Former Taylorville Native
In case you don’t know, Santa Claus and I have
a special relationship. It began way back when I was still knee high to a short
elf. It was kind of a third- generation sort of deal. It seems my Grandpa Edward (Red) Antle, who was a jolly sort of guy himself, somehow connected with Mr. Claus.
Grandpa was the Street Commissioner for the town of Taylorville, Illinois and back in those days. Instead of setting up shop in a mall or in a big store, the Jolly Old Elf had his workers back at the North Pole build a special house for greeting the kids of Taylorville.
The House was pretty, maybe even extremely, small. It just barely had room for a big Christmas tree, a couple of helpers and Santa’s big throne chair. It was decorated with candy canes, gingerbread men, ornaments of all kinds, tinsel, and souvenirs from the North Pole. Everyone knew it was magical, because Santa could shoot messages from there to waiting elves back at the North Pole with a twitch
of his nose (and this was in the days before email).
Because Santa was so busy around the Christmas Holidays, he didn’t move
the house from the North Pole. Instead, he stored it in a vacant space behind Grandpa’s office which was owned by the city. Grandpa and his men helped Santa by moving his house to the Taylorville Square a couple of days before Thanksgiving each year. After many years of doing this, Grandpa got to know Santa quite well.
When I was four years old, we spent Christmas in Taylorville (it was right before we moved there permanently). Being the
only kid in the family old enough to travel without mom and dad, I got special treatment. One day I loaded into Grandpa’s red city truck, and we headed down to the Taylorville Square. The thrill of riding in the truck was special. I thought we were just going for a ride, but we ended
up parking just a few feet from Santa’s House.
By this time, I had been to see Santa several times. Most of the visits are just dim memories from over a half century ago, but I remember
this one. I learned something special. My family was connected. I mean really connected.
Imagine being 4 or 5 years old and learning Grandpa and Santa
were buddies. Special feeling? You bet. I knew it was real when Santa greeted Grandpa with, “Hey Red (Grandpa’s name was Edward Antle, but everyone called him by
his nickname after his red hair) how late did you stay down at the Eagles’ Club last night? They went on to share a few minutes of other miscellaneous small talk. But I knew they were really friends. How else could Santa know all these details? And how could Grandpa be able to chat so nonchalantly with North Pole Royalty if they weren’t really, really, good friends?
Santa knew me by
name too. Really! I guess Grandpa must have been telling Santa about his grandkids for some time by then. And from that day back in 1960 onward, Old Santa and I have enjoyed a close and special friendship. According
to Santa, yours truly
has managed to make
the “nice” list for most
of his nearly 67 years.
Now, I know that some of you might be skeptics. How could your dad, brother, uncle, cousin, or friend possibly be connected to the main guy, the big kahuna
of the North Pole? Well, for one thing, I am Nice with
a capital N. I always go
to bed early on Christmas Eve night so Santa can
do his work without interruption. Secondly, all my life I have made certain that Santa got some good treats; not the warm milk and stale cookie stuff that so many try to force on
him. Here’s a secret, Santa likes beer and chips – but too many. But mostly
my friendship with Santa comes by way of the high regard the Red Suited One had for my grandpa.
My guess is some of you are smiling and saying, Frank always makes up these goofy stories. So
let me offer a couple more pieces of evidence for our friendship.
1. Whenever there is a
parade, Santa always makes a point to wave to me. Even though I have changed a lot since I was a little squirt,
he still recognizes me. 2. Whenever I see
Santa, I ask him if he remembers me. He always, nods and says, “Ho, Ho, Ho… of course
I remember you. Do you still have that BB gun I brought you back in 64?”
3. Even though
I am “naughty” many times during the year, Santa cuts me slack and has never dropped off any lumps of coal.
Now some of you young one will soon be sitting
on Santa’s lap. After you tell him what you want for Christmas, ask him if he remembers Grandpa. I bet you money, he will think back to the good times they had together and say… Ho, Ho, Ho.
My Grandpa was that kind of a guy.