Santa Claus Lane needs tender loving care

Monday, December 18, 2006

One of McCook's finest traditions is in need of tender loving care. I'm talking, of course, about Santa Claus Lane, the dated but beloved assortment of Christmas scenes which adorn the islands in the midst of Norris Avenue.

Even at their advanced age -- now in excess of half a century -- the picture boards on Santa Lane still serve their purpose, reminding young and old of the glorious story of Christ's birth and Santa's gift-giving.

Santa Claus Lane was born in the mind of Ed Peterson and brought to life by W.K. "Swantie" Swanson shortly after the end of World War II. All of the figures and scenes were made in Swantie's shop at Swanson Sign Co., and -- after placement on the Norris islands -- became an instantaneous hit with families from throughout Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas.

Children then, now in their '60s and '70s, remember with delight the drives up and down Norris Avenue. The car lights were intentionally on bright to better illuminate the reflective paint and tape on the Christmas scenes, and in the dancing eyes of a child, the Christmas scenes dazzled the imagination.

But, alas, Swantie and Ed and their helpers grew old and passed away, and -- over time -- the Santa Lane scenes deteriorated.

Like many of us, Norma Rose Strunk watched the scenes get old and decrepit. But, different from us, Norma did something. She took it upon herself to fix up the signs, and greatly improved the quality of Santa Lane before her death in 1987.

Now, the Santa Claus Lane scenes are fading again. We need another champion. We need another Swantie or another Norma. We need a leader to step forward and take it upon themselves to revitalize Santa Claus Lane.

If you have artistic or organization ability, you might be that person. Your leadership ... your inspiration ... would be a wonderful gift for the community. You could bring back the glory of Santa Claus Lane.

Coons Go in Circles

Those pesky raccoons. They're so sneaky they can even get neighbors wondering what's up.

Let me explain.

This past spring, Dave McCarty of 1700 West Fourth Street was having trouble with a family of coons. They kept messing with his bird feeders, so Dave took matters into his own hands. He live-trapped five of the masked critters and took them to the banks of the Republican River, where he set them free.

Good plan, right? Well, yes, at least for a while. Things started changing a few days later when Blake Bethell took his new coon hound, Tank, to the Republican River to train. As luck would have it, he found the family of coons, who provided excellent training exercise for Tank.

The experience was so good, in fact, that Blake decided to live-trap several of the coons and take them to his Dad's pasture on the north side of town. "There's room to roam at Dad's place, which I thought would be an excellent training ground for Tank," Blake said.

The only problem is that his father, Ted Bethell, lives at 1802 West Fourth, which makes him a close neighbor to Dave McCarty. Those coons had gone full circle, starting on the north end of West Fourth, going to the Republican River, then ending back up on West Fourth.

What's that old saying? What goes around, comes around. Well, maybe. But now it appears the coons have taken matters into their own paws. They apparently grew tired of being carted around, and have taken off for more remote territory.

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