#52 Ancestors: 52: St. Nicholas–Santa Claus Is on Fire

Christmas-LightsYou don’t believe that St. Nicholas is an ancestor?  Well, having been at this Family History thing for a couple of years now, I know all about documentation, and I have my detailed proof right here–somewhere–buried in the Christmas wrapping paper, or hidden under a pile of Christmas cards, no doubt. But I don’t have time to look for it, since I have a story to tell, and it IS Christmas Eve, after all.

By the way, I make no claims to be related to the flesh and blood man who was playing Santa Claus in this story. But the stories of interesting characters and odd goings on in a small town are part and parcel of my family legacy.

Santa Claus

This COULD be the Santa in the story–but it is not. It is a photo from Flickr.com, by Elido Turco, used with Creative Commons license.

At any rate, since it is time to wind up a year of 52 Ancestors, the diabolical challenge fielded by the No Story Too Small website, I wanted to pass on a Christmas story told by my Mother and Father (Harriette Anderson Kaser and Paul Kaser) about Santa Claus in Killbuck, Ohio. (My cousin Herbert Anderson confirms that the story is absolutely true.) So my 52nd Ancestor story for the year is about St. Nicholas. (You can flip back through all the 52 ancestors stories by following this link).

Harriette and Paul Kaser

Harriette and Paul Kaser 1981

Here is a slightly edited transcript of a conversation with my mother and father, originally recorded and transcribed by my brother, Paul William Kaser around 1980.

Harriette:  Oh, we had a character in this little town [Killbuck, Ohio] we talk about.  Well, there was a man there that lived all by himself and he was about the dirtiest person as anyone ever [saw].  As far as the house he lived in, it was filthy dirty, but he really always wanted to do something for somebody.  At Christmas time he always made popcorn balls for all the kids in this little town.  And he dressed up like Santy Claus, and he went from door to door delivering popcorn balls.

Well, it happened that my brother [Herbert Anderson] and his children were up at our house on Christmas Eve, at my Mother and Father’s home before I was married and I was home too, and in comes this G. with his big basket of popcorn and starts passing it out.  Of course the kids are grabbing.  We had a terrible time keeping them from eating it. and finally because we didn’t want to hurt G.’s feelings, we said we were going to wrap it up and put it on the tree, and that way they could get it the next morning when they got their gifts.

Cousin Herb (the son of Harriette’s brother Herb) was a young boy and he remembered that G. was in a Santa Claus suit, and thought that Daddy Guy, our grandfather, had arranged for him to visit with gifts.  But everyone remembers the dirty popcorn balls.

Harriette tells another story.

He had a habit, [besides] being very, very dirty, of sometimes getting pretty well oiled. [drunk]  And he had this white beard on him [playing Santa Claus] and he went to light a cigarette and the beard took flame and he ended up in the doctor’s office.  He had a pretty badly burnt face.  Well we all felt sorry about that because he was trying to be a nice Santa Claus.

Paul William: How did he dress when he dressed to be Santa Claus?

Paul: Oh, he had a red suit on.

Harriette: Oh, yeah, he had a regular Santa Claus suit.  He spent money like mad when he had it.  He used to always go to Indianapolis to the races, and he had money.  They had oil up on their farm, and he had money to spend.

Now, I’ll wager you never heard about a Santa Claus like that one, did you? For another story about popcorn and popcorn balls and a recipe, click here.

Merry Christmas from me and all the Ancestors. And town characters.

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