Background Art and Mary of Santa and Reindeer

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Background Art and Mary of Santa and Reindeer


Gerry wrote to me:

Hello Pam, this is Gerry again. Sorry to say that my gnarled pine project is still in progress, but there are plans to finish it soon.

In the meantime, I think I have something else that might interest you. I am the proud keeper of a 50+ year old wooden Santa and Reindeer exhibit that my neighbors gave me when they moved out a few year ago. This is quite a remarkable set, and it has stood proudly on your property every Christmas for many, many year, bringing smiles to many faces. I have some photos and a nice story about it. I thought you and your reader might enjoy watching it this holiday season. Let me know if you are interested, I will send it to you..

But of course, Gerry! He continues:

For almost 30 year, we have passed by this old exhibition of Santa Claus and reindeer every Christmas. It was on the same street that we used to take our children to and from school. It belonged to a couple named Art and Mary. The set belonged to Art’s mother before they inherited it, so it probably dates from the 40s or 50s.

Their house was built in 1840. Mary once described it as a “one-and-a-half-story farmhouse” and, in fact, it stood on land that was once a working farm. It had a thick coating and real wooden shutters that actually worked, a wooden roof, small dormers upstairs and eaves with tiny windows… no gutters. Twenty layers of peeling paint that seemed ½” thick, white with forest green shutters and trim.

Next to the house was this nice old black walnut tree, which must have been as old as the house. The tree covered almost an entire side of the house, so that you could barely see through it. It provided a lot of shade during these hot summer days, but also provided another equally important Service. Along the side of the road, he had a twisted branch that stretched for 30 feet and was parallel to the ground. It had weakened over time, so Art made a wooden crutch to support the other end. Every year, just after Thanksgiving, Art took out this plywood Santa Claus and his 9 Reindeer and tied him to the branch.

Each reindeer was gradually positioned higher, which gave the impression that they were taking off. The main reindeer, Rudolph of course, had a single red light bulb attached to his nose. The rest was illuminated by spotlights on the ground. It was great and my children looked forward to seeing it every year, like all the other children… and the matures! It was an annual to overtake him on Christmas Eve. I can’t believe we’ve never taken a photo in all these year we’ve been together, but I’m sorry to say I don’t have one. I guess I just thought it would still be there.

They often had summer flea markets in the house, and I would stop to see what treasures they had and chat with them. I always made it my mission to mention how much we looked forward to seeing Santa’s sleigh every Christmas, and The art would tell the story as it was in his mother’s house. They always remembered me as “the guy who loved old Santa Claus and the reindeer”.

Then, for a year, the reindeer were nowhere to be found. Art was in poor health. It was sad to walk past this house on Christmas Eve and not see those Reindeer there, just The darkness where they used to be. It was like the end of an era. I stopped by their flea market the following summer… Art was sitting in his lawn chair and he smiled at me, but I’m not sure he knew me yet. He was then transferred to an assisted living facility and I heard that they were demolishing the house because it was considered structurally unhealthy

I saw Mary standing outside one day… they boarded up the house and emptied the contents. I stopped to talk to her one last time and she said: “The reindeer are in the basement-I want you to have them!”

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