Monday, December 18, 2006

Ghosts of Christmases past

Xmas 1961whiteXmas 1986

The colour shot above recently dropped out of one of my many old photo albums, while I was looking for something else, and I was stunned to realise that it had been taken (at a 1986 ASTREX Star Trek Fan Club Christmas function)... 20 years ago! Sometimes it seems like only yesterday. Actually, I remember the night quite well; it was a "Whodunnit?" murder mystery, held at Sydney's Mortuary Station, back when it had been revived as a pancake restaurant - on a train! That's me, as Mister Fantastic, of the "Fantastic Four", back when I was able to get away with wearing stretch lycra. Interestingly, the signature white in my Reed Richards sideburns was sprayed on, from a can. These days I can do a pretty mean Mister Fantastic impersonation without any hair enhancement whatsoever.

Piggy Claus (Steve Simpson) was a rather gruff and feisty "Star Trek" Tellarite. ("Piiiiigs iiiiiin Spaaaaaace!!!!!") Steve had gone to a lot of trouble to surprise everyone that night. He was supposed to be Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, also of the "Fantastic Four" superhero team, but he turned up a vision in paunchy red and white, with a Tellarite nose pilfered from my Star Trek makeup box, and the obligatory bottle of Saurian brandy.

The photo made me determined to find a much earlier shot. Even though my mother has all the other annual "family w/Santa" pix in a shoebox, this one was lent to me to put into a teachers college media assignment (in 1978), and somehow it stayed in that assignment album. Until a few years ago, when a box of precious stuff narrowly escaped getting permanently saturated in a garage flood. I thought the black and white photo I'd remembered might have been from 1966. But no, it was 1961, making me - only just - three years old! It features me (at far left), wearing a shirt I still remember quite vividly; my younger brother, Keith, on Santa's lap; and my older cousin, Bruce. This was the only Santa photo in which Bruce accompanied us, so I assume my mother and grandmother organised to meet up with my aunt for a rare combined shopping expedition in Bebarfalds' department store, now long gone, of course.

Most of the other old Santa photos we had taken were at various Grace Bros. stores (now Myer), and my brothers and I had a particular preference for the (quite famous) Santa who frequented Grace Bros' old Broadway store, now the site of the Broadway Centre. I once had an amazing deja vu incident when I went to the Guild Teachers College, just around the corner from that Grace Bros. During the rest of the year, it seemed that the same guy we had known as Santa Claus worked on the microphone as the daily store announcer. Each festive season, he'd often receive a lot of television and newspaper publicity: as a trainer of professional Santas. Obviously, even as little kids, we recognised quality! We used to tell ourselves that he was the real Santa, and all the others we saw around the traps were "Helpers".

Ho, ho. ho.

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