It was like that scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone guns down those two guys in the little Italian restaurant. Well, a little like it. Instead of finding a gun that was left for me in the bathroom and coming out shooting, I found a Santa suit and came out ho-ho-going.
It was at the Moose Club in West Pittston. I’d say Christmas of ’85.
I was the young guy on the Salvation Army advisory board and Major Ruth Pryce asked me to fill in at the board’s Christmas party for the regular Santa who had taken ill. She said she’d give me a nod during the dinner and I could slip into the men’s room where I would find the suit waiting. Since I weighed only 160 pounds, she encouraged me to bring a pillow from home.
Now, while I am willing to speak in front of a crowd and have on many occasions, I really am rather shy, so it took a lot for me to dash into that room with jingle bells jingling and hearty ho-ho-ho’s ringing, but Major Pryce was counting on me so I did.
Perhaps too well.
The next Sunday she asked me to play Santa again only this time at the children’s party. I told my daughter, about three-and-a-half at the time, that Santa needed my help. I not only had her assist in stuffing me up, but also brought her along as an elf, all dressed in green, complete with feathered cap.
One thing I will always remember from that day was the looks on the faces of two tykes in the car in front of us when we were stopped for a red light. They never expected to see Santa at the wheel of the car behind them.
Another memory I can’t shake is what a horrible feeling it is to be a powerless Santa. Child after child sat on my knee and asked for things I was pretty darned sure they weren’t going to get. The Salvation Army had a wrapped present for each and Greta got to hand them out, but I just kept wishing I was a real Santa who could grant every last one of their wishes.
I’ve often thought since that if I ever won a ton of money in the lottery, I would use it to become a much better Santa Claus at the Salvation Army children’s parties. I’d always have Greta by my side, too, only now she’d be seated at a computer logged on to Amazon.com. And, man, would we keep those UPS and FedEx guys busy.
Until then, the best I can do is ring a bell at a Salvation Army Red Kettle. I did so two weeks ago with my friend Jay Delaney and will be back again with my great niece Hannah and my sister, Sheila Kern on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Redner’s at Pittston Plaza. Sheila is Hannah’s grandmother.
While I was impressed how the charm of Jay Delaney drew donations last time, I know from experience it’s hard to pass by that little angel Hannah. She’s 12 now and this will be her fourth year helping out at a kettle.
So many connections
I must share this before closing today.
Wednesday night while enjoying some Christmas cheer at the pub at Cooper’s Waterfront Seafood Restaurant in Pittston, I stopped in the men’s room and noticed on the wall a framed clipping of an old newspaper depicting a Pittston High School basketball game from the ’60s. I immediately noticed John Adonizio in the photo. He was a few grades ahead of me and a heck of a basketball player. Everyone called him John John back then.
Well, while having coffee and watching the news the very next morning, I saw a video of the previous night’s Pittston Area basketball game and there was Joe DeLucca hitting a shot from the outside.
Joe DeLucca is John Adonizio’s grandson. He’s a son of Joe DeLucca and Maria Adonizio DeLucca.
Small world. Even smaller Pittston.
And guess what? John Adonizio’s wife Annmarie serves on the Salvation Army board with me. See.