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Woodies’ Santa Lives On

After nearly 50 Christmases in the department store’s windows, he’s now part of my family’s tradition

A life-size Santa Claus — donned in authentic red velvet suit, black belt and patent leather boots with a full angel-hair-spun beard — stands by my living room window all year round.
    He’s too fragile a chapter of history to stuff away in a corner of my two-car garage.
    I met Santa at a yard sale in a Calvert County barn. His $250 price tag was a bit steep for my budget. But I was fascinated with him and kept going back to touch his silky beard.
    I left the barn that day wondering what would become of my bearded friend.
    Several months later, my mother telephoned out of breath, “There’s another yard sale at that barn,” she said.
    Maybe Santa was still there.
    I dashed out the door.
    On that second meeting, I heard Santa’s story.
    The seller’s grandparents owned a department store in Washington, D.C.: Woodward and Lothrop.
    This Santa joined the Christmas display in Woodies’ windows in the 1950s, joined year after year by Mrs. Claus and a handful of elves.
    When Woodies closed in the early ’90s, construction workers tossed out anything they deemed invaluable, including Mrs. Claus and the elves. Santa was next in line.
    The grandson saved Santa that day and brought him home, displaying him in his own window.
    Santa saw a lot in his days at Woodies, including an armed robbery where he was mistaken for a person. His pants cuff bears the mark of a bullet graze.
    For $100 in cash, Mr. Claus became mine. Once home, I made a new discovery. Santa still shakes like a bowlful of jelly. His mechanics are intact after all these years.
    The old guy sparked a new tradition in the Steel home. After we’ve all stuffed ourselves with Thanksgiving turkey and fixings, we gather around Santa and shoot our yearly family Christmas photo.