Here’s the introduction for my new book project that I said I would post. Let me know what you think….
Everyone who lived in Shallmar, Maryland, in 1949 believed in Christmas. Every last one of them from nine-month-old Walter Hedrick, born about the time the Wolf Den Mine shut down in March of that year to the president of the Wolf Den Mining Corporation, Howard Marshall, who at fifty-nine years old was probably the oldest man in town, knew it without a doubt even if he or she had no use for Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
They even believed in Santa Claus.
They would tell you that Santa, well, he really wasn’t a jolly, old, fat man with a flowing white beard who dressed in red. And he didn’t fly in a sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer (nine if you counted the red-nosed buck that Gene Autry started singing about in November).
No way was that Santa!
The people of Shallmar were coal miners who lived hard lives that were all too often cut short by a cave in or other mining accident. So they had no time for such foolishness and children’s tales.
They would tell you that Santa Claus was a rather plain-looking man with thinning brown hair, wide shoulders, no beard and he wore glasses. Nor was he fat and his suits were the type accompanied with a necktie. He drove a beat-up used car purchased a few years earlier and it was one of the few cars in Shallmar.
You see, Santa Claus lived in Shallmar.
The people of Shallmar knew this without a doubt because they saw him work his magic in 1949, the year the town was saved from dying.
You might wonder if a town can really die. Well, if the people in the town just die off and leave when they have the ability to do so, then there is no heartbeat in the homes that make up the town. And isn’t that the way to tell whether something is dead?
That was Shallmar. Or rather, that’s what Shallmar was starting to become in 1949. Nobody realized it at first, or maybe it was that nobody wanted to admit what was happening, much less do anything about it.
Except for a man named J. Paul Andrick, better known as Santa Claus.
But everyone just called him Paul.