Santa needs a support system

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 ’86.
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 banquet room with jingle bells jingling and hearty ho-ho-ho’s bellowing, 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 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 And, man, would we keep those UPS and FedEx guys busy.
If that’s ever going to happen, win the lottery I mean, I suppose I should buy a ticket once in a while.
Until then, the best I can do is ring a bell at a Salvation Army red kettle, which I will at the Walmart on Route 315 on Saturday, Dec. 17, from 3:30 to 8 and again on Friday, Dec. 23, from 9:30 to 12:30.
You can read more about this in this weekend’s Greater Pittston Progress.

Ed Ackerman