Large, fiberglas Santa Claus figures mounted in front of (or on top of) commercial businesses have been part of the seasonal landscape in Northeast Ohio since at least the early 1960s.
I devoted a whole post to this holiday phenomenon back here.
The most well-known example locally is the one displayed each year by the good folks at Hot Dog Heaven in Amherst (shown above in 2021). That particular Santa Claus holds a book and a pen, and is identical to the one that was out at Oakwood Shopping Center in 1960.
And this year, Santa is back at his familiar post in front of the restaurant.
But just how long has Santa been hotdogging it in Amherst?
Here's the earliest ad that I could find promoting the Santa figure. It appeared in the Journal on December 8, 1984.
A story in the Morning Journal of December 13, 1991 reveals some information. It notes, "In the front yard of Hot Dog Heaven, Amherst, is a jolly, happy Santa that stops the traffic and the school buses full of smiling faces who slow down to stare at him. He's 13-feet tall, weighs 300 pounds and is made of fiberglas. Jack O'Flanagan, owner, says, "The children and adults just love to see him out there. It takes four of us approximately two hours to put him up each year, but it's worth it."
The article continues, "Jack isn't sure how old Santa really is, as he purchased him 10 years ago from a gentleman in Lorain who had him for four years. Seems the man had bought a building in Lorain and found Santa on the roof. He's been on display ever since."
Anyway, I've been wondering for a while just where that Hot Dog Heaven Santa Claus came from.
And here's a possible lead, although I have no way of knowing for sure. It's from the Sunday, December 17, 1972 Lorain Journal and shows a new east side business – with a Santa on the roof holding a book and pen, in the same style as the one in front of Hot Dog Heaven.
The caption notes, "Swinging into the holiday season with Santa is one of Lorain's newest businesses, the Swing In Beverage store at 825 East Erie Avenue. Owners Mr. and Mrs. James Hambly took over a store that had been vacant for three years to create the drive-through type beverage store."
Today, the building is home to D&D Coins & Jewelry.
Anyway, it would be interesting to know for sure if the Hot Dog Heaven Santa Claus spent some time promoting liquor before his current gig helping to sell frankfurters.