Santa Claus Photo
Karen M. Vincent
Minnetrista Director of Collections
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How could such a great, happy photograph come from a morgue? It can when it’s part of a collection of eighty boxes of archival material donated to Minnetrista in 2004 from Ball Memorial Hospital—now IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital. Hundreds of photographs, brochures, annual reports, and other papers documenting the hospital from its beginnings in the 1920s had been squirreled away in the unused morgue in the older building.
In this photograph, Santa Claus is getting ready to distribute gifts to children who are in the hospital at Christmas time. The gifts were paid for by the Ruth Lyons Children’s Fund. Ruth Lyons, a Cincinnati radio and television host, started the fund in 1939 after a visit to Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati just before Christmas. Dismayed that there were no Christmas decorations at the hospital, Lyons asked her listeners to send money so that hospitalized children in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky could have a pleasant holiday. Miss Lyons died in 1988, but the children’s fund still exists with the purpose of adding some Christmas cheer to hospitalized children.
Why did this photo catch my eye even though it was part of a large collection? Because, many, many years ago I received one of those Christmas gifts.
Some of the photos in the hospital collection are currently available at Minnetrista Heritage Collection online. Check back often as more photos are added.