Sunday, December 27, 2009

James T. Greer, A Year-round Santa

“Jim started playing Santa Claus when we first got to Aurora, just for the neighbors. He kept on doing it more and more all his life. He played Santie Claus almost every year that I can remember.” —Myrtle GreerJames T. Greer as Santa holding his granddaughter Carrie. This photo was taken in 1971, six years after the Aurora Branch became Fox Valley Ward.

Myrtle continues: “I made him a suit and a cap and he bought a beard. He loved any chance to be with people and do things with people, or to please people. Every year he went from door to door around here in his Santa Claus suit, to every child on this whole street and give them something for Christmas. Jim saw that everybody in the branch had something for Christmas too. There wasn’t very many of us then.

“He had his presents in his car and his Santa Claus suit on going over to take a present to the Wendts. On the way he stopped at a stop sign and somebody run into him. Two or three cops come, and they were marching up and down, and the man was cussing and said Jim stopped and caused him to have a wreck and all. It was really a mess. Of course, Santie Claus was out there a dancing around with his suit on too.

"The policeman said, 'What’s the matter, Santa Claus? What did happen?' Jim said, 'Well, I just stopped for that stop sign and they run into me.' They said, 'Well, he shouldn’t have done that.' They was for Jim because he was Santa Claus. People from all over town come to see that. They didn’t fine Jim or anything. They just said, 'Well, Santa Claus, good luck to you! Come by and see me next year!'" (From The Story of Jim and Myrtle Greer: Family and Church, an oral history by Myrtle Greer, pages 115-117)

In later years Jim was hired by the Weiss Department store at Northgate Shopping Center. They bought him the luxurious beard pictured above. His Christmas adventures were also written up in the Beacon-News in 1965. Here is the article by Charles S. Ward:
"A Year-round Santa Claus"
If you live in the neighborhood of Foran Lane, you may hear a knock on your door.
When you answer it, it won’t be a door-to-door salesman for a commercial product. It may be a door-to-door salesman of kindness and the Christmas spirit.
It my not be December; it may be June or January.
There’s a 70-year-old gentleman who symbolizes for many Aurorans the spirit of giving and peace on earth all year round.
Children love James T. Greer, a year-round Santa Claus, even if he’s dressed in around-home casual clothes.
They call him grandpa. Adults are proud to call him friend.
Each year at harvest time, his front yard is like a farmer’s market; the children are in his corn cart, pulled by Greer’s tractor.
Prior to last Christmas he turned 70. That doesn’t mean leisure. It means more time to devote to “the one thing that interests me most—the welfare of people.”
His hobby is making lamps. He makes them out of anything at hand.
During the holiday season, he dons a Santa Claus suit.
He goes around the neighborhood, knocking on doors, and residents are given an unsolicited gift.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Aurora Branch

The December 1950 newsletter was a rare, full-color edition. Or perhaps we should say “hand-colored” edition because each page was individually painted by Louise Erekson, who was the newsletter editor, reporter and staff artist rolled into one. Both pages sport her signature holly leaves and berries. A Christmas candle and Santa appear on page two.

The news of the moment was the pending visit of stake president John K. Edmunds who was expected to call a new second counselor in the branch presidency replacing H. Ward McCarty who had moved with his family back to Salt Lake.

Brother McCarty was one in a long line of second counselors. Although John Wendt served as first counselor for the entire time that Jim Greer was branch president, it seemed that everyone who was called as second counselor soon moved from the branch.

Perhaps thinking he would have someone permanently in place, he called James H. Greer as second counselor. Ten months later, Jimmie left to serve in the Texas-Louisiana Mission.

Meanwhile, however, Jimmie did double duty, as he was never released from his calling as branch clerk. In fact, he was not released even when he left for the mission field. His mother filled in for him as clerk while he was gone, and he picked up the reins again when he returned.

Louise’s design of Santa next to greetings from the branch presidency was appropriate because Jim Greer loved to play Santa Claus. (More adventures of Santa Claus in the next post.)


Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Christmas Parade

Lenore Deans shared this photo with me last summer, and I’ve been saving it for the right season. In 1955 the Aurora Branch participated in a downtown parade organized by Aurora churches to “Put Christ Back into Christmas.”Riding on the Aurora Branch entry, “Away in a Manger,” the angels holding the banner are Ed Kettley and Ginger Erekson [Hamer]. The other angels are John Resch, Erek Erekson, and Earl “Bucky” Spahr Jr.).

Many churches were invited to enter floats and the Aurora Branch felt they had arrived as a congregation when they were asked to participate.

Branch members spent many hours working on the float because they were eager to make a good impression. This photo shows that it was built at the home of Jim and Myrtle Greer (724 Foran Lane). Grandpa Greer’s hay wagon formed the base. The men added a high wooden platform with steps and the whole thing was covered with the obligatory chicken wire stuffed with Kleenexes. Cardboard letters on both sides spelled out “The cattle were lowing.” The name of the Church was displayed in similar letters on the back of the high platform. No one I’ve asked can remember how the float was pulled—Grandpa Greer’s tractor, a car, or pick-up truck.

Lenore Deans made the cow, donkey and sheep from paper mache over wooden frameworks. When the float was dismantled, she kept the animals and displayed them in her living room at Christmastime for several years.

We believe a photographer from the Aurora Beacon-News took this photo and it probably appeared in the paper, but more research is needed to find the exact date of the parade. We believe, of course, that it took place in December, even though the weather in the photo seems to be quite mild.

If anyone has something to add about the float and the parade and/or corrections to the memories we’ve cobbled together here, please add a comment or email me.

Merry Christmas!