edge

The Santa Cause

Photographs by Mark Lyndersay. Photo credit requested.

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

My name is Glenn Davis and I’ve been playing Santa Claus for 55 years.

The Davises are from Belmont. And I did everything in Belmont.

I went to Belmont Intermediate from standard one to form five. I was never bright enough to get into St Mary’s. Because I couldn’t do “simplify” – and that was always the first question in every exam! Remember that? “Simplify the following”? There was NOTHING simple about “simplify”. I could never do it. The last exam I sat where I saw “simplify” was the first question, I just hand in the paper and went Strand 9.30 [early movie showing].

My mother told me Belmont Intermediate was good to me: I didn’t have a chance to go to St Mary’s and ever believe I was a white boy. I was who I was. In Belmont, we had three white boys in the whole school: Bertie Stuart, with the pepper sauce, Jay Leanza and a Da Costa boy. I would not have been able to handle the work at St Mary’s.

Both my brothers [Trinidad & Tobago and West Indies batsmen Bryan & Charlie] went to St Mary’s – and they still feel as if they’re inside there. Just so, they’ll just start to sing [St Mary’s College school song], “Out of the shadows of the past/ they come to cheer us”.

I never went to St Mary’s – but I got [St Mary’s-style detention] long penance once. I was playing football “down grounds” one Saturday and a man tackle me rough and I [put a cuss on him] and the prefect said, “Davis! Long penance on Monday!” It is my one regret in life that I did not go! [Just] to see what would have happened; maybe I might have done my Belmont Intermediate homework during St Mary’s long penance.

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayI’m very much a Catholic but I have to say, “Look, Catholics, mash all yuh brakes!” I don’t believe, like a lot of Catholics, that we have the rights to Heaven. Okay, I accept that Jesus built one church, the Catholic church – Thou art Peter and upon this rock I build my church – but a lot of Catholics, if they knew their faith, would not feel superior to others. A priest gave me one about St Peter and a new entrant to Heaven and St Peter is showing him the sights – this is the mall, here is the savannah, look the stadium – and a ball comes over a big-high solid brick wall in the middle of the place. St Peter throws it back over the wall and tells the new entrant, “That’s where we keep the Catholics because they have to think it’s only them in Heaven.”

I’m the only Davis boy who didn’t go to St Mary’s – but I’m the only Davis with a university degree! I still can’t bat, I still can’t bowl – but I have a degree! I studied hotel, restaurant and tourist management. I came back to work with the Trinidad Tourist Board; I never sharpened so many pencils in my life! You were not allowed to do anything.

I had never worked with Government before and it was an experience! I was the only person qualified in tourism management and they had their system: if the director went away, the number two man, the assistant director, would “act” as director. And I, being the third person, would act for the number two man. Leaving me out, ten people [eventually] got acting positions! I’m not knocking the system – but I left to sell insurance!

I was 19 when I started playing Santa Claus, through Father Gerard Pantin asking me to do a project of getting presents for unfortunate children at San Rafael church. I’d forgotten my black gardening boots, so I came out in my Santa cloak, like a big long dress and hood, buttoned all the way down the front, and my sneakers. More of a Father Christmas than a Santa [costume]. This little boy sat on Santa’s lap and got his gift – but he would not move from Santa’s lap. His name was Richard. I will never forget him. I remember him every Christmas.

Richard was about three years old and he would not move from Santa’s lap. They tried to pick him up, he held on. I eventually had to bribe him with ice cream. He saw where I went to change and, when I came out, there was Mister waiting by the door. But I have on my denim pants and my blue jersey and he did not recognise me. But then, Mister looked down and saw my dirty white sneakers. I left San Rafael after midnight. I never saw him again but, every Christmas since, I have Richard in mind. Richard is my Christmas. He must be close to 50 by now but Richard made me into Santa Claus.

I did well cycling in my teens, with Dave Gibbon [brother of the more famous Trinidadian cyclist, Roger]. I got promoted to C Class and did well. Had a good track year. And then, that September, Dave Gibbon died – and that destroyed me. We were rivals on the track but we were really good friends. I just couldn’t deal with his death. I was 17.

My first big role was at age 19, at Queen’s Hall, with the Trinidad Dramatic Club, which was started by some very good English expats in Trinidad. You got some good training there, brother, I can tell you! I played a pirate called Mash-Mouth Willy. Not a major speaking part but enough for [then newspaper critic and future Nobel Literature Prize-winner] Derek Walcott to recognise me! In his critique, he said the only good person in that play was Mash-Mouth Willy.

The stage is my home. Even now, I get a rush to walk out onto the stage. Especially opening night of a new play.

There was a time I’d pick up the children from school in Town, drop them home to Arima and come back to rehearse a play but, over the last two years, [I find] I can’t do too much acting any more. To do an old play is fine. But to go and learn a piece of hard work now, it will have to be a supporting role. I kinda put myself out of business there but…

I wouldn’t walk the street at night in Trinidad now. I’m one of these “Trini to the bone” – but it’s not the Trinidad I grew up in. I stopped making a little joke with a man in the road ten, 15 years now. Give a man a little heckle and thing. Not again. You don’t know how people will react. Everybody is on edge.

Santa performances vary but they are all dramatic. Santa HAS TO BE dramatic.

[Journalist] Dominic Kalipersad told me, “Don’t come around us with your Santa Claus because we don’t lie to our children!” I said, “Come on, Dominic, we all have our fantasies! I’m sure you had some in your youth!”

A nine- or ten-year-old asking his father, “Daddy, is Santa true?” Well, this is the explanation I give now: if you believe Santa is true, well, then, Santa is true. Because what Santa represents is goodness. Goodness towards other human beings. And helping others.

The Marionettes show is for all the homes – the retarded children, wheelchairs, the orphanage, all those sort of thing. Usually, not every year, Santa will start the show. I will come out ringing a bell, hyping up the children.

Once, as Santa at the Lady Hochoy Home, a little child on crutches fell down in front of me and I bent down to pick him up, and the teacher shouted, loud, “Leave him there!” He clearly needed help. But she said, no, he has to learn to get up on his own. Because, if he falls and nobody is around, what, he will lie down there for two days? It took about 20 minutes but the child got up on his own. Even talking about it now, there are tears in my eyes, remembering him saying, “I did it!” This is what Santa is.

The best thing about being Santa is the chance to be good towards children.

I still get the excitement of going to do Santa. You do

For the past couple o’ years, Larry Weston from Dale Carnegie – he died, eh – his wife, Jackie, has been doing Mrs Claus with me. She’s marvellous. They’re Bajan and so everyone believes she’s from the North Pole because of the Bajan accent. get foolish parents who tell their children, “Pull Santa’ beard!” I have to grab my beard. You could make them out, coming towards you in the line, the kind of foolish mother who will kill her own child’s fantasy.

When I do Santa, I won’t say the same thing to the children at the Lady Hochoy Home as I would to the children at [socially upscale Catholic primary school] Maria Regina. At Maria Regina, you talk about “Mummy and Daddy” and “going to MovieTowne”. You have to know the game. It’s like selling insurance.

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

Over the years, I have not needed less padding for the Santa suit. I was always big. Too fat! But I’ve been losing a lot of weight so, I don’t look any different, but now, I have to use a false belly.

A Trini is someone who is the best in everything from spelling and pronouncing tamarind to taking Peter Minshall for granted. Or going to church every weekend and really doh understand what is really going on. And they always have the latest “zeppo” from the horse’s mouth! CHEUPS!!! By the way, I is ah Trini eh!

To me, Trinidad & Tobago means, “Me kyar live no whey else brudda!”

The Santa Cause

Photographs by Mark Lyndersay. Photo credit requested.

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

My name is Glenn Davis and I’ve been playing Santa Claus for 55 years.

The Davises are from Belmont. And I did everything in Belmont.

I went to Belmont Intermediate from standard one to form five. I was never bright enough to get into St Mary’s. Because I couldn’t do “simplify” – and that was always the first question in every exam! Remember that? “Simplify the following”? There was NOTHING simple about “simplify”. I could never do it. The last exam I sat where I saw “simplify” was the first question, I just hand in the paper and went Strand 9.30 [early movie showing].

My mother told me Belmont Intermediate was good to me: I didn’t have a chance to go to St Mary’s and ever believe I was a white boy. I was who I was. In Belmont, we had three white boys in the whole school: Bertie Stuart, with the pepper sauce, Jay Leanza and a Da Costa boy. I would not have been able to handle the work at St Mary’s.

Both my brothers [Trinidad & Tobago and West Indies batsmen Bryan & Charlie] went to St Mary’s – and they still feel as if they’re inside there. Just so, they’ll just start to sing [St Mary’s College school song], “Out of the shadows of the past/ they come to cheer us”.

I never went to St Mary’s – but I got [St Mary’s-style detention] long penance once. I was playing football “down grounds” one Saturday and a man tackle me rough and I [put a cuss on him] and the prefect said, “Davis! Long penance on Monday!” It is my one regret in life that I did not go! [Just] to see what would have happened; maybe I might have done my Belmont Intermediate homework during St Mary’s long penance.

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayI’m very much a Catholic but I have to say, “Look, Catholics, mash all yuh brakes!” I don’t believe, like a lot of Catholics, that we have the rights to Heaven. Okay, I accept that Jesus built one church, the Catholic church – Thou art Peter and upon this rock I build my church – but a lot of Catholics, if they knew their faith, would not feel superior to others. A priest gave me one about St Peter and a new entrant to Heaven and St Peter is showing him the sights – this is the mall, here is the savannah, look the stadium – and a ball comes over a big-high solid brick wall in the middle of the place. St Peter throws it back over the wall and tells the new entrant, “That’s where we keep the Catholics because they have to think it’s only them in Heaven.”

I’m the only Davis boy who didn’t go to St Mary’s – but I’m the only Davis with a university degree! I still can’t bat, I still can’t bowl – but I have a degree! I studied hotel, restaurant and tourist management. I came back to work with the Trinidad Tourist Board; I never sharpened so many pencils in my life! You were not allowed to do anything.

I had never worked with Government before and it was an experience! I was the only person qualified in tourism management and they had their system: if the director went away, the number two man, the assistant director, would “act” as director. And I, being the third person, would act for the number two man. Leaving me out, ten people [eventually] got acting positions! I’m not knocking the system – but I left to sell insurance!

I was 19 when I started playing Santa Claus, through Father Gerard Pantin asking me to do a project of getting presents for unfortunate children at San Rafael church. I’d forgotten my black gardening boots, so I came out in my Santa cloak, like a big long dress and hood, buttoned all the way down the front, and my sneakers. More of a Father Christmas than a Santa [costume]. This little boy sat on Santa’s lap and got his gift – but he would not move from Santa’s lap. His name was Richard. I will never forget him. I remember him every Christmas.

Richard was about three years old and he would not move from Santa’s lap. They tried to pick him up, he held on. I eventually had to bribe him with ice cream. He saw where I went to change and, when I came out, there was Mister waiting by the door. But I have on my denim pants and my blue jersey and he did not recognise me. But then, Mister looked down and saw my dirty white sneakers. I left San Rafael after midnight. I never saw him again but, every Christmas since, I have Richard in mind. Richard is my Christmas. He must be close to 50 by now but Richard made me into Santa Claus.

I did well cycling in my teens, with Dave Gibbon [brother of the more famous Trinidadian cyclist, Roger]. I got promoted to C Class and did well. Had a good track year. And then, that September, Dave Gibbon died – and that destroyed me. We were rivals on the track but we were really good friends. I just couldn’t deal with his death. I was 17.

My first big role was at age 19, at Queen’s Hall, with the Trinidad Dramatic Club, which was started by some very good English expats in Trinidad. You got some good training there, brother, I can tell you! I played a pirate called Mash-Mouth Willy. Not a major speaking part but enough for [then newspaper critic and future Nobel Literature Prize-winner] Derek Walcott to recognise me! In his critique, he said the only good person in that play was Mash-Mouth Willy.

The stage is my home. Even now, I get a rush to walk out onto the stage. Especially opening night of a new play.

There was a time I’d pick up the children from school in Town, drop them home to Arima and come back to rehearse a play but, over the last two years, [I find] I can’t do too much acting any more. To do an old play is fine. But to go and learn a piece of hard work now, it will have to be a supporting role. I kinda put myself out of business there but…

I wouldn’t walk the street at night in Trinidad now. I’m one of these “Trini to the bone” – but it’s not the Trinidad I grew up in. I stopped making a little joke with a man in the road ten, 15 years now. Give a man a little heckle and thing. Not again. You don’t know how people will react. Everybody is on edge.

Santa performances vary but they are all dramatic. Santa HAS TO BE dramatic.

[Journalist] Dominic Kalipersad told me, “Don’t come around us with your Santa Claus because we don’t lie to our children!” I said, “Come on, Dominic, we all have our fantasies! I’m sure you had some in your youth!”

A nine- or ten-year-old asking his father, “Daddy, is Santa true?” Well, this is the explanation I give now: if you believe Santa is true, well, then, Santa is true. Because what Santa represents is goodness. Goodness towards other human beings. And helping others.

The Marionettes show is for all the homes – the retarded children, wheelchairs, the orphanage, all those sort of thing. Usually, not every year, Santa will start the show. I will come out ringing a bell, hyping up the children.

Once, as Santa at the Lady Hochoy Home, a little child on crutches fell down in front of me and I bent down to pick him up, and the teacher shouted, loud, “Leave him there!” He clearly needed help. But she said, no, he has to learn to get up on his own. Because, if he falls and nobody is around, what, he will lie down there for two days? It took about 20 minutes but the child got up on his own. Even talking about it now, there are tears in my eyes, remembering him saying, “I did it!” This is what Santa is.

The best thing about being Santa is the chance to be good towards children.

I still get the excitement of going to do Santa. You do

For the past couple o’ years, Larry Weston from Dale Carnegie – he died, eh – his wife, Jackie, has been doing Mrs Claus with me. She’s marvellous. They’re Bajan and so everyone believes she’s from the North Pole because of the Bajan accent. get foolish parents who tell their children, “Pull Santa’ beard!” I have to grab my beard. You could make them out, coming towards you in the line, the kind of foolish mother who will kill her own child’s fantasy.

When I do Santa, I won’t say the same thing to the children at the Lady Hochoy Home as I would to the children at [socially upscale Catholic primary school] Maria Regina. At Maria Regina, you talk about “Mummy and Daddy” and “going to MovieTowne”. You have to know the game. It’s like selling insurance.

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

Over the years, I have not needed less padding for the Santa suit. I was always big. Too fat! But I’ve been losing a lot of weight so, I don’t look any different, but now, I have to use a false belly.

A Trini is someone who is the best in everything from spelling and pronouncing tamarind to taking Peter Minshall for granted. Or going to church every weekend and really doh understand what is really going on. And they always have the latest “zeppo” from the horse’s mouth! CHEUPS!!! By the way, I is ah Trini eh!

To me, Trinidad & Tobago means, “Me kyar live no whey else brudda!”