So I believe the year is 1981 and when you are five years old what’s the best thing about Christmas? Santa Claus right? And if you grew up on the south side where did Santa go first? Yup Evergreen Plaza, so I had heard great stories of Christmas past when Santa came in a helicopter and landed on the top level of the parking deck to all the waiting children.
And now it was my first year to go in person with my mother and brother (Kevin who was 14 but has always been great about supporting me), and we went the day after Thanksgiving to see Santa come to the south side (well technically Evergreen Park), with every other kid from the south side.
The first thing that wasn’t quite right was they had us crowd inside around center square instead of the parking deck. Well he must be coming a new way this year, even better than before. This was the first Christmas I really remember, I was in kindergarten at Saint Columbanus in Park Manor on 71st Street, so this was a BIG DEAL.
I remember being on the old upper floor of Evergreen Plaza looking down at center square, it was all decorated beautifully, all ready for Santa. Kids where everywhere and screaming, it was loud but this was start of the Christmas season and as a kid what could be better? My father always made a big deal about Christmas (he had to work the day after Thanksgiving), and decorated the house with so many lights it was brighter outside than inside. And then my father always believed in buying big presents (no gift certificates or envelopes of cash or checks), he always said “You need presents to open under the tree”.
So Kevin & I always looked forward to Christmas because dad made it so fun, lots of unhealthy fried food (oh wait that was year round), but even more of it at Christmas, sweet potato pie even stinking chitlins seemed better at Christmas.
Anyway with Santa coming to Evergreen Plaza it was the start of that magical season, so we wait for Santa’s arrival. How was we going to show up? Maybe in a sleigh, reindeer, maybe a car. Dad was a mechanic, so we always talked about cars & trucks at home (and he had several in various stages of disrepair), and we joked about Santa driving up in a Jeep.
Nope no Santa yet, finally someone brought a big, brown UPS style moving box and put it on center square. We thought it might be more decorations or something to help Santa when it gets there.
Nope, after a little while Santa climbed out of that box like a stripper out of a cake at a raunchy adult party.
We couldn’t believe it.
Santa came in a box, from what I remember it did say “from the North Pole” (I think it even had a postage stamp on the side), or something like that. But man Santa was shipped at bulk rate.
I just remember Kevin repeating “Man, Santa came in a box”. I don’t remember much else about that Christmas except Santa climbing out of that corrugated box.
Needless to say we never went back to Evergreen Plaza to see Santa show up again, once you go brown box, you can’t go back.
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