Yum, yum, yum!

Santa selling Jell-o and cereal

Anyone else out there a cornball who loves to listen to old radio shows from the ’40s?

I grew up hearing my folks talk about Fibber McGee‘s closet, Jack Benny‘s squeaky violin, and Baby Snooks’ antics.

Thanks to satellite radio those shows are available again, 60 years later.

And the commercials are a hoot

Either the plugs are non-too-subtly inserted into the script or the cracky, nasally voice of Henry Aldrich belts out a jingle.

Tums for the tummy. And Jell-O, yum, yum, yum!

A Kraft Foods employee emailed the other day. He was so pleased to see this photo of Santa.

Long ago, during our Santa Claus Land days, Santa posed for an advertisement with a variety of products, including Jell-O.

Santa selling Jell-o and cereal

Upon closer inspection, it appears that it was Jell-O pie filling.

Lemon pie filling to be exact.

Santa Jim and Jell-o

We sent the Kraft Foods gentleman a copy of the photo to display in his office. Talk about connections!
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More memories of feathered friends

Baseball-playing chicken

It’s amazing the Santa Claus Land memories that are stirred whenever we talk about the Educated Animals.

Here’s an email from last week:

I really appreciated the picture of the educated animals. I tried to tell my wife about them but could not do it justice. One of my greatest memories is of my mother putting money in the chicken who played baseball stand. Mom hates birds (don’t ask me) she is scared to death of them. The bird immediately went out to second base, did his/her daily constitutional and went right back to its change. The look on my mom’s face was priceless. Thanks for the memories. See ya this summer.

Keith B.
Vienna, Illinois

Sure enough, here’s a photo of the Educated Animals display of a baseball-playing chicken:

Baseball-playing chicken

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Will’s favorite ride

Pleasureland

When you saw the subject line of this post, you probably assumed the top was going to be coasters.

Right?

That’s a reasonable assumption, but truth be told there’s another ride from Will’s childhood that is right there at the top.

Pump cars.

Pleasureland

See them there, in the middle of the photo?

This is the Pleasureland ride section of Santa Claus Land. 

When asked by reporters over the years, Will and his four siblings are unanimous in their delirious memories of the pump cars.

They. Were. The. Best.

The reason why they were the best, though, explains why they’re no longer here.

“You could pump really hard, build up some speed, and then crash off the track when you came to a curve. It was great!”

I won’t credit that quote to a particular Koch. I believe I’ve heard all three of the male siblings say it.

When preparing the above photo for this post, I emailed a piece of it to Will. My question was regarding whether the pump cars were individual cars, or connected, as it looks here:

pump cars

Will’s reply: Yes, they are the pump cars. They are individual units. However, if the person in front is going too slow…
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Our answer to the Christmas debate

Pat Koch and Santa's Elves

Have you been following all the fuss? About whether it’s a Christmas tree or a “holiday tree”? Not a terribly new debate, sadly.

We had to go back seven years to find this, but thought it was worth dusting off. Back in 1998, we were approached by a national newspaper chain to write a “counter-point” opinion piece about one man’s push to have Christmas removed from the list of national holidays.

He was suing the government in an attempt to turn December 25 into just another day here in the U.S.

Here’s the reply, from Mrs. Koch, that was printed:

Point/Counter Point

Dear Santa, I have been trying to be good this year but my little sister gets me in trouble. I hope you give me lots of toys this year. I’ll be happy with anything you give me this year. Your friend, Bubby B.

Dear Santa, I what my dad to be smarter. Love, Robbie D.

Dear Santa, I have been a very, very good gril this year. I want your picer. Your friend, Annessa P.S. Go to Mrs. Johnson’s house to get me a cat. She has lots of them.

Dear Santa, I like board games. I promise to leave you some cookies and milk. Oh, don’t forget to turn off the TV this year, you forgot to last year. From your friend, Michael

Pat Koch and Santa's ElvesAs thick as snowflakes in a blizzard the letters come, year after year, as children send their letters to Santa Claus.

Somehow these letters find their way to the tiny post office in Santa Claus, Indiana, from all around the world even though at times the address is simply “Santa Claus, USA,” with a colorful sticker where a 32-cent stamp should be.

Somehow the harried postal workers see to it that the letters get to Santa Claus in time. And somehow this town provides enough volunteers to make sure that each of the thousands of letters receives a personal reply from one of Santa’s Elves. Everyone is busy, everyone has shopping and cooking and wrapping to do. But the sweet and sometimes sad letters from children from all over the world are too important to ignore.

Christmas is about children. Although we Americans sometimes complain about the commercialism of the holidays, we must look beyond the hustle-bustle and into the eyes of our nation’s children, for it is there that we will rediscover the true spirit of the season.

Children understand Christmas

They know it’s about believing.

It’s about sharing and loving and giving from the heart. As adults, it’s about gathering the little ones in your lap and telling them about what you asked Santa to bring you (back in the dark ages when you had to walk eight miles to school in ten feet of snow). It’s giggling as three generations try to remember the gift given on the eleventh day of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and blinking back tears of tender love as the tiniest grandchild recites the names of Santa’s reindeers.

It’s taking time off from work and school to be home with loved ones. Oh, and it’s breaking bread together, and giving thanks for family, good health, and for the blessings of living in America. It’s a time to donate to a good cause, to prepare meals for the less fortunate, to bring flowers to a shut-in.

Thousands of children visit Santa Claus, Indiana, during their summer vacation each year to get an early visit with the town’s namesake. As they climb up into his lap, there are no questions about religious or ethnic background. The only questions are: “Have you been good this year? And what would you like Santa to bring you?” Nothing political, nothing controversial, simply a quiet conversation between a little child and kindly old gentleman.

During the years when Americans have been overseas at war, the bombs stopped while soldiers from both sides gratefully celebrated the Christmas holiday. There was no question of religion for these cease-fires, but a universal agreement that on December 25th there would be no war.

Can a holiday with the power to halt wars not be a national treasure?

Christmas is as American as the 4th of July. It should be celebrated by all who wish to recapture the belief and hope of a small and trusting child.

Patricia A. Koch
Santa Claus, Indiana

Honoring our Veterans

Jim Yellig

The eleventh day of the eleventh month. Veterans Day.

Time to say thank you.

To people my parents’ age, my own age, my son’s age.

Each has a story. Some choose to talk about their military days, others don’t.

Jim YelligMrs. Koch likes to tell the story about her dad.

This is a photo of him. Jim Yellig was a Navy man during the first World War.

One Christmas, he was stationed on a ship at the Brooklyn Shipyard in New York.

Everyone on board, so far from home, agreed to hold a Christmas party for local underprivileged children.

But where was Santa?

“Hey, Jim — you do it! You’re from Santa Claus, after all.”

Truth be told, Jim Yellig was from nearby Mariah Hill. But who could resist talking about a town named Santa Claus? Not Jim.

Jim wasn’t thrilled about the idea, but agreed to do it.

The experience changed his life forever.

When he saw the hope and love and trust in the eyes of these little children, frightened by the war and hurt by poverty, his heart melted.

As he told the story years later, “Afterwards, I said a little prayer: God, if you get me through this war alive and send me home, I’ll forever be Santa.”

Both promises were kept.

God bless our Veterans on this, and all, days.
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Anyone know these beauties?

We were sorting through some archival photos the other day and wondered about this photo:

Bathing beauties at Santa Claus Land

Goodness! Is that Marilyn?

And what’s with those high heels?

Must be beauty queens. (If so, where are their sashes? Their tiaras? Didn’t they have tiaras back then? What good is it being a beauty queen if you don’t get to wear a tiara…)

If you’re wondering where this was taken, it was back when the Santa statue was located in front of Santa Claus Land’s main buildings (this area is now “back of the house”). Santa was elevated somewhat, and there were steps to get up on the same level with him.

Anyone recognize these ladies? If so, please be sure to email me so we can share the story.

(The above blog entry was first posted on 9/8/05 and by the next week, we had some “answers.” Here’s the second HoliBlog post:)

Where are they now?

Remember those mystery ladies from one of last week’s posts? We’ve identified them all!

Thanks to a series of emails from interested parties (actually, they were all from my Cousin Jeff in St. Louis), we now know that those beauties all went on to find successful careers in the public eye.

Again, this is a photo from our Santa Claus Land archives. No scribbled notes on the back. No date.

Marilyn?But don’t you think this might be Marilyn?

Just take a quick look and you’ll probably agree.

Don’t stare, though.

That’s rude.

Jackie?

 

And couldn’t this possibly be Jackie?

You know…Jackie O. …back when she was Jackie B.

 

After identifying the most famous beauties, I was stuck.

Cousin Jeff came to the rescue within hours via email.

Lucy's friend?

This beauty next to “Jackie” looks like Lucy’s friend (not Ethel … her other friend) but I’m drawing a blank.

Hmm … let’s Google that

Oh yes – Betty Ramsey! (The actress’s name was Mary Jane Croft. She hailed from Muncie, Indiana. )

Andrea?

And Jeff says this next bathing beauty must be Andrea Martin.

By golly, she does look familiar, but I’m not sure if the ages synch up.

Close enough.

We’re almost done!

But this one (no offense, Jeff!), I really do question.

Bertie?

According to Jeff, “The final beauty is now a grandma. Why, that’s Lindsay Lohan’s grandmother Bertie Lohan. Her friends just called her “Bert.”

Maybe we’ll try this again someday. We have lots and lots of old photos. And for some reason, every single face looks familiar.

Was it this hot?

Santa on ice

Was it this hot back before we had Splashin’ Safari?

It’s just hard to believe, isn’t it?

What did people do before water parks?

Before wave pools and fountains?

Before air conditioning?

How did they keep cool?

Santa had the right idea

Santa on ice

Was it this hot back then? Best I can tell, Santa is sitting on a thin pillow to keep from sticking to his ice-block throne.

I’m guessing the photo was taken in the ’50s, as it’s in black and white.

Even back then, Santa was one cool fellow.
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Attention all Holiday World Hostesses!

Getting tired of wearing those khaki shorts day after day?

Don’t quite like the fashion statement those white tennies make?

And that blue shirt — not a good color on you?

Well, get a load of these Santa Claus Land uniforms for park hostesses from long ago:

Santa Claus Land uniform

Thanks to Christina from Texas who sent this photo, taken about 30 years ago.
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Happy birthday to … us!

Happy birthday! It was 59 years ago today that Louis J. Koch opened the world’s first theme park, Santa Claus Land.

Fifty-nine years later, LJK’s grandson Will keeps up the family tradition along with his mom and two of his daughters. Plus, there are hundreds of us who feel as if we’re part of the family.

Often, August 3 is such a busy day that we don’t take a moment to celebrate. (Where’s the cake?)

Happy Birthday to us!

Here’s the one ride that’s been here all these years:

A while back, we received a lovely email from a gentleman who wanted to tell us how he remembered riding The Freedom Train with his grandfather many years ago. And the day before he sent us that email, he’d ridden that little train with his granddaughter.

It may be 95 degrees outside, but that thought always gives me a happy chill.
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Brochure baby

We received an email from Connie yesterday.

Asking about old brochures.

Santa Claus Land brochures.

Connie’s not a collector, though. Not of brochures, anyway.

It’s just her daughter’s photo was once in a Santa Claus Land brochure. Somehow, over the years, Connie’s copy of that brochure was misplaced.

Connie was a college chum of a member of the Koch family. She was invited to bring her daughter to a pre-season event in the mid-1970s.

Santa Claus Land brochure photoSilly little Kimber Lee put her sunglasses on upside-down and played on a “springy” ride.

Now the next generation is interested in seeing this brochure baby photo, so Connie emailed from Texas asking if we could dig up the picture for her granddaughter.

And here it is, from our 1978 Santa Claus Land brochure:

Now we have three happy generations grinning over this photo.

And maybe a few honorary cousins.
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