Home' Greymouth Star : December 24th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Thursday, December 24, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
515 - King Henry VIII appoints Thomas
Wolsey as chancellor of England.
1524 - Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama,
who discovered a sea route around Africa to
India, dies in Cochin, India.
1814 - United States and Britain sign Treaty
of Ghent in Belgium, ending the
War of 1812.
1865 - Several veterans of the US
Confederate Army form a private
social club in Pulaski, Tennessee,
calling themselves the Ku Klux Klan.
1871 - Giuseppe Verdi’s opera
Aida has its world premiere in Cairo,
Egypt, to celebrate the opening of
the Suez Canal.
1937 - Japanese troops capture Hangchow in
1942 - French administrator of North Africa,
Admiral Jean Darlan, is assassinated in Algiers.
1943 - US President Franklin D Roosevelt
appoints General D wight D Eisenhower
supreme commander of Allied forces as part of
1953 - Train crashes into river at Tangiwai,
New Zealand, killing 151 people.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
John Lackland, king of England, (1167-
1216); Kit Carson, US folk hero (1809-1868);
Matthew Arnold, English author (1822-1888);
Howard Hughes, US billionaire
(1905-1976); Ava Gardner, US
actress (1922-1990); Kate Spade,
US designer (1962-); Ricky Martin,
Puerto Rican pop singer
(1971-); Stephenie Meyer,
American author (1973-); Ryan
Seacrest, US TV personality (1974-
); Louis Tomlinson, UK pop singer with One
“ If Jesus Christ were to come today, people
would not crucify him. They would ask him to
dinner, hear what he had to say, and make fun
of it.” — Thomas Carlyle, English historian
“Let the same mind be in you that was in
Christ Jesus.” — (Philippians 2:5).
Contrary to early
has been no rush
yet through the
Haast Pass over the first days of the festive
holiday period. A road counter installed by
the Ministry of Works at Paringa yesterday
revealed that only 119 cars passed over the road
in 24 hours ending at 9am this morning.
Resident engineer for the MOW here, Mr
H A Grigg said this morning that traffic is
expected to increase after tomorrow and daily
tallies will be taken. He commented that in the
three weeks after the road opening last month,
up to 160 cars a day travelled through the pass.
The six elderly people in Greymouth ser ved
by the meals on wheels scheme will certainly
not miss out on any of the ‘extras’ that go with
Christmas. For dinner tomorrow they will be
ser ved with lamb and mint sauce, chicken,
stuffing and gravy, new potatoes, cauliflower
and green peas.
As a special gesture they will also receive for
tea slices of ham, fruit salad and fruit cake.
What could possibly be the oldest coin
on the West Coast is one of a collection
belonging to an Inchbonnie family. The coin
is made of silver and is dated 1572. It bears
the head of Elizabeth 1. The same family has
in its collection three 1797 pennies and one
halfpenny of the same year.
Another old coin which has been resurrected
by a Grey district resident is an English
shilling. The coin bears the head of Queen
Anne who lived from 1665 to 1714. The actual
date on the coin is worn but it clearly shows it
was minted in the 18th century.
uFood for thought
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his is a tale of two Santa
Real-beard Santa. Fake-
Pay attention. There is
money at stake.
Real-beard Santa said the heck with the
sleigh and reindeer and flew by jet on an
all-expense paid trip to Shenzhen, China,
a couple of years ago. He collected $2500,
free room, free hotel meals, all for sitting
in the five-star hotel’s Santa throne for an
hour each evening.
“That was a highlight,” said Ed Burgh,
68, of Fredericksburg, Virginia. “I’m
hoping to do it again next year. I am
already booking next year’s gigs. I have two
Fake-beard Santa bemoans his lack of
“That ’s why I don’t make the big money,”
said Michael Levick, 62, of Washington,
DC, who has been playing the big jolly
fellow since he was 16.
“ We are talking 50% more for real-
beard Santas. You are not even going to
be considered for a mall job without a real
beard. It’s just the way they roll these days.”
Do not shed any tears for Levick yet.
He does well for sitting around, pillows
padding his mid-section, offering
thundering “Ho, Ho, Hos” to little ones.
He once pocketed nearly $1000 for
sitting (baking, really) a few hours next to a
fireplace at a swanky Mount Vernon party.
“The host piles on logs just to cook you,”
said Levick. “I was sweating bullets.”
Fake beard and all, appearances at parties,
lunches and country clubs
swept $6000 into his pocket during
the good years. And that was just for
“That ’s all gone,” said Levick. He will be
lucky if he takes down $1500 or $2000
this season. The first blow was September
11, 2001, “the year we couldn’t be happy
at Christmas. It changed everything.” The
financial crisis took even more business
So Levick has to be nimble. Next week,
the part-time actor and local tour guide is
donning a glitter-covered, white jumpsuit,
sunglasses and wig to play Elvis at a
“Santa isn’t politically correct any more,”
said Levick, who charges $200 for the first
hour, then $100 for each hour after that.
“Kids still love him. But the office party
crowd doesn’t go there anymore.”
Do not wave bye-bye to Santa just yet.
Brian Wilson of Orange County,
California-based Santa For Hire, a temp
agency for Kris Kringles (and for Burgh),
has placed Santas in 425 jobs worldwide
this season. His firm will pay more than
$150,000 to his various Santas.
Wilson’s firm bills companies anywhere
from $150 an hour on up for a Santa.
Santa For Hire, whose tag line is
“Providing Real Bearded Santas since
1999,” pays the Santa roughly 60 to 70%
of that, or about $80 of a $150 gig. The rest
goes to Santa For Hire to cover its costs.
“Clients pay us before the gig, then the
Santas either call in their hours or go on-
line,” he said. “ We pay them twice monthly.
It ’s like having temporary employees.”
Wilson, who works in real estate
during the off-season, said his Santas go
anywhere, including Spain, Dubai and
They even supply a Santa to North Pole,
Alaska, a summer tourist attraction near
Fairbanks. The North Pole Santa — of
course he is from the North Pole — earns
between $13,000 to $15,000, travel and
expenses covered, for Santa’s summer
hibernation season. The Thanksgiving to
New Year’s North Pole Santa gets between
$7000 and $8000.
Wilson takes Santa work seriously. He
does phone inter views and requests photos
for each prospective candidate. He also
orders up a national background check to
see whether there is a criminal record.
Wilson breaks Santa work into two
First is the ‘Mall Santa,’ the iron bottoms
who sit and sit and sit for hours, posing
for photos. Mall Santas tend to like the
security of knowing they have a solid
month of work, Thanksgiving to Christmas
Then there are the ‘corporate party’
Santas, generally actors and performers
who ham it up with songs, hearty “Ho, Ho,
Hos,” and think on their, um, fete.
Corporate Santas need to be nimble,
with the Santa suit packed and ready to
go, whether it is a two-hour car ride to a
country club or an 18-hour sleigh ride to
Fake-bearded Levick sticks to parties.
I usually start off a party by singing
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That
way, you are in control and that ’s very
important. You can’t let the parents and
kids push you and take over. There has to
be an order.
Wilson said Santa needs to get there
early and stay in character.
“The Santa needs to remember he is the
focus and all eyes are on him,” Wilson said.
“It’s really about attitude.”
As for handling the toy requests, Burgh
follows his own rule.
“I never promise anything,” Burgh said,
even when some parents nod their heads
like crazy and signal that the kid is getting
He hugs kids, but no kisses allowed.
Though Burgh has the requisite
real-beard for Mall Santa, he avoids them.
“It’s mega-hours. When I had the mall,
I started the day after Thanksgiving and
went through December 24. It was 11am
Burgh will pull down $3000 and $4000
this season, which he will use to help pay
Both Santas own their own outfits.
Levick bought his 20 years ago from
Rubies Costumes out of New York City
for around $280.
Burgh, who spent $200 to attend Santa
School in New Jersey, has two suits that he
bought on-line for about $250 each. Boots
for $60 and a belt for $120.
Levick loves it. His first Santa gig came
when the head of the kindergarten school
at his south-eastern Pennsylvania church
asked Levick, then 16, to play the jolly big
“I’ve always been a ham,” said the
He may have been a ham, but he is not
shaped like one. His thin profile back then
was very un-Santa. So he put on the suit
and a tobacco-reeked fake beard, stuffed
some pillows over his belly and faked his
way through a Santa session.
His first real job was in Washington in
1978, when he replaced Willard Scott for
an Embassy Row fundraiser.
“It was the most beautiful suit I ever saw,”
he said. “ Beautiful, natural rabbit fur. The
beard did not smell like cigarettes.”
He would eventually catch on with a
Cleveland Park firm that booked costume
jobs for actors and show people.
“I became the firm’s head Santa. It’s go-to
Santa. I did the voice, ‘Ho, ho, ho! Merry
Christmas!’ I really act it up.”
Both real-beard and fake-beard Santa
said the kids are the most enjoyable part of
their job. Really.
“The kids are great,” said Burgh, who
decided to be a Santa after retiring from
the Coastguard. “ They come sit on your
lap. Some cry. Here is this really old guy
with a big red suit, bright beard. He scares
them. But you deal with it.”
Most kids like toys, but their first
questions tend to be, “ Where are the
reindeer?” and “How did you get
Those are easy: The North Pole. Magic.
— New Zealand Herald
PICTURES: New Zealand Herald
Mike Levick has been playing Santa Claus since he was a teenager.
The Santa business
Ho, ho, ho, all the way to the bank.
Santa costume in the home of Mike Levick.
A Christmas letter written by a young
Greymouth man 73 years ago has come to light.
Written by Jim Costello, it was among a bundle
of family letters inherited by his son, also Jim,
who has recently been transcribing his father’s
handwriting so the letters can be handed on to the
Mr Costello snr wrote many letters home while
away on war time naval service in the Pacific
for two years. Typically, many of the letters were
subject to the war censor to ensure secret locations
were not compromised; this one was penned from
“Unfortunately, we never discussed these letters
with dad when he was alive so we cannot place
them all accurately,” Mr Costello jnr said.
His father’s letter is of particular interest to
readers in this Christmas season. It is an insight
into the life of a young West Coaster away from
home at an extraordinary moment in history
— facing the vagaries of the theatre of war at
a significant time of the year, more than seven
“ We are pretty blessed these days and have had 70
or so years of relative peace because of those blokes
on their cruise up in the Pacific and all over the
world,” Mr Costello jnr said.
December 28th 1942
Gnr Costello J V
35th Field Battery NZ Army 8th
Brigade Group 2nd NZEF Overseas
C/- GPO Wellington
still on the fit side of life and I might tell you that
we sure have been tested out over the last few
weeks. Since being here well over a fortnight we
have worked in fine style and every day at that also
doing night duty every third night so I have been a
little backward in my letters.
Now I shall tell you about my Christmas days.
Christmas Eve we toiled all day in the pouring
rain to get finished so as to have a rest Christmas
Day. Well we finished at nine o’clock at night and
I came back to the tent, changed and had a spot
of mail to read — and think about all you lucky
people back home. At twelve I went on watch duty
and then the rain came in full force and a howling
gale. I had to go to each tent and see if all were
awake as the water was running through each —
Jove! You have no idea of the terrific force and
battering we got.
When I came off duty at two o’clock — soaked
through — our tent was in a terrible mess. Well the
three of us just sat on our wet bed and said “So this
is Christmas morning!” — however we still had a
laugh about it, had a cigarette then got what dry
things we had and put them on the beds and went
We were up at five again and patched up some
of the damage done to our business then had
a cup of tea and something to eat. The weather
became showery and we did a spot of urgent work
till lunchtime and we only had bread, butter and
jam and tea — as the ration-wagon could not get
through to us.
In the afternoon we were free so we set to and
fixed up our tent as it was in a shambles. At four-
thirty we finished and cleaned up and went to
another camp for our Christmas Dinner.
Taking everything into consideration it was a
mar vellous meal — although the floor was nearly a
bog and the tarpaulins above leaked but we were all
merry and happy. We had plenty to eat and a ration
of beer so you can see we were all in high spirits.
We came home about eight o’clock and played
cards ‘till eleven when we went to bed and again
it was a howler of a night. Our tent leaked again
but we cured the floor problem. Still we were for it
again as at about five we were all out as the alarm
had been given that a hurricane was approaching
so we got into it and packed all our gear and lashed
tents etc. etc. Later word came that it was 12 hours
away so we had to take all tents down pack them
away as well as all our belongings and carry them
to a safe place. Well this took nearly all day and I
can tell you the strain was not so good waiting and
waiting for the hurricane to arrive.
In the evening we got the all clear as the
hurricane either blew itself out or turned around
again but it was supposed to have hit Tongan
Islands and killed four hundred. Anyhow we are in
the land of the lost and never hear any news.
Yesterday we spent the morning in re-arranging
things and in the afternoon put our tents up again.
Last night I was on picket duty again and today we
have a holiday and I have been lounging about.
My first real rest for ages and how I enjoyed it.
The weather has settled and the heat is on.
Also in the last few days I have received mail
from all in Grey and it was a great pleasure to read
all the news in the mail and the Grey papers today
— and also your cake, Mum. We cleaned it up for
supper last night and it was a real champ. Now that
we are almost settled I shall be able to keep more in
contact with you all.
Later 8pm. I have just got more mail. Doss’s letter,
your cable, cards from Mrs Russell (Park Hotel,
Greymouth), Eddie and Mary Walsh ( Jim’s sister
in Westport), friends in Auckland, (United RFC
friend) Merv Jamieson, a small parcel from Fran
and Dale (nephews in Wellington), cable from
Allan ( Jim’s brother), plus a dozen from other
people and also a card and letter from Esme and
So now I must away and read them all so cheerio
for now and tons of best wishes to you all and hope
you are in the best of health.
Once more cheerio and all the best.
PS Tell Frank to pull his socks up and write.
A Coaster’s wartime Christmas, 1942
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