Slow down for Santa

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Photo by Karen Hall One of Santa's helpers was directing traffic outside Oak Grove Elementary School Friday afternoon.

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

One of Santa's helpers was directing traffic on Franklin Pike, outside Oak Grove Elementary School, on Friday afternoon.

Drivers waved and children stared at the man with the Santa hat, white beard, and long white hair.

"One child watched me as long as he could," said Harvey Holton, 65, of Lewisburg. "It made me feel 300 percent happy. It's been fun to see their faces."

"Like your hat," called one driver.

"Thank you, dear," responded Holton as he waved her out onto the road.

Since Oct. 4, Holton has been directing traffic outside the school. It's a new job this year and, according to him, a very necessary one. Before he started work, he said, the line of cars waiting to turn out of the school driveway after picking up or dropping off children stretched all the way back to the building. Now, he holds up traffic on busy Franklin Pike and moves cars out of the driveway at a brisk pace.

The Santa's helper persona started when Holton worked at Walmart. Around Christmastime, he would greet people with "Ho, ho, ho!" and they would call him Santa. This year, working at the school, he decided to carry it further, and his wife made him the red overalls.

The Marshall County Sheriff's Department gave Holton two green traffic cones and the sign he uses, but his training came from watching other people direct traffic outside schools, specifically in Chapel Hill.

"I could do that," Holton thought, so when the Oak Grove job came up he applied, and was hired three days later.

The job is not without danger.

The cones have been run over four times, Holton himself has almost been run over twice, and cussed out once.

"One man wanted to fight me, and I told him I got off at 3:30, but he didn't hang around," Holton said.

One of his pet peeves is speeders, of which he sees many, ignoring the school-zone speed limit signs and the "Slow" sign he is holding.

"This is the worst place I've ever seen for speeding," Holton exclaimed. "They don't slow down for fog or rain, either.

"If I could just get people to turn their turn signals on, I'd be happy," he said, as the last cars left school for the day. Santa's helper stowed his cones, sign, and light wand in the cargo area of his Jeep, ready to use again the next morning, when he would once again bring Christmas cheer to parents and children at Oak Grove.