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Design Review: Volume 4, Issue 5 (October-November 1952)

Father Christmas is Dead!

page 105

Father Christmas is Dead!

Readers may remember this arresting headline in the daily press some time ago, quoting the remarks of an M.P. who wished it to be clearly understood that when the party he represented took office, Father Christmas died. A report of the death, if indeed true, of such a widely-known and generally respected figure could surely be expected to shock the country, and cause consternation in cottage and farmstead from North Cape to the Bluff. But no account of the reception of the news subsequently appeared in the press, and in view of this apparent oversight, Design Review decided to investigate. Time did not permit a house to house canvass, but it was considered that public reaction could well be judged by approaching various individuals selected to represent a cross section of the national life. The selection was carefully made and in every case the people concerned were grateful for the opportunity of expressing their views. Here are some of the comments received:

Henry T. Boomworthy, Esq.–Member of—Chamber of Commerce. Father Christmas dead? Not a chance. Speaking as a fairly prominent member of the business community of this town, and as one who is in a position to make a careful analysis of the facts, you can take it from me that shop sales have shown, if anything, a marked increase over the past three Christmas seasons, and that the concerted drive on the part of our larger department stores to bring the old man with the grey beard into closer contact with the buying public has shown encouraging dividends. An American business executive acquaintance of mine–a key man–told me only the other day that Mother's Day and Father's Day were steadily gaining ground in the States, but nothing would ever take the place of Christmas in the retail set-up.

Timothy Smallbones–aged 4½. So that's why I didn't get my train last Christmas. I wrote train at the top of my list but when I woke up I got a school bag and a pair of gum boots. I was so annoyed with Father Christmas but I expect he must have been very sick then.

Mr. F. A. Bowness, Agent, Providential Life Insurance Co. I'm certainly glad to hear it. Too many people in the past have been relying on Father Christmas to provide in cases of family emergency. Now, if every family man in the country were to take out one of our universal reciprocating multiple endowment policies you can be sure that Father Christmas would become a forgotten man. Can I send you one of our brochures?

Mr. Sidney Nash, Auckland. I don't believe it for one moment. Brother, if we can get cur Harbour Bridge and electric trains you can't tell me that Father Christmas is no longer in the land of the living-

Mrs. Sarah Scrubbs, mother of seven. Well really I don't know what to think. There have been times when it looked as if seven stockings to fill would be just too much for Father Christmas, and I wished the whole business had never been invented, but somehow the stockings have been full on Christmas morning and the kids get a great kick out of it, so we might as well keep him going.

Miss Abigail Stern, Secretary,—Temperance Society. Do you mean to tell me that you have nothing better to do than pester people with such fatuous questions? Personally, I was never, in my youth, persuaded that there was such a person as Father Christmas, and I don't believe that children should be fed on fairy stories. What I feel we need in this country is a more serious and realistic approach to the pressing social and environmental problems which to-day confront us. Have you, for instance, any idea of the actual quantity of alcoholic liquor consumed in New Zealand per annum, per man, woman and child? And did you realise that the consumption curve begins to rise sharply about the 20th December? Yes, certainly you may be excused–I have important work to do.

As readers will appreciate, the results of the survey were not altogether conclusive. For ourselves, we rather hope that the reports of the death of Father Christmas were, like Mark Twain's, grossly exaggerated, and hasten to take the opportunity of wishing our readers

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.