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Column: TV station Santa was much better

When I was a kid, the lead up to Christmas was excruciating.

I could not wait until Christmas Eve to go and spend time at several different family gatherings and open a single present when we got back home. One year, I think my mom and stepdad might have had too many drinks at a Christmas party, and we ended up opening all of our presents, but usually, it was just one. I really enjoyed that evening, but it made for an awkward Christmas morning for those who did not receive a visit from Santa.

Speaking of Saint Nick, I was always amazed that he always seemed to know exactly what Star Wars toys I wanted, and I still smile thinking back to how happy I was when I received the Ewok Village on Christmas Morning.

I would always wake up at about 4 a.m. and try to sneak out to get a peek at what Santa had brought to the house, but I would always go scurrying back to my room whenever I heard any sound.

Looking back, I am surprised at how much noise Santa would make from about 11 p.m. to around 1 a.m. and how the noise would be louder if we had stayed out pretty late for a family gathering. Maybe the adults were hanging out with Santa and having a beer. Whatever it was, it was always pretty loud.

Part of the excruciating wait for Christmas always seemed to be the ridiculous amount of time we had off. It felt like we would have a whole week before Christmas, making me stir-crazy. I could handle only so much sledding or watching Christmas movies; I wanted the holiday to happen immediately.

I remember going to the White Mountain Mall to visit Santa a few times. This was a far cry from the infamous scene from “A Christmas Story,” where Ralphie had to wait in a line that appeared to be a mile. There was never much of a line at the mall because everyone wanted to see Santa on the television station. I was pretty sure the guy at the mall was just an imposter, but the Santa at the station was the real deal. I remember one year at the mall the Santa smelled like he had skipped the cookies and went straight for the Whiskey.

I grew up long before the days of DirecTV and Dish Network, and if you wanted to watch more than a couple of channels, you had to get cable television.

Our cable company had its own channel; I think it was channel 6, and despite not being a bigger community, they had a nightly news show. There was only one anchor, but this hard-working person did a little bit of everything and was indeed a fantastic journalist. There were low production values compared to the nightly news we would get from Salt Lake City, but it was always local stories, and I appreciated it. I appreciate it even more now.

During the lead up to Christmas, Channel 6 would always have a few dates where they would bring Santa to the station, and you could go and visit him under the bright lights. They would broadcast the visits later in the day. While many people only had a mall Santa, we had a television station Santa, and everybody wanted to go. There would always be huge lines. It was also right by the movie theater, so if you played your cards right, you might even get to see a film.

I was only able to go a few times, but it was a crazy feeling to see myself on television later in the day with Santa, who would remind everyone about 20 times to be sure to sign up for the cable company bike raffle. I always found it fascinating that Santa happened to be tight with the cable people in Rock Springs, Wyoming, but I didn’t ask too many questions.

Seeing TV Santa always made the wait for Christmas a little bit easier. It probably would have been even better if I had won a bike, but I never did. I probably was the only kid in southwest Wyoming who never won the drawing. The meanest kids in my school would win multiple times, but I never heard my name.

Maybe this year, Santa might show up if I start to get restless around Christmas. I hope it’s television Santa and not the guy from the mall. Maybe this will be the year I actually get a bike, but seeing I haven’t rode one in a couple of decades, I’d probably fall off quicker than the mall Santa who had a bit too much Whiskey.