Christmas Eve fell on a Thursday in 1953. My folks were busily preparing for Christmas in the small ranch town of Altamont, in the Uintah Basin. That day is my earliest memory of the guy in the red suit. A rancher dressed as one of Santa’s helpers sat atop a large John Deere tractor and delivered a playhouse to the daughters of another rancher in town. I remember my mother pointing him out. I remember her words: “Look, there is one of Santa’s helpers.” I didn’t know that Santa had helpers, but now, as a parent, I’ve learned he employs quite a few throughout the world. I think, for the most part, they are all volunteers.
The next morning, I spied Santa’s black boots leaving the back door to our duplex. It was so amazing! I even heard him say, “Ho, Ho, Ho!” Immediately after his departure, my grandfather entered our home. Now, as a grandfather, I know that Santa interviews me each year; it’s kind of a state-of-the-family interview, you know.
After moving back to Syracuse as a child, my grandmother began a tradition of taking us to breakfast with Santa Claus at what was then ZCMI in Ogden. Those breakfasts always ended with us children sitting on Helper Santa’s lap.
The local Lion’s club blessed the lives of children in Syracuse. Each year in the ‘50s, they would host one of Santa’s helpers who lived right here in Syracuse. His name was Verl Dahl.
One year, I had been asked by Santa to help him prepare for Christmas. He wanted me to attend the Rentmeister’s company Christmas party. I borrowed Verl Dahl’s suit. Before I went to the Rentmeister’s, I popped by the homes of several small children in our neighborhood to spread some good cheer. It was my one and only time Santa asked me to help. Verl was asked every year. He must have been an especially good boy as a child, having won Santa’s trust.
Thank you, Dahl family, for your sacrifice in being Syracuse’s Santa’s helpers for so many years. Your father is no longer with us, but it’s no wonder children grow up in Syracuse loving Santa.
Now, one of Santa’s helpers rides along top of the Syracuse Fire Department ladder-truck. Thank you, Captain Kyle Nance, for being a good-enough boy to win Santa’s endorsement.
Mayor Mike Gailey