Wayzata, Minnesota

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sepia Saturday - 202 - 9 Nov 2013

"You don't take a photograph, you make it."  Ansel Adams

For the next few posts, I'd like you to join me on a few road trips.  Not just any random road trip either, but one of memories linked to my very own family.


I hope to link each post with the current theme.  Photographer, beach, camera, children, hats, sand, tripod and even Corky the Cat, all have something to do with our theme for this week.

Or, mysterious suitcase.  What valuable, or not so valuable treasures might be locked inside this briefcase?

Shall we open it and see?

"What have we got here?"

"What on earth, somebody is selling a city?  Are they serious, an entire town is up for sale?"

Not just any town either.  Santa Claus, Arizona.
aka, Santa Claus Acres
My family is rich in stories at the mention of that Arizona town.  One in particular springs to mind seeing this old photo.

It wasn't a Pontiac in our story, but rather an older green, rust free Chevrolet, with a radio much like this one.  Remember that static sound?  My mother's brother joined us that summer for our family's summer vacation, and the long road trip to my grandfather's house in Florence, Arizona.  Can you picture three adults, two children and one dog driving from Mason, Michigan all the way to Arizona in one old Chevy with no air conditioning? 

Today, depending on which interstate, it can range from 1,900 to over 2,000 miles.  Back in those days I remember we often drove on Route 66!   Not sure how many miles that would have been.

I had just completed Kindergarten that year and much of that road trip is locked away, but there are major parts of that trip that easily come to mind.

Sadly, the town of Santa Claus wasn't one of them.  Possibly because it had become a thing of the past.  But, I do remember with much awe waking up, sleepy eyed in the back seat to a vision of the brightest, most intense lights ever seen in the outdoor darkness.  We were driving very slowly along Las Vegas Boulevard in Nevada. 
 I still wonder what was so unique about the town of Santa Claus that we still talk about it today, and my parents always had that twinkle in their eyes.
Maybe you'll know, after we visit today.
If not for a camera being used, I wouldn't be able to share this today.

It all began in about 1937,
by enterprising, real estate woman,
and owner of the town, Santa Claus,  Nina Talbot.

This photo was taken in 1940.
Ruins of Santa's Land of today go here.
In it's day the town of Santa Claus was hopping!

Tourists made this one of their destination points!

From as early as 1940 you were welcomed to town by good old Santa Claus.
 You just never know what you might discover in the desert.

Santa Claus, Arizona about 1960.

Have you ever heard of Santa Claus, Arizona?

In 1942 this was one of the tourist stops of America's west, on US Highway 93 14 miles NW from Kingman and 70 miles SE from Las Vegas.

Drive time is about an hour and a half from Las Vegas, Nevada, and Florence, Arizona (where my grandfather lived) is about four hours away from Santa Claus.

The story takes a turn in 1949 when Nina sells her interest in the town and yet in her heart, a dash of hope remained.  Maybe, springing forth from the old wishing well?  Funny thing that well still stands even now.

Others made plans during the 1950's to improve Santa Claus, which also received publicity through the writings of American novelist and famed science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein and other classic science fiction novels here.  Also, U.S. pioneer restaurant rater Duncan Hines and through 1961 advertisements offering  postmark letters from Santa Claus, for a small fee.

In 1983 owner, Tony Wilcox tried unsuccessfully to sell it for $95,000 which later was reduced to $52,500 by 1988.  What businesses that were still opened finally closed completely by 1995.  It seems the town became difficult to locate by 2000, and the structures that remained were weathered or worn away.

Some folks refer to it as Santa Claus the Ghost Town.

Today what remains of the town of Santa Claus isn't very pretty.  Gone are the Dasher and Dancer Omelets, Santa Claus Burgers, delicious Rum Pies or big style family breakfast plates for only seventy-five cents at the Santa Claus Inn.   Presently, what remains in Santa Claus are red and white striped abandoned buildings and the only real visitors are those motorists traveling between Phoenix and Las Vegas or the Hoover Dam.

For my family, the same story remains.  We each have our own memories of this old town.

If you want to view other Sepia Saturday posts, or perhaps bring your own story go here.


Kat Mortensen said...

Well, you've come up trumps in the "weird stuff" category. I've never heard of Santa Claus, Arizona, but now that I have, I'll not forget it in a hurry.

R. Mac Wheeler said...


Deb Gould said...

Pretty creepy -- right up there with Wendy's Kewpie dolls!

Gail Perlee said...

"And another one bites the dust." Reminds me of all the old abandoned Giant Orange stands we used to see along highway 99 in the San Joaquin valley on the drive to southern Calif.

Karen S. said...

Deb- really in it's day it was quite the place for families, especially children.

Patrica Ball Morrison said...

I have been to Santa Claus Indiana and to Santa Claus land in the San Bernardino Mts. of CA. I am not sure but believe there are many Santa Claus towns now across the country.

Patrica Ball Morrison said...

PS I like the Ansel Adams quote too

Boobook said...

Why doesn't it have a heritage listing? It looks like it's too far gone now and probably too far from anywhere to have a 'Friends group'. We must have driven through it last year on our way to Williams from Vegas but I don't remember seeing it.

Sharon said...

I hadn't heard of Santa Claus Arizona or we may have visited when we were in Las Vegas.

It seemed ironic that when I went into one of the links, an advertisement for a beach holiday came up!

Liz Needle said...

Every photo tells a story.Fascinating. We have a lot of little towns like that here too. I often wonder what has happened to them in the past.

Postcardy said...

I collect roadside Santa postcards, and I have one with the same picture that you showed. I didn't realize that there was all that other stuff there at one time.

Kristin said...

There is some where in Michigan where it's Christmas everyday, all year. I can't remember the name and never went there but it was thriving, unlike this Santa town, last I heard.

ScotSue said...

I am always amazed at the inventiveness of SS bloggers in how they interpret each week's theme. I had never heard of Santa Claus, Arizona, either.

Little Nell said...

That’s faded grandeur of a very different type. I’d never heard of it before. Well done for taking a giant leap of the imagination from a beach photo!

Wendy said...

Never heard of this town. But it sounds like the plot for a good Hallmark Christmas movie.

boundforoz said...

Once heard of, never forgotten.

Mike Brubaker said...

America used to have so many of these entrepreneur "towns" when travel was slower along the old US routes. Even Las Vegas was originally an unsophisticated way to lure travelers to stop and empty their wallets. The irony and humor of finding Santa in the hot desert of Arizona has clearly faded.

Jackie van Bergen said...

What cute buildings - so sad they were left to rot and become covered in graffiti

Jo Featherston said...

We might have drien by Santas Claus too, January 1996, but if so, it didn't make any impression on me. A very different take on the photo prompt, much less obvious than most of us this week.

Bob Scotney said...

You must have had a lot of faith that a town named Santa Claus would make your fortune. Shame it has decayed so much as is a thing of the past in Arizona at least.

Mike Brubaker said...

This evening I stumbled across this compilation of abandoned Santa Lands. Your Arizona Santa village is included but it was not the only one.