Santa Claus spokeswoman: girls still want Barbies; boys still want trucks

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

It may be 2003, but boys and girls still divide straight down gender lines where Christmas toys are concerned, according to a Santa Claus spokeswoman. Vivian Yonkey, children's librarian for the Elizabethton-Carter County Public Library, introduced Santa to two crowds of children Tuesday.
   "It's still lots of Barbies for the girls, and boys still want trucks," said Yonkey. "The basic stuff. No fancy things, not many videos, though there are requests for Bob the Builder."
   Yonkey referred to the book "Growing Up Free: Raising Your Child in the 80s", written by feminist Letty Cottin Pogrebin, in affirming that classic taste tends to ring true. "She tried to raise her boys and girls the same and not interfere with their development in that way," said Yonkey. "But later on, even she said, 'after all that I did, my daughters still want dolls and my boys want guns.'"
   Two groups of children met Santa at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. during the usual story hour. Approximately 30 kids attended each session, where Yonkey read to them a book titled "Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story" by Cynthia Rylant, prior to introducing them to Santa.
   The story is based on the Christmas train that tours the region each year from Kingsport to Kentucky. Children, many of them underprivileged, wait by the railroad tracks to catch gifts Santa's helpers throw to them over the train rails.
   Like most children's stories, the plot follows the protagonist, in this case a young boy, through his journey from childhood to adulthood, subsequently describing his realization of the true meaning of the Christmas train and Christmas itself.
   But like most great literature, the story uniquely reveals the old truth that Christmas is about giving, not receiving, and that, as children (and adults), our innocent wants often get in the way of our ability to understand sacrifice.
   Elizabethton native, James Ritchie, wore the clothes of Santa Claus and acted the part on Tuesday. He said he enjoys playing the hero, and looks forward to it each year.
   "Some kids are terrified when they see me, but I won't force them to sit on my lap, because, if you scare a child when they're young, you can scar them for life," he said.