Historic City News spent some time this morning with long time local businessman and insurance agent Herbie Wiles; who told us that “It’s officially Christmas season” now that Santa Clause is back on duty at the front door of his office.
Wiles says that this lighted Santa figure has been with him for at least 45 years.
Each Christmas Wiles displays the figure which is starting to show its age. The figure is Vacucell – two molded halves stapled together – and was made by the L.A. Goodman Mfg. Co. of Chicago.
In researching the Santa, Historic City News found that people who grew up in Chicagoland in the 1960s might recognize him as having come from Polk Brothers appliance store. Polk Brothers offered these Santas (or a Snowman in 1962 or 1963) for free — if you spent $30.
Wiles purchased the Santa figure from W. F. “Dub” Clark who owned the Appliance Center in St. Augustine. “I can’t remember how much I paid for him”, Wiles said.
Wiles did remember bringing the figure back to his office; which was at 17 Cordova Street in 1964. A base platform was constructed and guy wires attached to keep Santa upright as he greeted holiday visitors from Wiles screened-in front porch.
Santa’s colors have faded over the past 45 years — he has a few tape marks and cracks. Wiles says, “He used to flash on and off”. These days he comes on at dark and is illuminated until about 9:30 or 10:00 each night.
Santa made the move with Wiles to the new building at 78 Saragossa and can be seen each year at their renovated building at 400 North Ponce de Leon Boulevard.
Wiles said that he has children in the neighborhood whose parents remember the Santa figure from when they were children. For some of them, Santa’s appearance rekindles warm memories of Christmas in St. Augustine. And for their children, it reminds them that another Christmas is right around the corner.
Photo credit: © 2009 Historic City News staff photograph