Friday, December 8, 2017

When Santa was in town...

     By Maylon T. Rice
Special to the Saline River Chronicle

          About this time of year, a small white-frame building would go up on the corner of Cypress and Main in Warren.
          The Chamber of Commerce back in the 1960 sponsored a community wide Santa Claus House.
          If you are a child of the 1960s that little Santa House was a fixture in the community this time of year.

          The little white wooden frame building couldn’t have been 10 square feet. It was just barley big enough for a rocking chair and Santa Claus inside.
It had wooden walls, real glass windows, a big front doors and lots of holiday decorations.
          And it sat on the first two parking spaces right on the corner of Cypress and Main.
          It was feature of the very progressive Chamber of Commerce,  so all the many retailers along Main (from the YMCA on the north all the way to the U.S. Post Office on the south) didn’t have to have Santa sitting in every store along Main.

The Chamber of Commerce headquartered Jolly Old St. Nick right there on the corner of Cypress and Main – in his own little temporary home.
          The Santa House was directly across the street from the back door of the J.T. Edrington Co., kitty-cornered from the Warren Bank, and just across the corner on the same side of the street from Martin’s.
The First Federal Savings & Loan and the M& P Insurance Agency were all housed in the yellow brick bank along with First National Bank & Trust.  Upstairs in that building were still a smattering of small professional offices, the late Judge Paul K. Roberts, had an office up there was did an aging dentist, Dr. Joe Bond, DDS.
          I actually went to Dr. Bond once with an abscessed tooth. Dr. Bond wore a little white cap (a sign he went to dental school way before the Great Depression, plus his office was above street level, another sign of a long ago dental office). But that’s another Pastime for another day…
          Back to the Santa House.
          There was a sign posted out in the street that the man al dressed in red and white fur would be inside this little house at certain hours during the week day and on the weekend.
          If memory serves me right, the late John Luther Hartsell, was instrumental in Santa being present on site.
So was the tall, thin street patrolling policeman, the late Milton Parrott.
          Parrott, in between his duties to walk the business district, seemed to be helping Santa with his appointment duties. Parrot would be there talking with Santa and keeping the line from being too long for the ruddy-cheeked wish granter from being overwhelmed on a Saturday afternoon as the Yule Shopping rush was on.
          A big wooden sign stapled on the door said one should:
 “Knock three times to see Santa.”
          After the first or second knock, a booming voice would begin the “Ho, Ho, Ho.”
          And if you were a kid, a little bit scared of the white bearded man, that loud “Ho, Ho, Ho,” often set one’s feet to running.
But if you stayed put, the kind voice would say, “Come in my little friend. Santa Claus wants to see you.”
It often took more than one or two tries of knocking on the door to get me and my brother both in the tiny house.
My younger brother, Iry, would flat race down Main, me often catching him about Grady Hugh’s Café or Carl’s Shoes. Once, he got all the way to West Brothers, just past Ben Franklin’s Five and Dime before I caught him and we walked back up one side of Main to the Santa House.
          Santa was all decked out, sitting in a big wooden rocking chair and ready to listen to your copious requests.
Often he had a copy of the Letters To Santa, which was already printed in the Eagle Democrat for ready reference in case you forgot.
          At the end of what seemed a terrifying eternity. Santa would hand you a simple commercial Christmas stocking of a mesh variety loaded with some hard red peppermint candy, a few green plastic U.S. Army infantry men, (for the boys) and a couple of plastic dolls (for the girls), an orange and maybe some wrapped chocolates, all courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce.
          I always made it across the room ten times faster than I had made it from the door to Santa’s lap on the way into the room.
          “John Luther,” as he was known all over Bradley County, always made Santa’s visit to Warren a little more personal than many of us would ever know until we grew up.
Santa always knew our moms and dads names, all our relatives and where he lived.
          Harry Lee “Buddy” McCaskill, who logged two decades (1973-1993) as the Chamber of Commerce manager in Warren, was quick to remind me he was not the Chamber manager when the Santa house was on going.
That title belongs to the late James Ernest, the longtime Bradley County judge in later years.
          Buddy during those years was down at McCaskill Drug Store with his dad, Mrs. Rex Davis, and others…
          What ever happened to that little Santa House?
 Buddy says it was once stored in the old Hurley Warehouse, but has no doubt gone away with time.
          But oh the memories of that little Santa House on the corner of Cypress and Main, another Pastime for all Warren to remember.

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