In Dec. 17 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
Santa Claus is right here in Russell Springs. Many of him, actually.
Tommy Holt has been displaying hundreds of his Santa ornaments, cups, dolls, keepsakes, greeting cards, magazine ads, candles, and musical and mechanical figures in his home for nearly 20 years.
The most of the Santa Claus items came from his late grandmother, Ama Holt, who displayed them for more than a decade before her death in 1990 at the age of 65.
Holt's grandmother was even featured in a December 1988 Times Journal article for her Santa memorabilia, a news clipping Holt holds near and dear to his heart.
"I remember as a kid our big thing to do after Christmas was load up in the car and go to Roses in Somerset and buy several Santas on sale," Holt said.
After his grandmother's passing on Dec. 4, 1990, just one day after his birthday, Tommy said he it took him a while to get over her death.
"I can only imagine she was holding on as not to pass on my birthday," he said.
"She helped raise me a lot. She was really a special woman and I was bitter for a long time (after her passing.)"
After taking up the slack and displaying the Santa collection after Ama's death, Holt said he told his family and his grandfather, Arvis, that they owed it to her to continue the tradition of displaying the hundreds of Santa Claus items.
"Maybe this might brighten somebody else's day to see it carried on," he said. "This is actually my dad's collection but he told me that I would like displaying more than he would so I display it."
The collection also comes from auctions, flea markets, sales and Holt said he continues to receive Santa items from friends and family as well as he continually adds to the number of them.
"A lot of them are really old," he said of the items, some dating back to the early 20th century. "I don't know which one is the oldest."
Some of the collection was even handmade by Ama, herself. One special Santa that Holt keeps is a wind-up music decoration he bought for her from the hospital gift shop two days before her passing.
"She got a kick out of that," he said. "She smiled at it."
Holt keeps the Santa items out for at least a month, long enough for any company to see and admire the hundreds of jolly faces looking back at them.
Holt said most people's reactions are "Wow, that is a lot of Santas," but then he said he gets to share with them the story of Ama and her love for the spirit of Christmas and Santa Claus.
"It is such a neat thing," he said. "She was an incredible woman."
Holt said his grandmother first had breast cancer in 1963 and that it nearly killed her then.
"She fought through that and she went through so much pain that it was amazing that she was able to do what she did," he said.
Ama was also her mother's caretaker until her death in 1986 and helped to raise Tommy while his parents went through a divorce and her husband was away much of the time working construction.
"She never complained, only had one good arm because of the cancer, drove a five-speed car, washed every day and cooked three meals a day," he said. "What a woman. She was just an amazing person."
Speaking of the Santa Claus items, Holt said his favorite had to be the Coca-Cola Santas.
"They're just classic," he said. He said he, along with his wife, Joyce, and son, J.T., to carry on their holiday tradition in hopes of brightening up someone's day, much like his grandmother did more than two decades ago.