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When Santa was a fall guy

PUBLISHED: 10:10 21 December 2007 | UPDATED: 19:20 05 July 2010

AS Father Christmas polishes his sleigh ready for Christmas Eve, let's take a look at some of his more unusual appearances in Lowestoft.

In the 1940s and 1950s in particular, Chadds department was renowned for its innovative approach to the festive season celebrations.

AS Father Christmas polishes his sleigh ready for Christmas Eve, let's take a look at some of his more unusual appearances in Lowestoft.

In the 1940s and 1950s in particular, Chadds department was renowned for its innovative approach to the festive season celebrations.

Former company secretary John Stone recalled: “This was when things really buzzed, not merely by way of the increase of trade but decoration of the store and, above all, the arrival of Santa Claus.

“Often this, together with the format of the grotto, was planned almost one year ahead. Santa had arrived at the store by parachute, on the beach via a landing craft, by fishing boat and by helicopter.”

The parachute arrival (pictured above right) took place in 1952, when thousands of children and their parents lined Gunton Cliff, the southern end of the Denes and the sea wall to watch his descent.

Greeted by Mr G V N Chadd and his wife, the jolly gent boarded a Jeep, making his way through the crowds before climbing a fireman's ladder to the store's first-floor window.

Mr Stone, who had been volunteered to play Santa when he was due to arrive as a helicopter passenger, would go on to fulfil the role in later years, including an appearance by train and a helicopter trip to Shell UK's rig, when the company took presents to the crew.

Another Chadds employee who doubled as a stunt Father Christmas was George Payne, seen on the right arriving at South Beach. “I left the Corton Hut Hotel and the beach there by getting on to a landing craft. “We sailed up to Lowestoft South Beach, the Children's Corner, where we were greeted by great crowds of children and parents. I then got into a horse and cart to return to Chadds,” he said.

Mr Payne added: “One year as Father Christmas, I travelled by train from Beccles to Oulton Broad and went to the Wherry Hotel, greeted there by children before getting into a bumper car to go to Chadds. The store had reindeer up on the verandah and lights all round the shop fittings.”

Extracts and images for this article were taken from The Story of Chadds, 1907-2000, by Margaret Chadd.

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