December 21, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Santa Claus

Will Yates Santa Holly

Did You Sit On This Santa’s Lap?

We had our very own Santa Claus in our family…my Grandpa Will Yates of Olympia, WA.  After he was retired he worked at Montgomery Ward in Olympia during the Christmas season as their Santa Claus. He was perfect (in my opinion) for the job because he had a naturally fat tummy, a perfect Santa-like nose and he loved kids.

If you had your picture taken with Santa at Montgomery Ward during the 1950’s It may have been my Grandpa. If you have pictures to share, I’d love to see them!

My personal story about Grandpa playing Santa will show you how savvy I was, even at a young age. My parents took me to “Monkey” Ward and had me sit on Santa’s lap to tell him what I wanted for Christmas. I had been sitting on that same lap for many years and I knew it was my grandpa. I never said a word that I knew it was him because I knew it would spoil it for the other kids.  I think my parent’s were pretty proud of me that kept “the secret”.

It wasn’t until about 10 years ago I found out that Grandpa’s first wife, Minnie Smith Yates liked to play Santa too.  I think it might have been when she lived in Missouri as a young woman, but my cousin Allene Moore Chapin told me that she remembered Grandma Minnie dressing up as Santa when she was a young girl.  It really gave me yet another view of my grandma and that she had a playful side.

I’m participating in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2010 sponsored by Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers fame.  Won’t you join us as we blog about our memories through the month of December?

You might also like to read:

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2010: The Tree

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2010 – Holiday Foods

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2010 – Christmas Cards

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Outdoor Decorations

 

Great Olympia Train Wreck 1959 Revisited

Olympia Train Wreck 1959

Olympia Depot Demolished By Runaway Train

It was 51 years ago today that 12 of 15 boxcars full of plywood began their crew-less  runaway journey from just south of Tumwater, Washington to the city of Olympia where they crashed into the Union Pacific Railroad depot, killing one man and injuring about twenty others.

I was eight years old at the time when the Great Olympia Train Wreck happened on March 13, 1959.  Even at that tender age, I remember the shock of learning that the Union Pacific Railroad depot I had visited many times was now just a shambles and we would never be going there again.

We Paid To Potty In Those Days

Mom and I (and probably my brother Dave too) would stop in the railroad depot when we were in downtown Olympia and I remember that the waiting room seemed very open and immense.  It may not have been so large, but rather that I was small.  Mostly likely, our purpose for being there was to use the ‘public facilities’.  Of course, this was the era when society still had to contend with “pay” toilet stalls.  You inserted your dime and hoped the investment paid off with a clean toilet.  The implication was not always the reality though.  Thank goodness those days are over!

Chance Turns Into A Miracle

It was just a miracle that more people weren’t killed or injured in this accident.  The one fatality, Kenneth Dilley, was tragic, but by some twist of fate no automobiles were hit at the numerous railroad crossings between Tumwater and Olympia.  And, a red light that stopped cars on 4th Avenue and Adams turned that moment of chance into a miracle for those inside their vehicles.

Sources:

Personal knowledge of Carol Yates Wilkerson 13 March 2010

The Great Olympia Train Wreck – The Daily Olympian, Saturday March 13, 1999 (saved newspaper article in Yates family archives).

A runaway train derails in downtown Olympia, killing one, on March 13, 1959.  HistoryLink.org Essay 7929   (photo included)

Just a footnote: As a genealogist, I take more notice of surnames than maybe most people.  The name of the telegraph operator that was killed was Kenneth Dilley.  My sister-in-law Kathy has Dilley’s in her Needham family tree;  another name that caught my eye was Gene DeSpain, City of Olympia Engineer in 1959.  My husband Jim’s is descended from the DeSpain family in Des Moines County, Iowa.

Olympia Motorcycle Club Enduro circa 1938

Olympia Motorcycle Club

Thurston County Motorcycle History

Years ago I put together a shadow box for my parents of Yates memorabilia that included WWI and WWII medals for my grandfather Will Yates and my dad, William Gale Yates respectively. In that shadow box was included a little bit of Olympia Motorcycle Club history.

Olympia Motorcycle Club

My dad isn’t in the above photo because I believe he took the picture, hence the Y shown predominantly in the lower corner of the shot. I am also sorry to say that I can’t precisely date the year it was taken. The accompanying newspaper article was clipped from a page and no date was written on it either.

My dad was born in 1920, so it’s possible this photo could have been taken in 1938, 1939, 1940, or even in 1941. If someone knows motorcycles and can see anything in this photo that would identify a year, please let me know. I’m not sure the photo above even goes with the article. It might just be some of the guys my dad rode with at another time.

Olympia Motorcycle Club Article

The Newspaper Article About the Enduro Contest

DAVE NOURSE  TAKES MOTORCYCLE CONTEST

Dave Nourse, Seattle, American Motorcycle Association, captured the Enduro run Sunday sponsored by the Olympia Motorcycle Club. The 250-mile run was over logging trails, abandoned roads and other difficult routes through Thurston, Lewis and Cowlitz counties, starting and finishing at Littlerock. Fred Travis, Seattle, was a passenger with Nourse. The winner had a score of 872 out of a possible perfect mark of 1000.

Red Farwell, Tacoma Motorcycle Club, took second with a score of 853; Gale Yates, Olympia Motorcycle Club, third with 802 and Gus Peterson, Lewis County Motorcycle Club was the only other motorcycle entry to finish. His score was 607. Kenneth Knutson was a passenger of Peterson’s. Eight started the contest.

Nourse is a former Ohio State Enduro champion in the expert class.  The race here Sunday marked his first since coming west and his 13th in all.  The contest was the first sanctioned endurance event staged in the northwest this year.

gale-yates-1934-with-harley

William Gale Yates 1934

william-gale-yates-1939-harley

William Gale Yates 1939

(He forged his dad’s signature to buy this Harley)

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