It is unclear when the Kodak Children's Christmas Parties began, but by the late 1960s they were an annual 'tradition' and the 'biggest social event' of the year. Organised by the Kodak Recreation Association from funds raised throughout the year and ticket sales, the party was usually held at the Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd factory site in Coburg. Originally the event was held in the area near buildings 6, 7, 8 and 9 but moved to the 'green square' on the corner of Elizabeth and Boyne Streets in 1973.
The day itself included rides (such as a jumping castle, merry-go-round, chair-o-plane and rail train) activities, ice cream and other entertainments organised by the Kodak Recreation Association and was always well attended, with 1972 seeing 1350 children in attendance. Further contributing to the day's success every year was a visit from Santa who gave gifts to the children, considered by several Kodak staff newsletters as being the highlight of the day.
Roy Porter remembers that the Kodak Camera Club played a special role at Kodak's annual Christmas parties, with a club member dressing up as Father Christmas: 'The Camera Club would photograph the children sitting on Santa's knee, and we would go into our darkroom and process that film and give them a photograph on the way out.'
In 1973 the role of Santa was played by former Kodak employee, Ted Nolan. It is unclear whether he continued in the role or if another employee took it on as he is (so far) the only named Santa found in the company records.
In 1984 the party moved to the Melbourne Showgrounds but, in 1990, it moved back to the Kodak factory site. Despite the extra space afforded by the showgrounds, the decision was made to keep the day more 'Kodak' since the event coincided with similar gatherings from other companies who also met at the showgrounds. The money saved in venue fees was put towards hiring more attractions to make the afternoon more family friendly through the provision of activities for older children.
Former Kodak employee, Trish Lobb, remembers: My children loved [the day], and looked forward to it, for many years, until they became too old to do it, and then I took my first grand-daughter, along, which was lovely.she enjoyed it as well.
Money for the party was raised throughout the year by the Kodak Recreation Association through events such as the Annual Ball and ticket sales for the Christmas party itself. Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd also allocated funds for the event. In 1980 there was enough money left over for a donation to be made to the St John's Ambulance who regularly sent a representative to be onsite for the event.
Although specifically for the children of Kodak employees, children from outside of the company were occasionally invited to enjoy the event, such as in 1977 when children from the Northern Suburbs Spastic Children's Centre were invited.
It is unknown how long the parties continued at Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd, but it is possible that they continued until the early 2000s when operations at the site began to close down.
Museums Victoria holds several company newsletters that contain articles with accompanying photographs relating to the Christmas party, including at least one reference to a similar party hosted by Kodak Australasia's Sydney branch in Annandale. Museums Victoria also holds a small collection of photographs of the Christmas events at Coburg.
Interview - Trish Lobb, 6 June 2012 (HT 33851)
Interview - Roy Porter, 28 November 2013 (HT 35633)
Newsletter - 'Australian Kodakery', No 42, Feb 1973, p.5 (HT 35752)
Newsletter - 'Australian Kodakery', No 46, Jul 1973, p. 5 (HT 35757)
Newsletter - 'Australian Kodakery', No 86, Jan-Feb 1978, p. 4 (HT 35928)
Newsletter - 'Australian Kodakery', No 110, Jan-Feb 1980, p.6 (HT 35954)
Newsletter - 'Australian Kodakery', No 165, Nov 1984, p. 7 (HT 36009)
Newsletter - 'Kodak News', No 203, Issue Five, Sep-Oct 1990, p. 12 (HT 36081)
Newsletter - 'Kodak News', No 217, Issue One, Jan-Feb 1993, p.9 (HT 36095)