Nostalgia: A Tale of Christmas Past at Eaton’s Toyland

A photo of a vintage Santa

Photo: TerriC/Pixabay

Once upon a time, kiddies, there was Toyland.

No, not an app.


There was Toyland at Eaton’s.

It was a time long ago when there were no apps, no smartphones and no iPads.

Your grandmother was a little girl, and Eaton’s Toyland was on the fifth floor of a department store that you could walk through, not scroll through.

You reached the promised land by taking an escalator or an elevator with an operator wearing white gloves.

And when you arrived in that enchanted place, everything you always wanted was displayed there, all at the same time in the same place – not one screen at a time – amid glitter and ribbons and snowflakes and helper elves.

What wasn’t there were Disney princess dolls (not even Elsa!) or walking dinosaurs or flying fairies or kid-sized cars with batteries.

There were games like checkers and Monopoly that came in a box with a board and pieces you could hold in your hand and move around the board.

Because these could be easily lost after the game was opened – that meant unwrapping the package and taking the cover off the box, not touching an icon – your father gave you a purple velvet Crown Royal bag with gold strings that could be pulled tight to keep the pieces safe.

There were Meccano sets and Lincoln logs and Plasticene and books like The Hardy Boys and Treasure Island and Nancy Drew and Little Women. There were electric trains and cars and trucks with no remote controls and dolls and dollhouses and doll prams.

There were no character dolls from movies or TV shows. but you might find a nurse doll or a ballerina doll or even your heart’s desire – a Barbara Ann Scott doll.

And there, through an arch of candy canes and evergreen boughs, reigning over Toyland, was Santa Claus.

And even if you were a little girl who’d shed her snow pants in the store and wore a short dress with bare thighs, you got to sit on Santa’s lap, and nobody thought anything but how sweet it was as you told Santa that what you really wanted most was a talking doll because you were shy and that’s what all the girls said, and he smiled and sent you back to your mother with a candy cane.

After Toyland, there were still more treats at Eaton’s in the Grill Room where the waitress gave you a menu that was a mask shaped like the head of a teddy bear called Punkinhead. And then, before you went home, you stopped at the Hostess Shop, where ladies in uniform with handkerchiefs tucked in their pockets carefully put Red Velvet cakes and chicken pot pies in folded boxes, and you got two gingerbread men, one for now and one for later.

And now, kiddies, it’s time to go sleep and tomorrow we’ll go to and and and and, and you can show me all the presents you want to put on your list.