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When I married Rollie August 23, 1958 he was just under five and a half feet tall and weighed 314 pounds. He was so wide we had to have a special kneeling cushion made for our wedding.
He didn’t need any padding under his suit when he portrayed Santa, because he was our town Santa Claus, and looked and acted the part.
Rollie was a radio announcer and he had to guard against laughing on the air because some child might recognize Santa’s laugh.
Secrecy was part of his avocation. He had a good friend who also played Santa Claus. When Christmas Eve came Rollie went to Duane’s house to greet his children and Duane visited Mary Jane’s house where our two nephews lived.
Out of the mouths of babes. We were scheduled to meet and greet the children “when Santa came to town” on Seneca Street outside Veachs. For the occasion we had bought a 40 foot shell casing and built “Santa’s Throne” in the very back, and 30 feet away I was driving the towing vehicle, a 1959 Buick, with the big fins (remember those?)
Among the crowd of kids and spectators were my girl friend’s five children, including two year old Tombo. When Tombo got home he ran to his mother and said “Mommy, mommy, I know who Santa Claus is. Freda was driving his car.”
Then there was the time a local merchant who obviously didn’t approve of Christmas had Santa Claus arrested because he didn’t have a license ‘for peddling’.
Several days before Christmas our phone was busy with Santa, at the request of the parents, calling kids urging them to be good or Santa would not stop on Christmas Eve.
Santa didn’t stint on his suit for the occasion. The suits were special made for him out of flannel lined velvet. He had black boots, white gloves and his beard, facial hair including the glued on eye brows,were made of real hair that had to be coiffed in a beauty shop often during the season. He had the suit cleaned and stored when the season drew to a close at the dry cleaners until the following season.
Before Christmas Eve came, I took orders for Santa’s appearances. I arranged the visits geographically so we could reach as many kids as quickly as we could. I drove the car, parking around the corner so the kids wouldn’t know Santa had not arrived in a sleigh. He would find the gifts to be distributed, by prearrangement, on the front porch, put them in his pillow case bag, and then Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa announced his presence.
We both enjoyed Christmas very much,, even though he wasn’t home a lot. One time I lost him for hours. He was across the street putting a train set together. The father had bought it for his son but he didn’t know how to put it together. It didn’t take long to get it together
but naturally Rollie and the dad had to make sure it worked.
We always had a big church service on Christmas Eve and Rollie was the baritone soloist so after we got home on Christmas Eve we had our own private Christmas, left the house about 10:30 for the service which started at 11:00, and lasted until about 12:15 Christmas morning.
When we came out of the church after the service there was invariably a light skiff of snow falling. My in-laws lived in the same town we did, but on Christmas Eve we spent the night at their house so we would be there when their two boys got up in the morning, We helped get the toys together, ate ham sandwiches and fell into bed.
I remember well, the occasion it was four o’clock when we finally got to bed, and only six when the oldest nephew Jack bounced on our bed and told me to get up and watch him open his presents. Whereupon I told him I would watch from the bed and promptly went back to sleep.
Ah memories are so sweet. Now go make your own and MERRY CHRISTMAS!
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