Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Santa Claus’

Jerry Thompson Portrays Civil War Santa

Jerry Thompson overflows with the Christmas spirit as he enjoys portraying the Civil War Santa as well as today’s traditional Santa Claus. Usually, it is the adults that enjoy his Civil War stories while the children prefer the modern Santa.

Jerry participated in a Dickens Marathon Reading dressed as Civil War Santa.

While Jerry majored in history at Miami University, his interest in the Civil War began with his great-great-grandfather, Sgt. Major Alfred Weedon. Alfred was born in 1845 on a farm just outside of Liberty, (now Kimbolton) Ohio. In July 1861, he enlisted in the 26th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Inspiration was received from a Harper’s Weekly cover by Thomas Nast.

One day, Jerry saw the cover of an old Harper’s Weekly magazine, where they did a story about the Civil War Santa on January 5, 1863. Thomas Nast drew a Civil War Santa distributing gifts to the Union soldiers. It was his first Santa Claus cartoon and the only Civil War Santa he ever drew. From that one publication in Harper’s Weekly, the troops jumped on the idea and it ran through the camps of the Union soldiers.

Jerry then jumped on the idea of portraying Civil War Santa to honor his great-great-grandfather. A seamstress from Claysville looked at the picture and designed a costume for Jerry. She used red and white awning material for the pants, and a navy-blue sweatshirt with white stars sewed all over it. The finishing touch was a red hat encircled with holly.

These Civil War historians presented a program at Roscoe Village.

Jerry had been a member of the Southeastern Ohio Civil War Roundtable for many years and served as president. So, it seemed only natural to begin presenting programs at Civil War Roundtables and various Christmas outings. There he told the story of Christmas during the Civil War and especially shared the story of the Civil War experiences of Alfred Weedon, his great-great-grandfather.

You might find interesting some of the highlights he tells. After Alfred enlisted, he fought and was captured in Perrysville, Kentucky, and in 1862 was exchanged and paroled to home for one year, as was a custom at that time. Every week, Alfred had to go to Camp Chase in Columbus by train from Kimbolton to report in.

When his year was up, he was sent to Chatanooga, Tennessee where he participated in the Battle of Missionary Ridge. Even though weak and sickly, Alfred crawled with the rest of the troops to the top of that ridge for a Union victory. Seven months later, during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Alfred was shot in the leg, discharged from the service, and limped through the rest of his life.

Jerry stands by the house on Madison Avenue, where his great-great-grandfather lived a hundred years ago.

When he returned to Ohio, he first went back to his original home in Kimbolton but later moved to Cambridge on Madison Avenue. Mr. Weedon taught school at Birmingham and built the first house at Guernsey Station. He served as Clerk of Courts in Guernsey County, was a member of the Methodist Protestant Church and the Cambridge G.A.R. Post. He’s buried in Northwood Cemetery in Cambridge.

Often Jerry joins other Civil War historians to share stories at libraries and festivals. Roscoe Village held a special Civil War Tree Lighting program, which included many historians from around the area who sang and spoke about the Civil War. Jerry appeared as Civil War Santa.

This image by Thomas Nast helped create our modern version of Santa.

Thomas Nast, born in 1840, is also credited with being the man who invented Santa Claus as we know him today. When he changed the color of Santa’s coat from tan to red, his Santa became the inspiration for the Coca Cola Santa we know so well.

Jerry has also portrayed the traditional Santa at many venues for over 40 years. He’s made thousands of children happy in his Santa appearances at places like Lazarus and many malls. Being Secret Santa for Cassell Station was a pleasure for 25 years.

After 9/11, Santa wore an Uncle Sam hat during the Christmas Parade in the bucket of the firetruck.

In the Cambridge Christmas Parade, that was Jerry that waved as Santa from the bucket of the fire truck for about 20 years. One special year was 2001 after the event of 9/11 when he wore Uncle Sam’s hat instead of the traditional Santa hat.

Santa rode a motorcycle to help promote Christmas in July.

A motorcycle has even carried Santa on a couple of adventures. At Colony Square Mall, he participated in the Motorcyclists for Kids Toy Ride. Then Mark Dubeck from Moore’s Jewelers asked him if he would advertise their Christmas in July sale by riding around town on a motorcycle. Jerry knows how to have fun even if that July day reached 97°.

Santa and Moose the Wonder Dog posed for pictures at Pound Partners.

Pets with Santa sponsored a fundraiser for Pound Partners where people could get their pet’s pictures taken with Santa. Moose the Wonder Dog, the Pound Partners’ mascot, received a lot of special attention.

Of course, Santa only takes up a small portion of his life. Activities in the community and with his family fill his schedule these days.

In 2019, Jerry managed the Heritage Tent for the Salt Fork Arts & Crafts Festival. There was a large variety of local talent displayed in that tent from potters and weavers to quilters and fabric designers. Local organizations also took part such as Guernsey County Museum, Cambridge Amateur Radio Association, and The National Road/Zane Grey Museum. In 2021, Jerry managed both the Heritage Tent and the Marketplace.

Jerry won the 2019 Muskingum County Hospitality Award.

The Muskingum County Hospitality Award was awarded to Jerry in 2019 for his dedication as a staff member at the Old National Road/Zane Grey Museum. His friendly manner as tour guide and host makes guests feel welcome as soon as they enter the door.

Acting has been something that Jerry has done for years as part of the local Cambridge Performing Arts Center. He played a variety of roles there for around 40 years. Some of his favorites were William Jennings Bryant and Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace.

In 2020, Jerry took part in Macbeth at Zanesville Community Theater. Its themes of greed, corruption, violence, and fear seem to have reappeared in 2020. He shook his head when he admitted that learning the lines is harder these days.

Motorcyclists gathered at Colony Square Mall for a Toy Ride.

During the past few years, Jerry has participated in the Dickens Marathon Reading held during the Dickens Victorian Village season. This year Jerry will be in charge of that event and is moving it downtown so more people can enjoy the readings. He always seems to find a way to help the community.

Jerry has led an interesting life locally from radio announcer to dyslexia instructor at Muskingum University. However, one of his favorite activities has been portraying Santa Claus and especially the Civil War Santa in memory of his great-great-grandfather, Alfred Weedon.

Best Beard Contest

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

At the end of every summer, Nick began growing a beard to keep his face warm when working outside in the winter. At least that was the man’s excuse. His wife thought this good natured fellow just didn’t want to fuss with shaving.

But this year, Nick had a second reason. There was an article in the paper about a Dickens Whiskers Wars Beard and Mustache Competition. Like the men of Charles Dickens time, Nick thought it was very manly to have facial hair. With a long, full beard perhaps there was a chance to win the “Best Beard” category.

The contest would be in November so getting an early start was important. How could he speed up the process of developing a long, bushy beard? Nick read that facial hair would grow more quickly if a man is well rested and free from stress. So when his wife wanted the lawn mowed or leaves raked, Nick would give a nod of the head and say, “My beard doesn’t need that kind of stress.” Smoking a pipe with feet on a stool created more relaxation.

Nick's beard was snowy white.

Nick’s beard was snowy white.

Nick made a trip to the local drug store to pick up some biotin and B vitamins, which increase growth of hair and nails. A circular massage of his face while relaxing on the couch in the evening would also stimulate hair growth. Certainly these healthy additions, as routine parts of the day, would assist in creating the best beard possible.

Actually, all of these steps were making Nick’s beard look fantastic. His full beard was nearly a foot long with a snow-white glow. As the contest rapidly approached, Nick headed to a favorite restaurant for a couple of hamburgers, because protein also is important for beard growth.

With all Nick’s resting and eating, quite a few extra pounds had been added. No longer could a belt meet after traveling through the belt loops, so suspenders became the best way to support the larger jeans.

A little girl ran to the restaurant.

A little girl ran to the restaurant.

As Nick sat at the table wearing suspenders over a red plaid shirt with a red cap on his head, a little girl ran over and jumped up in his lap.

Her mother hurried over immediately, very upset by her daughter’s behavior. “Cathy, you know you aren’t allowed to talk to strangers.”

“But Mom, it’s just Santa Claus without his uniform.” Cathy’s blue eyes sparkled as she laid her curly blond head against the jolly man she thought was Santa.

“Ho, Ho, Ho,” burst forth from Nick’s lips. Maybe he could win the “Best Beard” contest. As Nick left the restaurant, you could hear him exclaim with his beard snowy white, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

Best Wishes for a wonderful Christmas holiday and a New Year filled with peace and happiness.

My wish for you is a wonderful Christmas holiday with family and friends, and a New Year filled with peace and happiness.

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