Hey Santa — we need you — get back to work
First it was toilet paper.
Now we have a shortage of Santa’s.
And the big day is right around the corner.
The comparison is certainly a stretch – but the problem is a real one.
Let’s face it, an absence of Santa Claus at Christmas time is just as problematic as a lack of toilet paper in the restroom.
It wasn’t always like this.
In fact, as a kid growing up in New York City, every major department store had a Santa Claus.
I remember Macy’s, Gimbel’s and Abraham and Straus.
The Gimbels flagship store was located in the cluster of large department stores that surrounded Herald Square in Midtown Manhattan.
Abraham and Straus, commonly shortened to A&S, was a major New York City department store, based in Brooklyn.
Founded in 1865, it became part of Federated Department Stores in 1929. Shortly after Federated’s 1994 acquisition of R.H. Macy & Company, it eliminated the A&S brand.
Most A&S stores took the Macy’s name, although a few became part of Stern’s – another Federated division.
A&S was my designated target.
That’s where I wanted to finally meet – and talk to Santa.
Quite unusual, of course, for a Jewish kid wanting to meet Mr. Claus, yet my friends were always boasting of how this big, bearded individual would give them goodies this time of year.
There was one hang-up – would mom take me to A&S – the promised land?
Persuading – or rather hounding – my mom on the deal was, perhaps the best act of salesmanship in my life.
And I’ve had some pretty good sales in my lifetime.
The big day had arrived – at least it was for me.
Mom and I hopped on the elevated line of the subway to catch the B train – which was better known in the neighborhood as the West End local.
I knew we were almost at our destination when the train started to make its way underground.
First to the 9th Street station, and then under the noisy streets of Brooklyn – 36th Street station, Pacific Street and then paradise – DeKalb Avenue.
Up the escalator to daylight and just a few blocks away I’d have my dream come true – a chance to meet Santa Claus.
A chance to tell my classmates that, like them, I was able to meet and talk to Santa, too.
The walk to A&S seemed like an eternity – but finally we arrived – and when I saw the line, I knew Santa was at the other end.
My mom gasped – I was in heaven.
We waited – and waited.
I was nervous. What would I say?
What would I ask for?
Why didn’t I even ask my friends what they did upon their visit to Santa?
Too late now.
I was next.
And I heard the man with the big white beard say, “OK, son c’mon, you’re next. It’s time to meet Santa.”
I didn’t think my legs could move.
I needed a shove from mom.
Finally, I approached him in his big chair.
“Hop on,” he said, “have a seat on my lap. And tell me what you’d like for Christmas.”
I couldn’t get the courage to talk, but finally the words crept out.
I whispered in his ear and said: “Santa, I’m a little nervous and this is my first time visiting you.”
“Don’t be afraid, my boy,” he said.
So, I asked him if I could whisper in his ear as to what I had to say.
He responded, of course.
I said: “Santa, I’m just a bit nervous because I’m Jewish.”
He inched a bit closer to me and whispered back: “Don’t worry at all – so am I.”
It’s a story I’ll never forget – but without Santas there’s no story.
We need them.
Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR
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