Cooper: Letters to Santa in 1917

Special This image appeared in the Sentinel in December of 1917.

Lisa Cooper

I would imagine some of you have children or grandchildren who have written a letter to Santa Claus within the last couple of months. You probably remember some of your own letters to Santa. They were as much a rite of Christmas as looking through the "Sears Wish Book," riding the Pink Pig at Rich's department store in downtown Atlanta, or the all-important Christmas party on the final day of school before break.

The practice of writing letters to Santa Claus dates back more than 150 years, and thankfully, due to the work of the Santa Claus Museum located in Santa Claus, Indiana, many letters showing each of those 15 decades are archived. While some are sweet, some are sad, and some are audacious in their requests, the majority of the letters reveals the mood of the nation and basically showcases our national history.

A few months ago I dived pretty heavily into Douglas County's World War I history, and in the process I found several letters submitted to the Sentinel written by third-graders who attended school in Douglasville. These letters were written on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 1917, with school breaking for the holidays that Friday.

A few themes run through the letters -- love for a great teacher, popular gifts for the time period including fruit and nuts, and the war. The United States had been at war since April of 1917, so naturally third-graders would have heard the adults around them discussing the war, and possibly had relatives serving "over there."

Enjoy these letters. Perhaps you will recognize a name or two. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Letter One: I am at school. I like to go to school. We have such a good time. We are learning most everything. Miss Boyd is our teacher, she is a good one. We are learning Christmas songs this week. Santa, I am trying to be good. I am going to look for you on Christmas, but I don't want much for we have to send most of the money to the soldiers. One thing I want is bananas. Your friend, Mazelle Herrod.

Letter Two: How are you today? I am all right. We have been having bad weather here, but it is clear now. I come to school every day, and my teacher says I am learning fast. We learn almost everything in the third grade. Christmas, I want you to bring me a soldier suit, some candy and nuts. My sister wants a doll cradle and some sparkles. Well, goodbye now, I guess. I will write you next Xmas. Your friend, Elvin Duncan.

Letter Three: How are you this cold weather? I wish you would bring me a motorcycle, but do not bring me any fireworks. We want them to be put in bombs to kill the Germans. Santa Claus, we still have an old school house, but will have a new one by Christmas. Good bye. Your little friend, Buford Styles.

Letter Four: I am doing fine in school and Miss Boyd says that I am learning very fast. I want you to bring me a large tea set, a pretty doll and bed. I want some fruits, too. Your friend, Edna Kirby.

Letter Five: How are you by now? Fine I hope. Do not bring me any fireworks, save your money for the soldiers. Bring me a coconut, a football, and some oranges. Do not bring me many things this year for the war is on. Your friend, Thomas Holland.

Letter Six: How are you feeling? I hope you are well. I got on the honor roll every month. I hope you will come to my house. I want some firecrackers, a cap pistol, some nuts, candy, and apples. I will not ask for much. The soldiers need the money. Your little friend, William Wilson.

Letter Seven: How are you this weather? Our school is going to close Friday morning, the 21st. I am looking for you this Christmas, but I am not expecting much for the war is on. Please bring me a nice big doll and some fruit. Bring Miss Boyd something, too. Your friend, Virginia Baggett.

Letter Eight: How are you getting along? I am going to school every day and learning very fast for I have a good teacher. I want you to bring me a football, a cowboy suit, some fireworks, a story book, and a suit. Your friend, Leeman White.

Letter Nine: I will be looking for you soon, and I want to tell you not to bring me too much because it is war time. I don't want you to go see the Germans for they are fighting our men! I will tell you what I want: a soldier suit, and an air gun, but don't bring me any fireworks, as I don't want to waste any money. Your friend, Robert Groodzinsky.

Letter Ten: It will soon be time for me to hang up my stocking again. I am looking for you, but I don't want you to bring me much for we need the money for our soldiers. I want a book for Miss Boyd says that I am learning to read fine. I want some fruit and candy, too. I would like a cowboy suit. Your friend, W.C. Abercrombie, Jr.

Letter Eleven: Our school is to turn out Friday. We have been having bad weather here. I hope it will be good when you come. I am looking for you soon. I am a little girl, eight years old, but you know me. Miss Boyd is my teacher and I want you to go to see her. I want a doll and a pair of kid gloves. Your friend, Frances Downs.

Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her books can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art, The Farmer's Table and Lithia Springs Pharmacy.

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