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3 August 2006 - 12:00am
We're not quite to Four Score and Seven yet, but a 60th Anniversary is nothing to sneeze at these days.
It was on August 3, 1946, that Santa Claus Land opened in the tiny town of Santa Claus, Indiana.
Louis J. Koch (Will's grandpa) had purchased the land in the 1930s and waited until World War II was over before launching his retirement project. Will's other grandfather, Jim Yellig, was on hand as Santa.
Will's uncle John Long was there. "It was crowded," he remembers of that day. "It was a great day for the family."
And what about Santa's pretty little daughter?
Surely Patty Yellig was there to celebrate the grand opening.
"I honestly don't remember being here," she told a reporter this morning, with a sheepish grin. "After all, I was 15 and probably thought there was something far more exciting going on somewhere else that day."
Mrs. Koch paused from her interview to hug a boy named Jake. He's from Seymour, Indiana, and spent all day yesterday at the library writing a letter to her, complete with photos.
He also slipped her a computer disk. I think she offered him a "computer assistant" job, effective immediately. Mrs. Koch and my husband proudly proclaim each year at our company Christmas party that they plan to be the "last computer illiterates on earth."
It's quite charming that we occasionally receive, out of the blue, scans of wonderful old photos from folks who have been visiting for decades.
Here's one from St. Louis. Brothers Dave and Joe visited Santa Claus several times way-back-when; this photo is circa 1966.
I saw Dave in the park earlier this season. He's still living in St. Louis and he's still got that cute little smile.