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Santa helps war widow and her family

Santa helps war widow and her family

Dec. 24, 1945: Los Angeles Times reporter Tom Bridges, as Santa Claus, pays an unexpected visit to Mrs. Pauline Barrow and her seven children to deliver food, presents and a Christmas tree.

Mrs. Barrow’s husband, Pvt. M.G. Barrow, died in the Philippines on Oct. 6, 1945. From left, top step, Lenora, 4, Marvin Glenn, 5, and Floyd, 7. Bottom step, twins Jimmy and Johnny, 3. On floor, Kenneth Wayne, 8 months, and Patricia, 2.

For Christmas 1945, when many soldiers had already returned home from World War II, The Times’ Tom Bridges played Santa for a widow and her family.

In his Dec. 25, 1945, Los Angeles Times story, Bridges wrote:

The scoffer who said that “nobody loves a fat man” tripped himself with those controversial words. Give a fat man a red velvet suit and a long white beard, and at once he becomes the most venerable man in town.

Children follow him as the moppets of Hamelin traipsed after the Pied Piper. Parents smile in the memory of their own childhood. Oldsters reflect the gayety of youngsters. Wherever he goes, he stirs up wide-eyed excitement and anticipated joy.

For in the role of Santa Claus, he becomes the embodiment of Christmas spirit. He represents generosity and family love and abundance in the Yuletide. He personifies merriment and the shouts of happy children.

Last night – the night before Christmas – a rotund Santa who stopped by the Times en route took gifts and laughter and hope to a home where seven little children slept uneasily, yet trustful that on the dawn their little stockings would be bulging with toys, candy and colorful baubles.

With him the genial gentleman of Christmas carried a plump holiday turkey and a basket of all the trimmin’s. Under one arm was tucked a shapely Christmas tree, and over his back he threw two bags heavy with wagons, and dolls and trim plastic planes. …

Not a creature was stirring through the Barrow house. But as Santa approached, the children awoke. They tossed back their covers and down the stairs they rushed, half exuberant, half frightened at what they saw.

At the door their 23-year-old mother, Pauline, was welcoming a jolly, red-cheeked Santa Claus whose cap twinkled when he moved his head.

“Hello, Santa,” she said, and then twisting and writhing, she jammed her fist into her mouth and timidly hid her face. …

Mrs. Barrow hasn’t time for tears. She has the responsibility of rearing seven children alone. You see, Pvt. Barrow, her husband, met a flaming death in the Philippines on Oct. 6 when the truck he was driving caught fire. It was quite a blow to the young mother, but the Red Cross helped her, and her neighbors at the housing project are friendly.

Santa Claus, who necessarily is a busy man making his rounds on Christmas Eve, stayed two hours with the Barrows. He left with reluctance and assurance of the love of the children. …

The above photo was published in the Dec. 25, 1945, Los Angeles Times. Several images accompanied Bridges’ story but are no longer in the Los Angeles Times Archives. The above image was found in the January, 1946, edition of Among Ourselves, a former Los Angeles Times employee publication.

In another recent From the Archives post, Times writer Bob Pool discussed his experience as an undercover Santa Claus.

Nov. 22, 1944: Los Angeles Times reporter Tom Bridges, left, in civilian garb, tries to interview Vice President Harry Truman at a train station. This photo was published in the Nov. 23, 1944, Los Angeles Times.

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