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How this woman reacted to finding a letter she wrote to Santa 50 years ago

The Archives of Ontario has granted us access to a number of letters to Santa written in the 50s and 60s, and CBC has reunited a couple with the original writers.

The Archives of Ontario granted the CBC access to a number of letters to Santa written in the 1950s and 1960s

Joanne Truskoski, 55, is reunited with a letter she wrote to Santa almost 50 years ago. (Joanne Truskoski)

It was 1968 when a precocious six-year-old named Joanne Golka sat with her mother at their kitchen table in the town of Barry's Bay, Ont., penning a letter to Santa.

It was written on a single page of foolscap paper.

(Archives of Ontario )

Making her case to the man in the red suit was a Christmas staple during her childhood, along with hearty meals, midnight mass and inevitably, that delivery from Santa himself. 

"I was very lucky," said the 55-year-old, who now goes by her married name, Joanne Truskoski. "I'm not sure how he always found time to come to our house. I could hear his reindeer bells on the roof and somehow he would get down onto the ground.

"I remember us leaving the sugar cookies out and leaving the milk. I even remember us leaving carrots out on the plate for the reindeer," she said. 

Joanne Truskoski with her parents in 1969. (Joanne Truskoski)
Joanne Truskoski and her mother, Ursula Golka, at the kitchen table in 1964 on her second birthday. (Joanne Truskoski )

Truskoski says those fond memories came back to her as soon as she read the letter for the first time since sending it to the North Pole nearly 50 years ago. 

Joanne Truskoski, 55, reads a letter her mother helped her write as a six-year-old in Barry's Bay, Ont. 1:06

During those years, families sometimes sent Santa letters through the Timothy Eaton Co. They stayed part of the company's archives. Now, the 70 letters it kept from that time period are with the Archives of Ontario. Through the names and addresses on several letters, CBC tracked down two people. 

"My mom and I [wrote the letters] at the old house. I remember being worried because I really was half good and half bad," said Truskoski, visibly moved. "Mom said, 'Oh, it's going to be good as long as you try hard from now until Santa comes.'"

'Don't come down the chimney or you'll land in the furnace' 

A few years before Truskoski dictated her letter at the kitchen table, Peter Spurling, a young boy about six or seven, enlisted the help of his older brother, Phil, to send off his reminder to Santa that he had been good that year.

It included a dire warning about going down the chimney of the family home in Scarborough, Ont. 

(Archives of Ontario )
Peter Spurling in 1958, aged 3, with his father and brothers. His brother, Phil, who helped him write the letter, is on the far left. (Peter Spurling)

The youngest Spurling boy went on to work for the Toronto Police Service for 38 years, first as a patrol officer, then as a sniper and bomb squad technician, and finally, he spent the last half of his career with the mounted unit. 

Now 62 and living about an hour north of the city, the retired sergeant said seeing the letter brought back memories for him, too. 

"This is definitely my mother's paper. All her life, she had stationery with flowers," said Spurling. "I actually had totally forgotten about writing letters to Santa myself. I didn't expect to ever see these again." 

Peter Spurling, 62, reads a letter he wrote to Santa in the late 1960s as a young child in Scarborough, Ont. 1:16

Musing to himself, Spurling said he thought of his old neighbourhood, of Christmastime, snowball fights and shovelling snow. 

"I can just picture Christmas at our house," he said. "I can see it all in my mind when I read it." 

Peter Spurling as a 10-year-old in 1965. (Peter Spurling)

Toys back then

The Archives of Ontario took an interest in the letters because they're snapshots of Canadian history. 

"On one hand, kids still wake up on Christmas morning and hope to see toys they're hoping for under the tree," said Jay Young, outreach officer with the archives. "On the other hand, it speaks to wider technological changes.'

"It speaks so much to the consumerist history, the manufacturing history," said Young, noting children did not request video games back then, something that's not lost upon the letter-writers of Christmases past. 

A Christmas gift 

"These days most kids are into technology," said Truskoski. "Back then, it was a baby precious doll that made everything worthwhile." 

It sounds like Santa agreed the young girl was at least partially good, because Truskoski remembers finding that doll in her stocking that year. 

Spurling points out he asked for a train year after year until he finally got one. 

As the decades passed, and the allure of dolls and trains wore off, both say that — half a century later — the spirit of the season remains. 

"It's a Christmas gift, really. Memories are worth a lot," said Spurling. "My mom just passed away last year. Last year was my first Christmas as an orphan. It's nice to remember stuff like this at this point." 

"I never expected these letters were kept, so this is just such a great Christmas gift," said Truskoski. "The best gift you can get is time and memories, and — no matter what happens — that's the one thing nobody can ever take away from you." 

Do these letters belong to you? 

(Archives of Ontario )
(Archives of Ontario )
(Archives of Ontario )
(Archives of Ontario )

Email Lisa.Xing@cbc.ca to let us know.

About the Author

Lisa Xing is a journalist by trade and a historian by degree. She's also a creative writer, photographer and traveller, dabbling in camping, canoeing and crafting. Email Lisa.Xing@cbc.ca.

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