Santa Claus Confirmed

Perry Piper recalls Christmas as a youngster in the early 1900s


| December 1998



The Badger Express

The Badger Express: "Built for Strength: Body and gear painted vermillion; striped with gold: inside painted green."

Santa Claus was a real person, at least he was to me and many of the pupils in the first, second and third grades at Spring Hill School in those long-ago days before the war, the War to End All Wars, that is.

I was in the third grade, and my brother Lewis was in the first, and we were having a hard time with the big boys taunting us about our belief in Santa Claus. They kept a'telling us that there was no Santa, and that it was our dad that brought the few toys we found under the tree on Christmas morning.

Now what they didn't know was that we never had a Christmas tree at our house. We could have hung our stockings on the mantel piece because we did have a fireplace with a fine oak mantle with a plate glass mirror in its center, but ours was a coal-burning grate and there was no way, no way at all, that Santa could come down the chimley and get through that tiny damper in the flue. MaMa provided the solution to that dilemma by telling us to leave the men's room door unlocked, so we pinned our long, black stockings together and draped them over the back of one of the press-back wood dining room chairs. We liked this idea a lot, for it provided a convenient shelf for Santa to place the "heavy" stuff that would not go into the stockings (we hoped). I best explain that on Muddy Creek, the "men's room" was the main room of the house where dad had his rolltop desk and where he two-fingered out Jersey cow pedigrees at the old L.C. Smith typewriter, and where he talked cow talk with other Jersey breeders who dropped in from time to time. There was a huge spring-filled leather window seat under the west windows that made a dandy place to practice flip-flops and high jumps, a sort of pre-trampoline.

Now, back in September, the mail carrier had delivered our copy of the fall and winter Sears and Sawbuck catalog, and after MaMa had censored parts of it by smearing egg white over the women's underwear section, gluing down the pages, we spent hours checking off the things we wanted to ask Santa Claus to bring us. You see, we had to write a letter to Santa, and when it was published in The Press, we knew old Santa was sure to see what we had our hearts set on, and since we had been good boys - well, pretty good - we figgered he would not fail us.

That Sears and Sawbuck catalog showed an eye catching and unbelievable array of toys. There was Mechanco sets with hundreds of things to build of real steel girders and real wind-up motors to turn them. There was steam engines that burnt alcohol and built up real steam pressure, and when the whistle was pulled, it let out an earth-shaking screech. Bud Fearheiey had one of those, and how I envied him. I had a hard time turning past the book section, with all those Algers "Brave and Bold" and "Strive to Win" and such. Uncle Clint Caudle had lent me a couple of Algers books to read one time, and they were sure tempting, but 29 cents? MaMa wasn't sure Santa would approve of spending that much, so me and Lewie looked at scooters, them two-wheeled Go Devils that you pushed with one foot and then coasted along the sidewalk. But the problem was, we didn't have a sidewalk on the farm. We had to rule out the Irish Mail for that same lack of a sidewalk, and so we finally unanimously settled on a red wagon with yellow steel wheels.

MaMa agreed that this was a practical choice. We could help her haul in wood for the cook stove and, now that we had a baby sister who would soon be big enough to sit up, I might be able to take her for a ride while Lewie pushed and so give MaMa a breather. Lewie liked the idea, too, so we wrote a letter to Santa. Dad helped us pick out the letters on the typewriter to address it to Santa Claus in care of The Sumner Press, and gave me a two-cent stamp to stick on the front of the envelope.