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Gordon Sutherland with Santa in the 1960s. Photo from Ray Sutherland.

Santa, a gallery of amateurs

Not everybody has what it takes to be an amateur Santa. But sometimes not having what it takes is no obstacle, and hundreds of dads, grandpas, uncles and ring-ins of all stripes have been called to serve under the red and white banner of Father Christmas. When push comes to shove, after all, it’s usually a matter of jumping out of a truck with a sack full of bags of lollies and handing them to crowds of excited children who probably aren’t paying too much attention to the fine detail of your costume. Store Santas are different, of course, and it was on the various bony knees of store Santas that many Australian children logically concluded that either Santa was a myth or that he delegated prolifically. There were Santas with real beards and Santas with facial fuzz as fake as a Murdoch headline. There were Santas with black-rimmed eyeglasses and Santas with perfect vision. But pretty much all of them were certain that Christmas was going to be good. With all that in mind, here is a small gallery of photos of some Aussie Santas, over the years.

Santa on the Hunter Coalfields, circa the 1920s or 1930s. Photo by Alexander Galloway.

This one is Charlie Chaplin, in a Depression-era cinema advertising slide from the Graceson Cinema at Swansea. Photo from Brian Dobinson.

Santa arriving by train with Minnie Mouse and some tribal assistants: part of a promotional event for the Newcastle Bargain Arcades retail store in the 1930s. Photo from Noel Blundell.

Arthur Princehorn dressed as Santa at Alf and Gert Princehorn’s shop in Ulick Street, Merewether. Photo from Julie Austin.

Santa at Winn’s store in Newcastle, showing off a doll to a couple of children, sometime in the 1960s. Photo by Ron Morrison.

Barney Tilden, of Georgetown, was a labourer at Newcastle State Dockyard. He played Santa for 40 years. His first beard was made from the tails of three cows, and he wore out five Santa suits in the course of his career. This photo in 1960 by Ron Morrison.

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