3 and $4 per day didn’t come in at this par
So, along the glittering lane which is fifth
avenue, you’ll find many a Santa who is going
to turn out to be a Santa after all to young
sters accustomed to munching a crust of bread;
youngsters who have grown rickety and
You’ll find Santas whd wouldn’t be eating if
they weren t Santas. Santas who stand chant
ing “Please help the poor”—when they are
the poor! It’s a sort of fantastic parody on it
self—the blind leading the blind and the poor
feeding the poor!
As for Sandy Clews, he's a g ntleman of
the rods and makes no effort to hide it. If he
rates an advantage over other job seekers, it’s
on the ground of long service. Whatever
Sandy may be during the rest of the year, on
Christmas he’s a sentimentalist—as who isn’t?
Sandy has never taken any of his fellow*
or any of his questioners into his confidence
A couple of years ago, when he arrived in lower
Forty-second street a bit late, a social worker
casually broached the point by asking
“ Where ve you been, Sandy? Thought you
might be dead ” 7
“I was,” came the curt answer.
“What tram did you come in on?”
e^T rain !T liSSen .: Ive been changing box cans
for tv/o days. Wasn’t feeling so good. Didn’t
know whether I could make It this year”
..S? W far have you come?” he was asked.
was the only re P ,y “he went
into an adjoining room to put on his uniform.
As in the case of all mysterious personages,
Continued on Nineteenth Page J
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