Fremont County, Iowa

"A Santa Named George"
by Lois Coslett Whitehead

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of 17 Dec 2012

Yes, there is a Santa Claus and his name is George. My uncle, George Gilson, in the early 1950s, made our Christmases the most wonderful, magical holiday you can imagine. I anticipated this event for days, and time seemed to drag until it was Christmas.

Our family always got together with aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins on Christmas Eve, at the Gilson home, a large Victorian style house in Hamburg, complete with a ball room on the third floor and five fireplaces. The three downstairs were lit on Christmas Eve.

George and Ruth ran a cafe which was open for a while on Christmas Eve. We waited eagerly for George to get home and tell us if Santa had been there. Our festivities took place in the hall. Yes, the room upon entering the front door was called the hall. It was not a "hall" at all but a large room with a beautiful parquet floor, fireplace crackling on one side and a long curved oak staircase on one end. The live Christmas tree with "bubble lights" stood in the bay window.

The room was closed off with two pocket doors, one on each side. At Christmas these were shut until George came home. He would then gather us at the door, (I can still see his big smile and sparkling eyes) telling us he would check to see if Santa had come. We waited and waited and he finally told us he had. We rushed into the room and took our places which all of the cousins had chosen ahead of time sitting on the staircase with the older cousins at the top.

George, of course, passed out the gifts with as much fun and dramatics as you can imagine. I always got a new baby doll and I loved them. Our grandmother who lived away once sent us a box full of doll clothes she had made and that was really special. One Christmas I wanted a gun and holster set so bad and my grandpa got it for me.

After gifts were opened, we burned some of the wrappings in the fireplace while Grandma saved what she could. We then roasted hot dogs and marshmallows in the fireplace and had lots of other goodies too like fudge and divinity. The very best though was the wooden case of pop (orange, cream, strawberry and root beer) George brought home and set out on the back porch. It would get a little ice in the neck of the bottles and oh, it was so good. It was hard to choose which flavor I wanted.

Later, we left, for home tired and happy, but anxious to return the next day for Christmas dinner. Ruth cooked a delicious dinner with turkey in the roaster and all the trimmings served on her pretty dishes. Grandma brought a dish of macaroni and cheese wrapped in a newspaper to keep it warm, tied it with a string.

This is the good part. The Gilson family all came on Christmas Day. They brought guitars, a banjo, a Jew's (today they are called Jaw's Harps) harp, a violin and, of course, the piano was already there. We had fantastic music, colorful stories and maybe even a little wine. No one could have had a more wonderful Christmas; unless they had an uncle like George.

Return to View From the Attic Page

Return to Fremont County Home

Page updated on November 1, 2020 by Karyn Techau