Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas 1917

On December 21, 1917, a Brooklyn delicatessen owner noticed Anna Decker, age eight, looking at the foods displayed in his window. Late December, and Anna wore only a calico pinafore. The owner invited her inside, where she said that she was hungry and asked for something to eat. The owner gave her a bowl of clam chowder. A customer notified the Brooklyn Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. A “special agent” arrived, and Anna explained that she was trying to find Santa Claus. She was wrapped in a fur coat and taken to a shelter, where she was found to be suffering from malnutrition, anemia, abrasions, and frostbitten toes, with old scars all over her body. Anna could walk only on her heels. She said that her parents beat her daily, deprived her of food, and made her sleep on the floor. “I guess they don’t like me,” she said. And: “Gee, but I would like to see Santa Claus just once.”

[“Starving, She Finds a Real Santa Claus. Policeman’s 8-Year-Old Daughter Looked for the Christmas Saint with Frost-Bitten Toes. Tells of Father’s Cruelty. Decker and Stepmother Arrested While Anna Plays with Gifts from New-Found Friends.” The New York Times, December 25, 1917.]

This post is much darker than the typical OCA one-hundred-years-ago holiday post. I chose this Times story as an example of people doing the best they can in terrible circumstances.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it.

[Anna’s parents were arraigned in January 1918. No further record in the Times of what became of them or their child.]

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