Will Santa Claus scare the heck outta your kids this year?
For years, my three brothers, little sister and myself, one by one, were subjected to a horrific-looking Santa.
The youngest of the Krawczyk clan would be giddy with anticipation awaiting Santa’s exclusive arrival to our house alone on Whitcomb Drive each Christmas Eve.
When the doorbell rang, that excitement was only heightened as evidenced by the silly laughter and nervous smiles of the young ones as we stood along the railing gawking down at the doorway. The older ones would be nodding and smiling slyly with knowing glances to one another.
And then…then he entered.
Silly laughter gave way to stunned silence as the younger siblings leaned back with terrified expressions.
There wasn’t anything jolly about this Santa -- he was downright frightening.
The silence would be broken by a sudden shriek of terror, as the youngest would go scrambling behind my mom's legs for protection. Our silent home movie footage and photos of each Christmas show why the youngest siblings would be so scared: It was the Santa Claus mask.
We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve. The year I was born my dad invested in a Santa Claus suit so he could surprise us kids with a visit from a holly, jolly Santa. The suit consisted of pants, the jacket and a rubber mask with synthetic hair and beard. The slits that were already made for the eyes were much too small, as my Dad recently explained to me.
So, he took scissors to the mask to make the eyeholes bigger. Only he just didn’t make them bigger, he made the slits longer, and on a slant.
“I didn’t do it intentionally,” he now claims in his defense. “I couldn’t see out of the little holes!”
He wears glasses, so the shiny glare from the lens only added to the spooky effect of the slanted, spooky slit eyes. Plus, the skin tone of the rubber mask wasn’t flesh colored, rather it was stark white. The nose and cheeks were stark red so now Santa not only looked spooky, he looked drunk.
Mom would explain Dad’s absence that he “had to run out and get batteries.” It was the same excuse every year and I don’t think it ever changed. Without fail, the younger kids always fell for it.
As I got older, Christmas Eve would consist of our anticipation of Santa’s arrival, Dad suddenly remembering he forgot batteries and would leave, the doorbell ringing minutes later, Santa appearing and “Ho, ho, ho’ing!” in the doorway, and then little kids cowering in fear.
As the years went by, the mask’s beard got dingy and stringy and the stark white rubber yellowed. Dad attempted to lessen the severity of the slant eyes by cutting them into a rounder shape. That only allowed for more glare from the glasses to show.
The mask was scary back in the 60s, so imagine my poor little sister Cheryl having to face the hideous mask in the 70s.
Look at this guy. This isn’t Santa — it’s Satan! This is how I imagine Satan would disguise himself in an attempt to trick little children.
Only it wasn’t Satan, it was my dad or my favorite uncle trying their best to be jolly and bring cheer in our hearts. How did this costume get so raggedy? I mean, it was worn for all of one hour every year and then shoved back into a box or bag until the following Christmas.
If it was first used in 1963 and finally destroyed in one the regular, infamous Winston Park street floods in, say 1975, we’re talking 12 times it was used. Twelve hours. How does it go from a snow-white fluffy beard to a dingy, yellowed scraggily death mask in so few uses?
Cheryl recalls being told to hide in a bedroom with my younger brother Dave on Christmas Eve as Santa was getting ready to visit.
“We would look out the window and see him walking from the next door neighbor’s house,” she recalls. My dad or uncle would do that to make the visit look more authentic. “It looked so real that Santa was coming to OUR house and our house alone!”
Sure. Can you imagine driving by and seeing this raggedy Santa moseying down the sidewalk in the dark all by himself? That’s the beginning of a B-rated horror movie.
Thankfully, a flood destroyed the suit because I betcha Dad would have wanted to use it for all the grandkids. Actually, on second thought as I sit here thinking about it, now I wish it didn’t get destroyed. I think of how much laughter this suit has given the family throughout the years.
And that’s exactly what my dad’s intentions were when he bought it in 1963. Thank you for the laughter and jolly Christmases Dad!