Father Christmas in the 1965 John Martin's Christmas Pageant, 1965. Photo was taken by Trevor Walter. SLSA: B 74438/3
Hannah Tobin, aged 22 and a friend dressed in period costume for the first 1933 Christmas Pageant. Participants in the first John Martin’s Pageant. SLSA: B 70614
1933 'CHRISTMAS GALA PROCESSION', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 17 November, p. 27. , viewed 14 Dec 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74025753
Sturt Street School drum and fife band SLSA: B 68306
Members of the Sturt Street School drum and fife band accompanying young dancers. According to a researcher, this picture may be of the Adelaide College of Music Drum and Fife Band at the Tivoli Theatre in 1948. The uniforms and peak caps of that year were similar. Mr. L.E.(Laurie) Arthur was Conductor of both bands until he transferred to the Thebarton Boys Primary School where he formed a new band. Again the uniforms were similar except now the caps were side caps. All three bands marched in the John Martin's Christmas Pageant in the late 1940s.
1933 'TOYLAND IN PROCESSION', News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), 17 November, p. 8. , viewed 14 Dec 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128474071
William Gray driving a buggy cart SLSA: B 63558
William Gray, the first Father Christmas at the Magic Cave in John Martins in 1905, is photographed wearing his costume at the reins of a horse drawn buggy with members of his family as passengers.
1934 'Rehearsal for Christmas Pageant', News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), 10 November, p. 2. , viewed 13 Dec 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128469625
Two floats from the John Martins Christmas pageant in Adelaide, South Australia; one represents a Christmas cake and the other a Christmas pudding, 1939. SLSA: B 63653
Elsie Sowton member of the 5CL Bluebird Choir SLSA: B 56270
Elsie Sowton, who was the "Bird Lady" on 5CL's Bluebirds' Girls' Club, with toys made by members of the 5CL Bluebird Choir to be given away to people in need at Christmas. A photograph of her Father, Mr. Burgess, a prominent Methodist Minister, hangs on the wall. App 1934
'Adelaide's best procession' and confirmed that 'adults enjoyed the parade quite as much as the children'
~ Adelaide Chronicle (23 November 1933, p. 35)
'its main purpose was to provide fun, and it discharged it, better than any procession has for years'
~ The Advertiser, 23 November 1933, p.16.
Children left the pageant 'filled with the happiest of thoughts'
~The Mail, 18 November 1933, p. 14.
Initially ended to be a once-only event, John Martin's (Johnnie’s) Christmas Pageant went on to become a South Australian tradition that has continued ever since, broken only during World War Two, and restored in 1945. David Jones Ltd. acquired John Martin’s in 1985 but the Christmas Pageant continued until it was acquired by the South Australian Government in the mid-1990s. Naming rights and sponsorship have changed several times since, but the event continues. In 2019 it was acquired by National Pharmacies. Due to the COVID19 pandemic the street parade had to be changed in 2020 and 2021 to an arena event at the Adelaide Oval with tickets drawn by ballot. Masks were mandatory. Despite the changes, the pageant remains a gift to the people of South Australia. And it’s not the only one.
Throughout each year, but especially at Christmas, organisations across the state distribute gifts, food, and support to those who need a hand. The State Library holds a number of recent historic photographs, mainly taken by The Messenger Press, of some of the South Australians who have been involved in Christmas drives. People from all over the state contribute and their donations of items and money are vital.
Project organiser John Messer and his children Kimberley (8) and David (6) enter into the spirit of Christmas beneath the Blackwood Giving Tree. 30 November 1988. Image courtesy of Messenger Press, 1988. SLSA: B 70869/1837
Charity Grandmother of the Year Frieda Beinke of St Peters, ties calico around her fundraising Christmas puddings. 25 November 1987. Image courtesy of Messenger Press . SLSA: B 70869/2559
Christmas tree festival organiser Rita Gallasch with displays at St Peters Lutheran Church, Blackwood. Image courtesy of Messenger Press, 1987. SLSA: B 70869/1614
Burnside group wrapping parcels for the Christmas tree are Glenys Brommeyer, Sheryn Petersen, Irene Hall, Sami Spencer and Helen Taylor. 2 December 1987. Image courtesy of Messenger Press. SLSA: B 70869/2337
Larger organisations all put in extra effort at this time of year. The Smith Family, the Salvos, Anglicare, Red Cross, Foodbank, Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis are just a few of many. Then there are the dozens of smaller local community and church-run organisations.
Pressies all round! Wrapping Christmas gifts for about 120 needy families are Noarlunga Anglican Welfare workers Les Hart and Sharon Donald. Each year the service gives gifts to the south's less fortunate people. Image courtesy of Messenger Press, 1987. SLSA: B 70869/1591A
Owen Donaghey from Reynella Kiwanis gives Les Hart and Sharon Donald from Noarlunga Anglican Church some Christmas gifts for the needy, 22 December 1987. Image courtesy of Messenger Press. SLSA: B 70869/1880
Members of the Women's Air Training Corps giving a children's Christmas party, 1942. SLSA: B 55027
Homeless shelters work overtime, especially on Christmas Day to provide meals and somewhere cheerful to go. But none of these endeavours could run without donations and the hundreds of volunteers who organise, collect, pack, deliver and provide. People across the state give goods, cash, time, energy and most of all, their goodwill.
And in December 2021, when we hope for happier times, what better way to celebrate the spirit of Christmas.
Written by Isabel Story, Community Engagement Librarian