Santa and the Corvette

Thursday December 16, 2004. 

It is a cold but, more importantly, a dry day, soooo…let's drive the Corvette downtown and take some hometown pictures to send to Iraq for the daughter of a Corvette club member.
Above – This is the setup. Details about the restored Santa display are at the bottom of the page.

Above – Hey, check this – a Christmas Corvette…….

……with Santa driving!

Now he is on the hood……

…..and now the reindeer!

This is almost art…..and is definitely fun!

Gotta show our stripes.

…to all, and to all, a goodnight!!

Photos by David Palmeter – These were all shot with a Nikon Coolpix 990. Other than removing some parked cars in the far right of the first picture, these pictures have not been altered. The colors, brightness and contrast are exactly as shot. The color of the car appears to change as the camera is moved closer. The car was NOT moved during the Santa shoot. (However, the camera, unfortunately, moved during the hand-held, windy wreath shoot.)

Fort Wayne's favorite Santa turns 63 this year
From a Mon, Nov. 24, 2003 story 

of The News-Sentinel

It isn't officially Christmastime in Fort Wayne until Santa shines. We're talking about the 63-year-old lighted holiday display that has welcomed the season and warmed local hearts for more than four decades. In honor of its annual illumination, we present this brief primer on the jolly old electric elf.

Let there be light: The holiday season officially begins with the Santa display lighting ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Calhoun and Main streets. The Fort Wayne Children's Choir will perform, and other downtown decorations will be illuminated as well.

Standing room only: About 200 spectators gather each Thanksgiving Eve to watch the lighting ceremony.

Nice work if you can get it: Who gets to flip the ceremonial switch that lights the Santa display? Fort Wayne National Bank, which organized the lighting ceremony before National City Corp. took over in 1997, used to hold a drawing to choose which employee would do the honors. More recently, the privilege has been auctioned and the proceeds donated to charity.

Annual tradition: As of Wednesday, the 63-year-old Santa display will have shone for 40 Christmas seasons. This year marks the 24th year the Santa has been displayed at its current location. The display hung on the south wall of the Wolf & Dessauer department store, 923 S. Calhoun St., for 16 years.

Shopping "WanDerland: Wolf & Dessauer department store was founded in 1896 by Sam Wolf and Myron Dessauer in a two-floor building at 70-72 S. Calhoun St. The department store moved several times to accommodate growing demand and, in 1959, it relocated for the last time to the northeast corner of Wayne and Clinton streets.

Significant sketch: You can thank the late Isabel Wilkinson Parker for Santa's jaunty, jolly appearance. She's the commercial artist whose quick sketch became the model for the display.

W&D secretary and treasurer Irving Latz had supplied the original tiny picture that communicated his inspiration to Outdoor Advertising, the sign company where Parker worked. It took her just a few hours to complete a usable sketch. From there, a man named Les Pope took over. He could convert any of her sketches to three dimensions, and did. Ed Bradley, an electrician, did the wiring. When the sign was finally mounted on the W&D building, Parker didn't even see it the first night it was lighted in 1940. It wasn't until she heard people talking about it that she went back to see what had become of her sketch. Parker died on Oct. 6, 1997.

Lights out: Wolf & Dessauer illuminated their display every Christmastime from 1940 to 1958, with the exception of three years. Why? In 1942, 1943 and 1944, World War II brought blackouts to the city.

Lost, then found: The Santa display was lost for two decades — from 1959, when Wolf & Dessauer moved to a new downtown location before selling to L.S. Ayres, until 1979. That year, Indiana Michigan Power Co. workers discovered it in a warehouse and restored it in time for the holidays in 1980. Fort Wayne National Bank, now National City Bank, invested $200,000 in the project.

New digs: After the display was renovated, Fort Wayne National Bank paid for and displayed the holiday landmark on its north facade for 16 years.

Up in the air: Santa's fate seemed uncertain in 1997, however, after National City Bank bought Fort Wayne National Bank and began a $4 million building renovation project in September. To avoid interfering with the annual holiday display that year, work on the north side of the building did not begin until Santa was taken down in January 1998. The north side exterior wall of the parking garage eventually was adapted, at a cost of $250,000, so the familiar display could continue to be mounted on it during the Christmas season.

Points of light: The Santa display contains 24,717 light bulbs.

Socket to me: Each year, workers replace 5,000-8,000 light bulbs before hanging the display.

Weighty issues: Santa, his toy-stuffed sleigh and the eight rather large reindeer weigh in at 5 tons.

The long and short of it: From sleigh runner to reindeer snout, the Christmas display is 155 feet wide.

Special effects: The Santa display uses timed blinking lights to give the illusion of movement. Santa appears to crack his whip and to wink his blue eye.

Reindeer games: The antlered flight team depicted on Fort Wayne's Santa display does not include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The display has just eight reindeer, as described by Clement C. Clark in his poem, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" ("The Night Before Christmas").

Rudolph — the ninth member of the team — was recruited to lead the mission one foggy Christmas Eve. He was introduced in a 1939 children's book by Robert L. May, then immortalized a decade later in a song written by May's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, and made famous by cowboy singer Gene Autry.

Although it would be easy enough to install a red bulb in the lead reindeer's nose socket, it would require that one of the eight original deer be excluded. That doesn't seem fair to Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner or Blitzen, does it?

Other W&D favorites: The Santa display wasn't the only Christmas finery to adorn Wolf & Dessauer. Enchanting window scenes, which drew people from all over the region, and a giant lighted wreath also are fondly remembered. The 32-foot, 3-ton, 8,000-bulb electric wreath was restored by Indiana Michigan Power employees, members of Painters Local Union 469 and others in 1987. After a 30-year absence, it returned to downtown Fort Wayne that year; it now hangs on the east (north in 2004) side of One Summit Square during the holiday season.

Catch it if you can: Santa Claus and his reindeer will be illuminated each night through New Year's Eve.

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