Letters to Santa return to Ocracoke after 50 years
am five years old and my Sister is two years old. We would like you to
bring us a Chatty doll, tea set, and bunk bed, and a new dress.
Love, Joy and Roberta Spencer, Ocracoke Island
becomes of all those letters American children write to Santa Claus
each December before Christmas? Earlier this year, several Ocracoke
residents found out!
Fifty years ago on Ocracoke Island,
television reception was not very good. There was no cable, no Dish
Network. The screens, if you were lucky, were discernable, though
fuzzy, and in black and white. With a big antenna on the house, you
might get three stations from the mainland, but more likely just one.
Nonetheless, December of 1964 found at least three island families
sitting before their telelvision sets, watching Santa Claus on Channel
7’s evening children’s show.
The Washie Spencer family, who
lived in a house on Ocracoke’s Cedar Road, was one of these
families. Joyce Midgette Spencer sat with her daughters, Joy and
Roberta, and as they watched, Santa Claus came on the screen. He
encouraged all the kids to write to him with their Christmas wish
requests, and he even read aloud a few of the letters he had already
received. Santa suggested that the letters be sent to him at the
television station, WITN, in Washington, N.C.
Joyce and her
daughters thought this sounded like a great idea. Joy, 5 years old, and
Roberta, 2, were too young to write the note, so Joyce penned the
letter for them. They asked for new dresses, a tea set, a bunk bed, and
a Chatty doll that talked when you pulled a cord. They also promised
Santa that they would set out cake and coffee for him when he came.
Santa must have received that letter, because on Christmas morning at the Spencers’ house, all those wishes were fulfilled.
years later, in 2014, Byron Miller walked into the Variety Store where
Joyce was then working and asked her if she ever went on eBay. He said
that a letter to Santa Claus from Joyce’s girls had turned up for sale
on the internet. Completely amazed, Joyce said that she
would like to bid on it, but didn’t know how, so Byron offered to do it
Joyce called her daughters, now
grown women with husbands and children of their own, and they were
equally excited. Roberta’s husband, Rick Litka, e-mailed the owner of
the letter and offered to buy it right off, but he was told he would
have to wait till the bidding ended.
Byron and Rick actually
bid against each other, unbeknownst to them, but at midnight on a
Saturday night, when the bidding closed, Rick got the letter, still
unopened, for $12.50. It was mailed out, and returned to Ocracoke. It
now sits on a table in Joyce Spencer’s house.
similar scenario was taking place in two other Ocracoke homes.
When Byron Miller came across Joyce’s letter to Santa on eBay, he also
saw letters to Santa from Ocracokers Ikey-D O’Neal and Evelyn Carol
Lynn. Evelyn’s younger brother, Chester Lynn, owner of
Annabelle’s Antiques and Florist, learned of the letter sent by his
sister and bought it. Evelyn had asked for gifts for her parents, her
brother, and herself.
Starr McKay bought the letter with
Ikey-D’s name and presented it to him on Father’s Day. Ikey, who had
only been 3 at the time, had no memory of the letter, but he guessed
that his mother, the late Louise O’Neal, had seen the same show as
Joyce. She had written in her son’s name, asking for a wagon, a
big airplane, and a dump truck. Whether Santa brought the toys, Ikey
does not recall.
Where the letters had been
for the last 49 years is not known, nor does anyone know how the
letters came to be for sale on eBay. As this holiday season draws near,
the letters bring back memories from that long ago Christmas.