Shirley Temple Visits a Department Store Santa Claus

Apocryphal? Accurate?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a funny anecdote about the young superstar Shirley Temple and her visit to Santa Claus when she was six. She began to question the story of toys distributed from the North Pole by Santa. Can you locate a version of this from Temple herself?

Quote Investigator: The earliest instance of this anecdote that QI has located appeared in a newspaper in 1961. The byline indicated the source was the WNS news service [TPST]:

Shirley Temple said she stopped believing in Santa Claus when she went to visit him in a Los Angeles department store and Santa asked her for her autograph.

Temple may have been hasty in her judgment because even Santa or one of his helpers would have been awed by Shirley Temple’s box-office power in the 1930s.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1963 the tale of skepticism was presented in the book “Celebrity Register: An Irreverent Compendium of American Quotable Notables” compiled by Cleveland Amory with Earl Blackwell. The volume contained hundreds of short biographical sketches, and the entry for Shirley Temple began with words which were directly credited to the famous actress [STCR]:

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus at an early age,” she says. “Mother took me to see Santa Claus in a Hollywood department store and he asked for my autograph!” Born 23 April 1928, the daughter of a bank clerk (Shirley’s earnings were later to total half the bank’s total assets), …

By the 1980s the phrasing of the quotation was somewhat different. A precise age for Temple was given in this variant printed in an advertisement for the book “The Oxford Book of Ages” that ran in the New York Times in 1985 [NYST]:

I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph. Shirley Temple

Thanks for your question, and happy holidays to all.

[TPST] 1961 December 08, Times-Picayune, Santa Requested Star’s Autograph, [WNS news service]. Section Three, Page 10, Column 8, [GNB Page 48], New Orleans, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank)

[STCR] 1963, Celebrity Register: An Irreverent Compendium of American Quotable Notables, Edited by Cleveland Amory with Earl Blackwell, Profile of Shirley Temple, Page 610, Column 2, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified on paper)

[NYST] 1985 October 6, New York Times, Section: Book Review, [Advertisement for “The Oxford Book of Ages” from Oxford University Press], Page 41, New York. (ProQuest; Visible in full page display; Text not indexed)