Priscilla MangnallTHE WAY WE WEREGrand Junction Free Press History Columnist

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December 22, 2011
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PRISCILLA'S COLUMN: Ho, ho, ho! Santa gets around

I believe in Santa Claus. He's one of my favorite guys, right up there with Gandhi, Jesus and John Lennon. I believe in him because he's real and he always brings me something for Christmas. The Easter Bunny, not so much. Santa is real.When I was growing up, Santa would sometimes make a special visit to my Grandma Barmore's house in Wichita, Kan. I'm not sure how he knew that all us cousins would be there and that he could cut his "'round the world" trip short by taking care of 11 kids at once. But he knew. Santa always knows. Just why he would have rather come see us in Wichita than Grand Junction was always a mystery to me.There we'd be, all dressed up in our matching holiday party dresses, excited and anxiously waiting with our moms and dads, aunts, uncles and Grandma and Poppy. Then all of a sudden the parents would tell us "Hush, listen!" and sure enough, we could hear the sled gliding on the roof and Santa heartily jingling his bells as he made his way to the front door. And lucky for us, in his big sack he'd have a gift for everybody, and it would be just what we wanted! I love Santa.Back in Colorado, when we didn't make that 12-hour journey east on Highway 50, Santa was supposed to come to my Aunt Wilda and Uncle Bill Brown's house one Christmas Eve. The folks and their friends (mostly D&RGW railroaders) were celebrating Jesus' birthday with one heck of a celebration and us kids were put to bed in the wreck room to wait for Santa. Never mind they didn't have a fireplace, let alone a chimney. After us kids had our big rumpus, we were tucked in on roll-a-way beds and were told that Santa would be arriving via the attic door in the ceiling. We waited and watched that little door and finally fell asleep before he ever got there.Santa started making a regular stop in Grand Junction in the 1980s with the same traditional routine. He often resembled a besotted old family friend or someone's boyfriend. Funny how that is. One year we'd run short of boyfriends and available family friends. Not wanting to disappoint Amy, Alice and Grace, we looked to Cousin Brady to don the red velvet suit that lay well hidden in the attic for 51 weeks. Knowing the girls would recognize the big kid, we had a better idea. Out came the sleigh bells and sure enough, as we herded the girls to look out the upstairs bedroom windows, there was Santa, sneaking around from tree to tree, hiding and waiting for those little girls to go to bed. And after some squealing and disbelief that he didn't have time to come and see them they hurried off to bed. We love that story.Santa has always shown up at our typical Christmas shopping venues, but it was always special when he was invited to make an appearance at a party at the Elks Club or the Eagles Lodge or some other place where lovely, generous people found it in their hearts to brighten Christmas for children in the community. In the olden days the children would be invited to attend a lovely civilized gathering where Santa Claus would be there, too, and he really would know who'd been good or bad.The Elks Lodge still takes care of families this time of year by helping the Salvation Army provide for baskets of holiday goodies which are delivered to households that have signed up to receive help. Back in the day, my father loved to be part of that Elks tradition each year. It made him feel so good, even though our own holiday bounty wasn't that big. He'd take my nephew Braden Shafer with him. Braden loves his stories of how hard they worked to prepare those packages and how after his Grandpa had passed, he'd still go with Grandpa's buddies. He still marvels at piling himself, Harry "The Screamer" Babcock and Bill Pitts into the front of that pickup filled with Christmas Cheer. When you fill your heart with that kind of goodness, it never goes away.How nice it worked out that a special little boy was born in a country far away from our own, and he was so special and so determined and so good that he brought into this world with him the mantra of "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men." And that millions and millions of people heard his words and took them to heart. No matter what you believe, I think that's a statement we can all get behind and live by. And what a meaningful theme for a birthday party. So, this Christmas Eve, as you lie in your little bed, with wonder in your heart and not quite sure how Santa's going to actually get into your house, let's all wish that we wake up to find Peace, Love and Compassion wrapped up under our pretty tree and that plenty of Hope has been left in our stockings.--------------------Reach Priscilla at 970-260-5226, or email

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The Post Independent Updated Dec 22, 2011 09:00PM Published Dec 22, 2011 08:58PM Copyright 2011 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.