Interviews by Linsey Lee
Excerpted from “More Vineyard Voices” by Linsey Lee and the Oral History Center of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. More oral histories are available at mvmuseum.org.
A Jewish Santa
Helen Issokson (1925 – 2015)
My husband Bernie would be Santa Claus for the Christmas promotions at Brickman’s. He didn’t need any stuffing. They’d put the makeup on him and they’d have him at the back of the store where the shoe department is, sitting in a sleigh and so on. This was back when my daughter Judy was really little. One year he’d gone down there, and I was with Judy at a Hanukkah party at the Hebrew Center. All of a sudden I get a call,
“Please come home, I’m locked out!”
I guess a friend must have dropped him off here at the house and left. He didn’t have any pockets in the Santa Claus suit, he had no keys, and I had locked both doors. So he went next door to use the neighbors’ phone. He knocked on the door — here he is in full regalia, Santa Claus. Our neighbors were Ralph and MaryAnn DeGoliers; he was not in the best of health. They were not the friendliest of neighbors, but when Ralph came to the door and looked at Bernie, he just cracked up laughing. Ralph said, “That’s the best laugh I’ve had,” and from that time on we were good friends. He said he thought it was an apparition. It was really
From a 2000 interview
Santa takes a copter
Seamond Ponsart Roberts b.1940
When my father was still the lighthouse keeper over at Cuttyhunk, my mother read in the paper that there was this flying Santa Claus and he’d drop toys and stuff to the lighthouse kids and stuff for the keepers. So she wrote him and said, “My little girl … would you drop her a doll?”
She told me, she says, “We’ve got a flying Santa Claus coming and he’s going to come over in a plane and throw you a present. He wrote me and said he would bring you a doll.“
This was about in November. So every single day, every time I saw a plane, I thought, Is that it? Is that it? I’m sure my parents were sorry they told me so early.
When the big day arrived, Cuttyhunk is loaded with boulders on the west
end. So he came over and he flew over and he circled and everything and
everybody’s excited. Well, the first package fell in the pond, so my father rowed out and got it. He made another circle, which meant No. 2 was coming down. It landed on the land, but it landed on the boulder.
We all waved goodbye to him, got in the house. And in this one package
the one that fell on the rock was my doll. To top it off, it was a little black doll. I was fascinated. I had never even seen a black person at this time, and here was this little black doll, all broken to pieces. So I cried myself to sleep that night. And Dad said, “Don’t worry, Seamond, I’ll fix it up.”
Well, he wired it back together, and I had this doll for years. I always kept a Band-Aid on its head, it was so broken up and everything. I remember one of the eyeballs fell out, and Dad put one of these little seashells in it and painted an eye on it, and it looked cross-eyed. It was so decrepit, but I loved it because it was a special present.
That was in 1945. The next year we were at West Chop, so he wrote back to Mom and he says, “Don’t worry. I’m going to land this little girl a doll in person.”
He got a helicopter and he landed up at Gay Head. Well, every year
after that he would come to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Of course, he came not just for me, but I felt like it was just for me. I look back now, and he did the same thing for the Gay Head kids, and they felt it was just for them, which is so wonderful.
From a 1999 interview