|A Weird but Wonderful Christmas!
by R G Pelley
When I was in Cyprus as a young
Lieutenant with the UN in 1968,, I found out, along with other
Canadians, about a hospital near Kyrenia on the north coast where
there was bunch of kids who had gotten done in during the fighting.
Homeless, wounded, problems of malnutrition, amputees, you name it ,
all the bad stuff kids should really never have to live through. So,
thought was given to organizing a visit from good ole Santa Claus
carrying gifts and candy which would probably brighten up their lives.
A collect was made from members of the Canadian Contingent and
some girls from British High Commission volunteered as Santa's
helpers. Somehow I got myself volunteered as Santa Claus. But I
figured if I was going to do Santa Claus, I had to come by air. So I
got chummy with a couple of Brit pilots who weren't worried about
flying outside the rules. I got a Saint Nicolas suit sent in from
Germany and the show was ready to go.
But it was quite an experience, more than I had bargained for. First
of all, instead of letting me down from 25 ft , they figured that
about 125 or so would be a bigger thrill and yep, it sure was!
Especially because I didn't have a proper safety harness, just a
strap tight underneath my arms. My main problem was to stay in the
strap, carry a sack of presents and ring a school bell at the same
time. A secondary problem was that for the Santa look, I had had to
borrow a pair of rubber boots and they were at least a size too large.
So an additional worry was having one of the them fall off and cause
other casualties! All in all, it scared the s..tuffings out of me!
But the worst part was that I had not thought of the big difference
between a Santa Claus suit with the pants and the Saint Nicolas suit
that looks like a dress!! As I came down, the "dress " went up. And
of course the friendly folks in the chopper, having a good grasp of
physics, would drop me down 5-6 feet, stop, and drop let me down
again, with the dress flying up every time. At the time I was wearing
large floppy khaki army shorts which were definitely not
designed for giving a public performance....as Santa's helpers
laughingly pointed out when I got on the ground!
By the time I touched down in the landing zone, I had it all figured
out why they fired me me out at 125 ft instead of 25 !
But when I saw the looks on those kids' faces, I would have done it
all again. These beat-up kids had grins on their faces as big as
When I cam to hall where the kids where, I did a little dance,
mainly to keep my rubber boots from falling off, and all the kids who
could walk joined in. Santa's helpers and the other soldiers who came
along to help got the cue and all the kids in wheel chairs were being
pushed along while the ones on crutches got carried. Man, I tell
you, the Santa Claus parade in downtown Toronto just didn't even come
Looking at the smiles on the faces of these young kids who had seen so
much war, hate, sickness and pain almost made me cry, . Made it all
worth it. As I look at the picture of the kids at the hospital, I see
one little girl in a wheel chair who reminds me a bit of my own
daughter at that age... still can hear my heart thumping every time I
Nobody hates war more than a soldier at any time... at Christmas it is
worse. But that particular Christmas, I think the kids gave me a lot
more than I gave them.
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