My brothers and sister and I always knew it was really Christmas time when we saw Curly Cooper walking past our house, heading toward town. To me, a kid of 8 or 9, Curly was a man of indeterminate age. He walked by our house often going to and from town. The signal my siblings and I were watching for in early December was Curly walking by in his Santa suit. When the Curly sighting occurred, we ran from the front window to the kitchen yelling, Mom, Mom, we saw Curly in his Santa suite it is time to go Christmas shopping!!!!
In 1967, shops such as Rexall drug on one corner next to it Thriftway grocery store, the Mans Shop which sold dress clothing as well as logging gear and cowboy hats, the dime store , and Coast to Coast hardware store, were thriving in our small town . Curly in his Santa suit and cowboy hat, often with a backdrop of an idling, snow covered log truck, could be found on the corners at the four way stop in town, or visiting the shops , handing each child a candy cane from the burlap sack in his hand, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.
Now years later, living in an area of the country famous for excess, I have seen some gorgeous Santa costumes. Beautiful Santa houses, elaborately decorated, with Santa enthroned in front of them. Santa even parachuted in to our local mall this year. None of them can hold a candle to the memory of Curly.
In 1985 or so, my mom sent me the figurine of Curly you see in the photo. Enclosed was a card with facts that, as a kid, I didn’t know about Curly. He saved all year to buy the candy that was in that burlap bag. He bought it. Not the city. Not the merchants in an attempt to attract shoppers. Curly bought the candy with his own money to give the kids of the town as a gift.
The closing line on the card that accompanied my figurine reads …”here in Molalla, Santa will always be known as Curly”…as one of the kids that received a candy cane from him, I know that is true. Curly meant Christmas.