Sunday, December 19, 2010

Living with Santa Claus.

The exact chronology of how Dennis became Santa is something I can't be certain I remember but it seems it started the year John Y. Brown became Governor of Kentucky. Dennis had some friends who were related to a man who was responsible for putting on the parade for Gov. Brown's inauguration. Since the Inauguration was December 11th they wanted a Santa for one of the floats. Dennis being somewhat rotund and having played Santa at the company party the previous year, was recruited to be Santa.
Dennis as Santa in Governor John Y. Brown's Inauguration Parade 1979

Dennis asked a friend of ours Regina Mudd to make the suit and she got the fabric and fake white fur at Behr's, a big now closed, fabric store in downtown Louisville. He ordered a nice beard, wig and boots from Caufield's and she custom made a beautiful red velveteen Santa suit with fur trim.

On Inauguration Day Dennis and Regina went to the event. He was in the parade and she was taking pictures. I was working and took a small television to work so everyone could watch parts of the parade between working. They got to go to the Governor's mansion for a private after party and he handed out gifts to those attending and got to stand with the new Governor and his wife Phyllis George Brown. He told me the Governor had his hand on her ass as she was speaking at the microphone!

The appearance was quite the success and the next year we put an ad in the Courier-Journal advertising that Santa could attend your Christmas party for a small fee. This ran Thanksgiving and the next Sunday after that. I was the booking agent and kept his calendar and was his driver. Then almost every day after work Santa and I headed out with a carefully plotted route to visit private homes.

Santa always took a candy cane for every child. He would ask the children if they knew how to sing "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer". Then he would lead them in a group sing. If he wasn't delivering gifts that night, he would have each child sit on his lap and ask them what they wanted for Christmas. The time he spent in the home was about 15 to 30 minutes and if he took longer I'd say, "We have to get to the next stop!" Sometimes he said they wouldn't let Santa leave!

The first year we did this we made about $300 at $15 for each visit. It was enough to buy Christmas presents and we both really enjoyed it. We were either paid in advance by a mailed check or someone followed Santa out and handed him the fee. Tips were not unusual! Only once did someone refuse to pay. It was a woman who lived in a very nice part of town. Dennis went in and did the whole routine. When he left she followed him and told him she was not paying him. He was hurt. He told me, "I told her that she was wrong to stiff Santa." We figured if she needed that $15 enough to do that she could keep it!
A friend of his was a photographer and he wanted Dennis to work at his studio two Saturdays being Santa for family photos. In trade for this he took pictures of Dennis as Santa. We used one on a post card which we mailed in late November each year to remind those who had hired him the previous year that it was time to book a visit for the following month! We developed a regular following this way.

The third year we got a big corporation party at a private home in the rich part of town and they paid Dennis $100. Those people had him back every year and every year they paid a bit more. He had several business parties with bigh crowds.  This went on for a decade.

Dennis died December 5, 1991. We had stopped using a newspaper ad years before but lots of repeat visits were already lined up. His Santa suit was at the cleaners and a beautician friend has his wig and beard, getting it ready to go. I had to call those expecting visits again that year and tell them Santa was gone.

I was married to Santa for twenty-one years and was his agent and driver for ten. What a wonderful life.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One marshmallow immediately eaten will change your life!

It was announced here Wednesday that Walter Mischel, a psychology professor and the Niven Professor of Humane Letters at Columbia will receive the Grawemeyer Award for Psychology. He is well known for his decades-long research in the area of delayed gratification and will-power.

I'm sure you are aware of the well known "marshmallow experiment".  From Wikipedia I quote:

The "marshmallow experiment" is a well known test of this concept conducted by Walter Mischel at Stanford University and discussed by Goleman in his popular work. In the 1960s, a group of four-year-olds were given one marshmallow and promised a second one on the condition that they wait twenty minutes before eating the first one. Some children were able to wait and others could not. The researchers then followed the progress of each child into adolescence and demonstrated that those with the ability to wait were better adjusted and more dependable (determined via surveys of their parents and teachers), and scored significantly higher on the Scholastic Aptitude Test years later

As a kid I was taught by my Mother and Grandmother's example and words that when I wanted some thing they thought too expensive to buy and give me, I should save my allowance and buy it myself. To reinforce this one Saturday my sister and I went to the building and loan and got social security numbers and opened passbook savings accounts. This was in 1958 when they gave you actual books about the size of a passport. Deposits and withdrawals were recorded by the teller at the building and loan office.

I began saving $1 a week from my $2.50 a week allowance. On Saturday when we came to town to buy groceries and do banking I would deposit my $1 into that savings account. When I began baby sitting for neighbors, I put that money in the account. That June I worked for a week to help Mrs. Prall clean her house and earned $10. I put the money in the account. It felt good to accumulate money in a savings account. When I started high school I had $350 saved.

This process of saving a little of our income for future larger purchases or in my case for paying taxes at the end of the year, is called delayed gratification. I'm not sure how paying taxes is gratification but if I were to be kicked out of my home for not paying them I might understand it a little better.

The motivation to work hard and save for purchases you cannot afford today, or save for future expenses is described as a Protestant or Calvinistic thing. We Catholics are told we must do good works to be saved. The Protestants say you are destined to be saved and you do good work as a result of that salvation. Now with this study the experiment was verified through scientific research. That doesn't mean we Catholics can't save for future gratification but there is some evidence that through biology we choose to eat the marshmallow immediately more than the other kids. That's for cradle Catholics I would assume.

Prof. Mischel began his work in 1960 and yesterday the award was announced. The Grawemeyer prize is accompanied by a cash payment of $100,000. This pretty much proves in at least an antidotal way that in addition to scientific results, fifty years later the gratification of the second marshmallow was realized for Prof. Mischel.


The first reaction to the buttercup yellow paint soon to cover the Clark Memorial Bridge that spans the Ohio River at Louisville has been published in Letters to the Editor of the Courier-Journal newspaper this week. A local man Rick Thomas has this to say about the color:

I am surprised that citizens are not already complaining about the upcoming color chosen to paint the Second Street Bridge. Should anyone wish to see a sample of this paint color, they need only to drive to Second and Main Street and look at the newly painted railings next to the new KFC Yum! Center leading to the bridge. Please voice your concerns before they begin painting the entire bridge. It is awful.