The children are introduced by an unidentified male announcer with a smooth and authoritative voice. As was popular in Australian radio at the time his accent is based on the standard BBC (Southern English) radio accent. The rest of the recording is vérité. We get to eavesdrop on a conversation usually only heard by Santa and the child sitting on his lap.
This broadcast, which would probably have seemed unremarkable at the time, now gives us a window into the beloved toys of the moment and the tradition of children telling department store Santas what they would like for Christmas. Robin asks Santa for a dolly and a rattle, Carolyn (six years old) requests a fairy frock and Peter (aged five) wants an electric boat.
It wasn’t all smiles though. You can hear from Robin’s voice in the recording that she is put off when Santa asks whether she wants a dressed dolly because, ‘You don’t want a dolly in the nude do ya?’. Such talk wouldn’t pass muster with today’s Santas!
Santa promises he won’t forget them, and goes on to dispense some timeless advice: ‘Go to bed early’ and ‘Do what Mummy and Daddy tells ya’.
The advertisement (above) from The Sydney Morning Herald is for the Santaland that Robin, Carolyn and Peter visited. Apart from getting to speak with Santa Claus, other enticements included a treasure ship, snow palace and magical caves.
Sound archivist Tamara Osicka says, ‘There is something so evocative about being able to hear a person, without seeing them. It allows you to create a picture in your mind of, in this case, three tiny children standing in wonder in front of Santa’s Cave, talking to someone they regard as a magical being.’
Tamara adds, ‘Although our collection contains a lot of recordings of important historical figures, it also contains the voices of ordinary Australians. These recordings can tell us a lot about times past. This recording is a beautiful example of the many hidden gems in the NFSA’s audio collection.’