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Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 128 - You're not Santa Claus

Chuck Hinman's It's Just Me Again No. 128: You're not Santa Claus. You're Chuck Hinman

By Chuck Hinman

You're Not Santa Claus : You're Chuck Hinman

It was Christmas eve day in 1950, almost 60 years ago. I was 28 years old, single and assistant manager of the Montgomery Ward store in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I had a few days off and was hustling trying to get home near Liberty, Nebraska in time to attend the traditional Christmas Eve program at the Liberty Congregational Church. It was the church where I had grown up in the 1930's. I have a ton of happy memories of those days.

Liberty is 500 plus miles from Fayetteville. I would have to break the speed limit several times to arrive at the church in time to catch any of the program.

My pre-arranged plan with Mom and Dad was that I would not eat supper with them but would sit with them at the program at 7:30 PM or whenever I could get there. "Drive fast and take chances" as my Dad always said.

Every thing was working wonderfully and I walked in the familiar doors of the church at 7:45. The church was packed. I didn't immediately see Mom and Dad. But I did see my brother Bob who was an usher. We exchanged greetings and he said "Oh, I'm glad you're here. You didn't know it but you're Santa Claus! If you hadn't arrived in time I was going to do it but the kids know me and they don't know you."

I reluctantly agreed and we headed for the church basement where he had the Santa outfit secreted away.

I was apprehensive. This was the first time I had impersonated Santa. I didn't know any Santa talk after "yo-ho-ho." I was thinking "Oh Lord don't let me fall on my face before all these sweet innocent kids!" My nephew, Dick -- Bov's son was in the crowd of kids. I had all day I could have been practicing "Santa talk" in the car had I known.

The tradition is that after the program, Santa makes a noisy grand entrance to the cheers of everyone. His main job is to distribute the gifts under the Christmas tree. I sat in a big choir near the tree, and the helpers called out the name on the gift and handed it to me. The kid whose name was called was to come up, hug me if they weren't scared and receive their gift. OK so far....

One of the first names called was a kid I didn't recognize. He looked me straight in the eye and sneered -- "YOU AIN'T SANTA CLAUS -- YOU'RE CHUCK HINMAN!"

The audience burst out in raucous laughter and I was stunned and without any come-back words. It was obvious Santa had lost control and the rest of the kids turned on me!

Santa Claus -- alias Chuck Hinman was glad to get out of that place in one piece. That's the last time I ever played Santa anywhere -- especially the Liberty, Nebraska Congregational Church. Brrr.

Written by Chuck Hinman - Christmas 2007 [12-24-07]

This story was posted on 2011-12-11 09:08:23
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