December 25, 1909


Officials of Mayor's Christmas Tree Well Pleased With Its Success.

Santa Claus, the magnanimous patron saint of good will, was the hero of the hour in Convention hall yesterday afternoon when 8,000 needy, little children were happy objects of his unbounded generosity.

For the second time the mayor's annual Christmas tree was brought forth loaded with playthings and goodies for the poor youngsters, who otherwise would not know of the joys of the giving spirit of the Yuletide. Every child, irrespective of color or race, was made the recipient of a sack filled with things that gladden the juvenile heart.

By 2 o'clock the bill hall was crowded with boys and girls from every portion of the city, and for fully an hour the expectant thousands were entertained by a band organ, furnished by the Hippodrome, and a clown band which marched about the hall playing the most tuneless tunes imaginable, but doing antics that amused all.

Mayor T. T. Crittenden was slated for a speech, but in the attempt failed, owing to the impossibility of inducing the anxious auditors to desist in their yelling. However, the mayor was able to yell "A Merry Christmas" occasionally during the distribution of presents, and this laconic well-wishing accomplished all that could be asked, for every child left the hall with smiling faces which revealed the joyousness they were experiencing.


"Isn't this going some?" smiled the mayor as he took a view of the remarkable scene. "Just so every one of these poor children get something, I will be satisfied. It is a grand sigh and a gloriouis manifestation of the great Kansas City spirit, which we all love to see.

"It's a greater success than ever," declared Steve Sedweek, a member of the executive committee. "It is one of the biggest charitable undertakings in the country to care for so many needy children, and I am sure the whole committee feels gratified in noting the remarkable demonstrations in evidence here this afternoon."

At times during the big event it was not an easy task to keep the guests properly marooned for their own safety and comfort. Every child present wanted to get his or her present first and the police, under the direction of Sergeant Charles Edwards, had their troubles, but handled the crowds well. Most of the officers present were attired in Santa Claus make-up. In fact, Saint Nick was there six times strong in the persons of Jack Darnell, S. F. Cox, James F. Campbell, A. D. Royer, Joe McCormick and Elvin Gray.

The idea of having a mayor's tree for the poor children every Christmas was conceived by Steve Sedweek, who outlined his plan at an Eagle banquet over a year ago. Mayor Crittenden forthwith promulgated the scheme, and now the affair is to be annual and of increasing success, no doubt.

Yesterday afternoon there were representatives from twelve different cities of the Middle West present to witness the distribution of gifts to the poor. These men came with the view of seeing how Kansas City made its needy ones happy on Christmas and to take the idea back home in the hopes of starting the same kind of wide-spread charity. The mayor's tree is strictly a Kansas City institution and bids fair to be in vogue in many other cities ere many years.


It was no easy matter even for a dozen military policemen under the careful personal direction of their drill master, Sergeant Charles Edwards, to keep the 8,000 children in their places in the hall yesterday when the line was formed for the distribution of presents. Between boxes, in which the visitors sat, and the gallery seats, where those really interested in the affair were penned in, was a four-foot fence of iron. It did not look very high to the boys, but it looked even smaller to the cops. To the latter it looked infinitely long, however, for at the first call for gifts a scrambling mass of children swept over it, inundating the boxes below and surging out into the hall. For a space of a minute the line seemed actually in danger. The policemen rushed forward, brandishing their clubs and shouting. A dozen members of the reception committee joined hands and formed a wall near the threatened quarter. The mayor raised his deep bass voice in mild disapproval.

Just then, at the crucial moment, the reserves threw their ponderous weight into the fray and the regiments of insurgents broke for cover like the old guard in the rout of Waterloo. The victorious newcomers were the six big officers doing duty as Santa Claus close to the Christmas trees and their tinsel had a better moral effect than the regulation uniforms or the white committee badges. There were no youngsters in that host who wanted to endanger their good standing with St. Nicholas and his assistants. Not much!

There was just one way in which gifts were classified according to the age of the child receiving them yesterday. The presents were in flour sacks, each bearing the label, "Mayor's Christmas Tree, 1909." On the sacks containing gifts calculated for older children the letters were printed in blue, while on the others they were in red. There were eighteen persons at each "gift bench" handing out the sacks.


A great number of visitors at the mayor's Christmas party wondered why two long benches ere arranged alongside the trees. They were told by ushers that these were the mourners' benches. This was proved to be true later in the day when children who had somehow got lost from their parents or elders lined up from one end to the other. Two little girls, Edith Shoemaker, 2311 Euclid avenue, and Menie Marcus, who said she lived near Eighteenth and McGee streets, were prominent among the mourners.

Edith's tear-stained face and Menie's extraordinary composure seemed to attract the attention of everyone. They had never seen each other before, but they were two lost little girls whose ages were on the tender side of 10 years, and in that circumstance there was union. With arms locked about each other's neck, they sat for an hour until Mayor Crittenden personally took charge of Edith, and Jacob Billikopf of Menie, and sent them home, loaded with presents.

Two wagon loads of toys arrived at the hall after the crowd had been treated and were only partially disposed of. The sum of the donations for the tree amounted to $4,880. It was announced last night by Albert Hutchins, chairman of the finance committee, that $200 of the money has not been used. The presents remaining after yesterday will be distributed at the Grand theater Monday night.

Several instances of highway robbery, in which large boys despoiled smaller ones of their trinkets or tickets were reported to the committee of distribution during the afternoon.