In December of 1947, my dad, William E. Hood, decided to put Christmas lights on his house to celebrate Christmas. It might not sound like a big deal, but we were just coming out of wartime when doing something like putting up lights would have been inconceivable.
He was on the roof of our 3-2 frame house on a 50 foot lot wearing a red jumpsuit when someone drove by and exclaimed, “That looks like Santa Claus!!!”
And a tradition was born! My dad dressing up like Santa gave an enormous amount of pleasure to many people in the Birmingham area. Beginning the next night, my dad really did dress up as Santa and shouted “Merry Christmas” to every car that passed. People came from miles around, and the local police had to direct traffic to keep things moving.
A few years later, we moved to Memory Lane (named by my mother) not far from our previous home. The new house was across a creek, so a bridge was built. There are large rocks up and to the left of the drive where my dad installed a sleigh he had built with several plywood reindeer suspended out front.
For three nights before Christmas, he sat in that sleigh and wished everyone a “Merry Christmas!” My mother stood on the bridge and greeted every kid by name in a voice loud enough for my dad to hear from his perch 25 feet away. Later, when he called each kid by name, there was no doubt that the REAL Santa Claus was there.
That ritual went on until 1961 when my mother became ill and could no longer do her “thing” to help Santa Claus.
It is amazing to me that I continue to hear from local people today who remember “The Real Santa Claus” from that period before indoor malls, TV and the massive commercialization of Christmas. My dad made a lot of kids really happy with that ritual even in rain, snow (at least once I remember)and cold. It was truly a gift to the community which lasted far longer and meant much more to many people than he could have imagined.