This past fall, I attended the annual Gramond Street neighborhood garage sale. The size and participants in the sale have declined in the past few years, but it's an old neighborhood and I almost always manage to score at least one good item. This year was no exception.
While working my way through a long line at a sale, I could see what was clearly a vintage Santa Claus across the table from me. It looked homemade, but I liked it and my anxiety increased as each person in front of me stopped to look at it. Fortunately, everyone passed on it and I was able to grab it. It was priced at $5. When I picked it up, Santa moved and seeing an electric cord, I knew it was mechanical. And he's very large, standing at 2 foot tall and 2 foot wide.
In 1946, Harold Gale and his wife Viola began making animated department store display Santa's in their apartment, working late into the night assembling them from wire frames, red velvet and spun fiberglass or cotton beards. Their displays ranged from large department store window Santas to smaller drug store countertop versions. Risking their life savings of $3,000, they started The Harold Gale Santa Company. Their craftmenship and quality of materials made them very popular and soon sales were growing at such an extent they opened a 3,000 square foot factory with a staff of 30 to 50 employees. Their popularity in department stores created a demand in the home market and in 1957 Harold and Viola began creating smaller 15" home versions of their Santas. Sporting white "Go Go" boots and a white belt, these are easily identified in many current eBay auctions. At first, these Santas were only available through Sears, but by 1963 were available in most popular department stores. By 1960, Harold Gale was producing over 100,000 Santa's. The Harold Gale Santa Company closed around 1988.
There's very little information about Harold Gale on the internet and most of it, including mine, comes from here. That's too bad because it seems like a great story deserving to be remembered.
Here's my Santa in action. Some have called it "creepy", but I think he's pretty cool.