Beloved Hartselle Santa Claus finds a new home
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Just as mysteriously as he would appear on the day after Thanksgiving, Santa Claus would disappear from the storefront window of E.R. Robert's window on Main Street in downtown Hartselle each Christmas Eve.
"As a kid, it was a big deal to drive down Main Street and see Santa waving at you," Hartselle native Bob Strider, son of Mr. and Mrs. Dale Strider, said. "It was a great tradition that no one ever wanted to end."
From its first appearance in the Main Street window in 1959 to Roberts' death in 1991, the mechanical Santa indeed established itself as a holiday tradition.
"As far as the city of Hartselle goes, E.R. Roberts' store window was the place to see every Christmas," Mayor Clif Knight said.
As years passed and the store's ownership changed hands, the admired Santa disappeared for the last time. Strider often wondered what became of old St. Nick.
"I asked my parents to keep their ears open," Strider said. "About three years ago, they pulled a great surprise and gave him to me as a birthday gift. I never dreamed anything would actually come of it."
Strider said Santa only required a few hours of minor mechanical work and a good dry cleaning for his red suit to be restored to his original jolly self.
"He's now on display for a few hours each night in an upstairs garage window," Strider said. "It's great to watch the kids walk by and admire him the way we did all those years ago."
For those longing for another glimpse of Hartselle's favorite Santa Claus, Strider resides at 1686 Longleaf Drive in west Huntsville.