Ricky Harpole column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Raggedy Santy Claus in downtown Crenshaw spotted in 1961 was the one!

We should see more of that happy spirit today regardless of race religion and color. I don’t mention color too much in these columns because I try to be color blind. That being said let me get down to Santa Claus.

Every year Mama and Daddy would load me and Sis up and haul us to Memphis or Clarksdale to do our Christmas shopping. Of course there was the anticipated but somewhat scary visit with Old St. Nick in the department store. After all he was going to ask you the Big Question. Have you been a good little heathen this year?

And for the love of Michael, what could you say? You know that you were bad as hell before last Christmas and jack-potted out anyway, but maybe he lost his notes on you, or was on a coffee break when you were cussin’ or chunkin’ rocks or tying tin cans to the dog’s tail.

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That was last year and even early on I was studying gambling odds. What would he do if he already had you busted (remember he knows when you’ve been good or bad) and caught you in a big fat stinkin’ lie?

Would he send a repo man to take back whatever’s left of last year’s goodies or cut your next year’s loot whether you’d been good or not? Or maybe send a squad of really nasty elves down one night to rough you up a little bit? If I had to wade in those waters today I would require a valium before I made the trip.

One thing I noticed was that there was a Santa Claus on every corner and in every store. At some point I began to smell a rat. One memorable old elf at Lowenstein’s had silver fox trim on his shakedown suit. Another  had a real beard which wasn’t trimmed too neatly and had tobacco stains mixed in with popcorn crumbs. I’d begun to notice there were Santas and then there were Santas.

Now during a visit to Santa up in Memphis and over in Clarksdale you could be assured of getting a few pre-season goodies, nicely packaged, fresh-out-of-the-magic-bag, neatly wrapped and ribboned. How were you to know which one of these old frauds was the real deal?

Well, I think I ran across him in December of 1961. He was standing on the sidewalk down in Sledge. It was at least a week before Christmas on a Friday. School had let out and the sidewalk was filled mostly kids. I’ll have to say he was about the raggedest Santy Claus I’d ever seen. His britches was fallin’ off, one of his suspenders wouldn’t stay up and his beard looked like it was not too fresh from a cotton gin.

He was handing out small brown paper bags, without ribbons to every child no matter what school or religion. I thought as a Santa Claus he was a joke, but all kids crave goodies and I got mine.

During the ride home I opened that sack and found for the most part what I expected: a plastic whistle, some peppermint canes, Tootsie Rolls and a sour pop sucker.

Par for the course you’d say. Yep. Except the sour pop sucker had a 1921 silver dollar taped to the back of it.

If you can find something or someone worth believing in, believe.

Waitin’ and anticiptatin,’
Ricky Harpole
(Contact Harpole at www.facebook.com/harpolive or www.colespointrecords.com)