Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Believe in the Black and White Santa

Growing up in Southern Indiana in the early 1960s, it was very easy to believe in Santa Claus since he was our neighbor and we could easily visit him year round at Santa Claus Land, one of the country’s first theme parks located in, where else, Santa Claus Indiana. The post office in Santa Claus Indiana each year received thousands of letters mailed to Santa from children around the world which were answered by local volunteers.

I was totally convinced that the Santa Claus Land Santa was THE Santa since he always knew my name every time I visited him, a feat that none of Santa’s helpers in Evansville at the big Sears store downtown or in the smelly Igloo in the parking lot of Lawndale Shopping Center could do. He not only knew my name but he knew my sisters name and often already knew which two toys I wanted. My parents scrupulously enforced the “Only ask for two” rule since we were told Santa didn’t like greedy children and would bring you lumps of coal (or even worse, clothing!!!) if you asked for more.

Santa Claus Land was no Disneyland which I only knew from black and white television but it was accessible, affordable and a lot of fun for kids. The attractions included the Mother Goose Land Train, a 1/4-scale locomotive for rides through Mother Goose Land, a toy factory with elves at work, several bucolic children’s rides and a food and souvenir shop. Of course the highlight of the trip was visiting Santa in his little house and having that black and white picture taken which would be mailed to you weeks later. During breaks Santa would go up on the roof of one of the buildings and sit in his in his sleigh ho-hoing and waving to the crowds.

In looking through the myriad of pictures posted on the web now of the same Santa Claus Land Santa, it is apparent that it was not just my family that had carefully preserved the treasured black and white photos of the kids perched on the “real” Santa’s knee. Although I have a copy of this picture of me in my profile that has been colorized, my memories of those visits remain in black and white. A black and white copy of this picture was placed in my mother's coffin before she was buried-the only picture of her now adult children we thought worthy of eternity.

Somewhere in the 80s Santa Claus Land was re-launched as a theme park named, "Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari." In addition to Christmas Land, there are sections of the park dedicated to Fourth of July Land, Halloween Land, Thanksgiving Land, several roller coasters and a water park.

The very colorful Holiday World is closed each year from mid October to mid May. I have never been there. I prefer my memories of when I believed in the black and white Santa.

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