“A Very Special Santa”—a Christmas memory


Here is a Christmas memory I wrote for my “Over My Shoulder” Column© in the Glens Falls Post-Star of December 21, 1994. I hope you enjoy it.

A Very Special Santa

My mother had a little ornament that she placed on the Christmas tree each year, a tiny cotton Santa that she said she had placed on her tree from the time she was a little girl. The little Santa was, truthfully, in sad shape for its years of wear. But it was one of “those things,” something given a special meaning when my mother was so little. Why, no one knew. Not even Mom.

As I grew older, with each Christmas I came to look forward to that Santa being placed gently on a high bough, nestled securely to prevent shrieking children, or cats, from knocking it to the floor. Without realizing it, a part of her childhood Christmases gradually became a part of her children’s. It was a good feeling.

The tiny Santa moved a lot over the years. From my mother’s birthplace in Mechanicville, it went to Saratoga, then to Fort Edward and then Ticonderoga, at each juncture adding children and years to its life. It sagged and it drooped and it faded. Yet it survived, tying each new Christmas into the ones that had passed.

The last time my mother put the Santa on her tree was in Ticonderoga in 1982. Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with cancer and on her next Christmas, which was to be her last, she decided she and my father would come to our homes instead. I remember her apology for not having a tree, which I later recognized as her way of saying, “I’m angry because I can’t put up a tree, like I should.”

So that year, 1983, for the first time in decades, the little Santa stayed in a box in my parents’ cellar. At Christmas, 1984, my mother was gone and, again, the little cotton Santa stayed packed away. For that Christmas and the next two, my father would not decorate the house nor have a tree. The Christmas person in the King family was Mom and the Christmas person was gone.

About two and a half years after my mother died, Dad told us he was selling our family home in Ticonderoga. It was too big and too full of memories. “Come and take what you want,” he told his children. The rest he would sell. For weeks upon weeks we helped him sort through the remains of a lifetime, as much a reward as a burden. For you must understand that Mom saved everything:  family pictures and letters, dad’s service records, the kids’ report cards, canceled checks, even occupant mail. As I had before, I looked through acres of boxes of Christmas decorations. As before, I could not, amidst them all, find the tiny Santa.

Mom always was fond of saying, “What will be will be.” I resigned myself to the fact that it was gone. “Things change,” my father was always saying. Oddly, I think that while he knew that was true, in a way he never resigned himself to his own wisdom. Almost three years to the day after my mother’s death, he died. Things had, indeed, changed.

For my wife, Sara, and I, that Christmas of 1987 in Glens Falls was, with my daughter being six, filled with expectations of Santa. It was also an oddly empty Christmas. We got out the boxes of decorations and frantically searched for our tree’s special angel, fearful it had been misplaced and then found it packed snugly away. My daughter sighed a big sigh! Under our regular boxes were the ones I’d brought from Ticonderoga. I rummaged through them, looking at the bubble lights and other things from my childhood Christmas trees.

And then, I found it. A tiny box inside of which was my mother’s faded cotton Santa wrapped up securely. Lost, but never really lost. Tenderly, I placed it on a high bough. And there it will go again this year, as we celebrate our Christmas and the memories that a special decoration carry with it.

From my family to you, a very merry Christmas.

Joe Cutshall-King

(“Over My Shoulder” – a weekly column written Joseph A. Cutshall-King for the for the Post-Star of Glens Falls, NY. All content Copyright © 1994-2013 by Joseph A. Cutshall-King. All rights reserved. No reproduction by any means or methods allowed without express written permission by the author.)

“Piping Rock” presentation on December 2nd–Easton Library, Easton, NY,.


Join me on Monday, December 2nd at 7:00 pm at the Easton Library in Easton, NY . I’ll be giving a presentation on my historical mystery novel, The Burning of The Piping Rock.

The Easton Library is on 1074 NYS Route 40 in Easton, NY. My presentation will include a book reading and book signing. The presentation is open to the public and free of charge. (Click here for a map.)

For more information, contact Helen C. Brownell, Director of the Easton Library at 518-692-2253 or on the library website at http://easton.sals.edu/.

See you then!

Joe Cutshall-King

In memory of all veterans


In memory of all veterans, I post this photo of my father, Lt. George A. King, Commanding Officer of PT Boat 27, with some of his crew. Left to right: Stan Lewis, Lt. George A. King, Jack Gilligan, & Bill Maynard. (Undated photo; possibly taken in late 1944 at Pearl City, Hawaii.)
PT Boat 27 Crew l-r--Stan Lewis, Lt. George A. King [Commanding Officer], Jack Gilligan & Bill Maynard; South Pacific

PT Boat 27 Crew, left to right: Stan Lewis, Lt. George A. King [Commanding Officer], Jack Gilligan & Bill Maynard; South Pacific

At Woodlawn Commons in Saratoga Springs


Last Friday, November 8, the residents at Woodlawn Commons, part of the Wesley Community in Saratoga Springs, had me as their guest to give a presentation on The Burning of The Piping Rock.  What a great group they were! Several had been to Piping Rock Casino in its glory days. They discussed how much they enjoyed dancing to the big bands at Piping Rock Casino and watching the hit stars, such as Sophie Tucker, Hildegarde, Kay Thompson and the Williams Brothers. (In those post WW II days, Andy Williams performed as one of the Williams Brothers.) When I showed them this photo of the entertainment revue at Piping Rock Casino, and other photos, they gasped in recognition of those times long ago. Thanks to Gina Mergel for the invitation to speak at Woodlawn Commons!

Piping Rock Interior  around 1946-B&W

Piping Rock Interior around 1946-B&W

Post-Star carries great news about Cossayuna’s new Lakeside General Store!


Today’s Post-Star carries Amanda May Metzger’s excellent story on the reopening of the Lakeside General Store in the hamlet of Cossayuna, where we live.  Last year, the little country store had closed and it left a gaping hole. Well, our neighbors, Joe Troiano and Palma Kolansky, bought the store,  made wonderful changes, and recently reopened it.  All of Cossayuna has been been celebrating the reopening of the store and what it offers now! Please read all about it in the article, “Couple opens Lakeside General Store after six month vacancy.” Click here to read the article and celebrate with us!

Thank you Greenwich, NY, Senior Citizens!


Sara Idleman, Nan Fitzpatrick & Susan Frisbee with author Joe Cutshall-King Greenwich Seniors Lunch

Sara Idleman, Nan Fitzpatrick & Susan Frisbee with author Joe Cutshall-King Greenwich Seniors Lunch

Patrick Gilgallon takes “The Burning of The Piping Rock” to new heights!


'Piping Rock' at LG 09-13 - photo by Patrick Gilgallon.

‘Piping Rock’ at LG 09-13 – photo by Patrick Gilgallon.

This photo was taken by Patrick Gilgallon, a fellow devotee of Barbershopper music, who sent it in an email, saying: “While at my cabin on Lake George I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED READING The Burning of the Piping Rock! I couldn’t stop thinking about the story line when I put down the book periodically. So much could I NOT put down the book, that upon departing for a hike, I packed it in my backpack. At the summit, I read for 2 hrs.  What a beautiful day that was!!!”

To prove his point, Patrick attached this photo he took at the summit.

Thank you very much, Patrick, for your totally unexpected and totally appreciated email!

Saratogian article (9/8/13): “Author to unravel ‘Piping Rock Arson’ at brown bag lunch”


Check out this article from The Saratogian about my upcoming program for the Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center’s Brown Bag Lunch Lecture  Series held at Saratoga Springs Public Library! Saratogian (9/8/13) - Author to unravel 'Piping Rock Arson' I’m looking forward to seeing you this Thursday (Sept. 12 ) at noon in the Community Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library! (Thanks to Chuck Packevicz  for this clipping!)

Article courtesy of The Saratogian (9/8/13)

“Piping Rock Arson” by Joe Cutshall-King: Brown Bag Lunch Lecture (9/12) at Saratoga Springs Public Library


Brown Bag Lunch

Brown Bag Lunch

Thank you, Flo Hayle!


It’s amazing the people you can meet on a plane!

Actor and Singer Florence Hayle

Actor and Singer Florence Hayle

And recently, I met a wonderful person named Florence Hayle! In January Sara and I flew out of Albany Airport for the Florida Panhandle. We sat on opposite sides of the aisle and I found myself a seat away from a lovely lady named Florence Hayle—whose stage name is Flo Hayle. As we talked, I discovered that the lady is an actor, singer, and director, who has performed on Broadway and regional theatre, in commercials, and—well, you name it!

Florence Hayle is something else! Here’s what Kyle Adams wrote in the Catskill Register about a recent performance Flo Hayle gave in Catskill, NY:

Hayle . . . has a long history in show business. She performed in the Steve Allen musical Sophie, she’s directed and produced in New York City, played in “just about every club in the city,” and starred in too many commercials to remember now. She currently hosts Clear Channel Radio’s “Arts Alive Etcetera” interview program. She’ll be celebrating her 84th birthday tomorrow and said she has no intention of retiring.”

And did I mention that she’s an inspiration? Don’t tell Flo Hayle you’re blaming your inactivity on old age!

I told Flo that I’d published a mystery novel, The Burning of The Piping Rock and she graciously offered to interview me for her “Arts Alive Etcetera” radio show (Clear Channel Radio FM 93.5 radio, a Catskill, NY station). Flo’s interview aired Sunday, April 6, 2014. (And a special thank you to her. I enjoyed it so much! I’ve asked Flo if it would be possible to get a podcast of it to post. Stay tuned!)

Some other “notes” about singer and actor Florence Hayle. There are sweet coincidences that occur in life. You read above that Flo Hayle was on Broadway in the play, Sophie, Steve Allen’s musical about the early years of that great American chanteuse, Sophie Tucker. Tucker was among the many Broadway greats who performed at Piping Rock Casino in Saratoga Springs in those crazy years after WW II. Flo’s eyes lit up when I said I had specially mentioned Tucker in The Burning of The Piping Rock. A special connection was made.

Flo returned to the stage at age 82, starring in “Senior Moments” at Jay Kerr’s Fort Salem Theater in Salem, NY. Jay Kerr, a noted composer and lyricist, is also Flo Hayle’s music coach. She is now working with Kerr for an upcoming musical revue she’ll be doing in Catskill, NY, to benefit the historic Beattie-Powers Place. Let us know when the box office opens, Flo!

If you didn’t already know Flo Hayle, I’m glad, as a new fan in her legion of fans, to have the opportunity to introduce you.

And, let me “sign off” here by saying:  So, to Flo from Joe, a big hello and an even bigger thank you!

 

Flo Hayle of Clear Channel Radio
Flo Hayle of Clear Channel Radio
Flo Hayle of Clear Channel Radio