the year 1947, Alderson, West Virginia was a thriving little
town. Main Street had the bulk of the city's businesses and
generally speaking, most were doing well.
Sitting in the
valley divided by the Greenbrier River in south-eastern West
Virginia, it also straddles two counties; Monroe to the south, and
Greenbrier to the north.
the river is the railroad which was maintained by the C & O and
trains stopped at the depot several times a day. On warm Saturday
nights, the population in and around Alderson “went to town”. Main
Street had all parking spots full while the folks got their
entertainment by sitting in their cars and trucks or visited
the stores and went to the theater.
It's now Christmastime
in Alderson and the storefronts and homes are decorated,
and there's hope to have snow for Christmas. The town's
population will increase with folks arriving from all over to
spend this time with family and friends. The train
station and highways will be busy along with the towns businesses.
There will be folks singing Christmas carols at night and dropping by old
friend's for a cup of hot chocolate. A special time in a
main character of this story is Roland
Ballard, Jr., “Scooter” to most everyone. Scooter, his dad Roland, and mom Susan, lived on Maple Ave on the Greenbrier County side of Alderson. Scooter
was well known in Alderson because he was all over town
when he wasn't in school. There wasn't much danger for an
eight year old to be wandering around by himself, except the
railroad and the river. He had learned his lesson about the railroad when he was caught
going under a stopped coal car by Carl Hardesty. He really gave Scooter
"what for" about messing
around rail cars. It made such a impression on Scooter, he was extra
careful after that, only crossing where you should, at the wooden
As for the river, there was no use in going close to it for it was
Roland Sr. was a carpenter who did work for many people in the Alderson
area and had
his shop in a converted garage at the back of his house. Susan
was a home maker and was especially known
for her baking that helped the family income by selling baked goods.
She worked from their home and the Christmas season was very busy
for her. Scooter was in the third grade at Alderson Elementary School
and was about to go on Christmas break and Christmastime was
Scooter's favorite time of the year. The Ballard's were like many
families in Alderson, they work hard during the day, had many
friends, because everyone knew everybody. Evenings were spent going
to the movies, or just sitting home listening to the radio or
story is about a child seeking a particular
present without the certainty of getting it. His story is
familiar, however it could be any, and or many families,
in any town. The Ballard family is fictional, while others in the story, John Alderson, Floyd Lobban, Jim Russell,
Carl Hardesty and
Scooter's friends, Mickey and David, were actual people who lived and
worked in Alderson.
Susan Ballard is fixing supper and Scooter is sitting at
the kitchen table looking at the Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog.
“Here they are!” almost shouting. “The cap pistol set.” Again
Scooter says it slowly and with an emphasis as if he were heralding
each word. “The,
Roy, Rogers, Double, Cap, Pistol,
Set!” “Yes Scooter.” “You've showed them to me a dozen time.”
“Yeah, I know.” “But ain't they super-duper?” As if he were shot
from a gun himself, Scooter jumps up from his seat and runs in the living room
shouting “Pow...... Pow.....Pow, Pow!” Just then Roland comes in the
door and Scooter runs right in to him. “Whoa there Partner!” his dad
said. “What's all the ruckus?” “I'm shootin' bad guys, Dad.” Roland started to speak, but Scooter interrupted.
“Do you know how to tell the good guys from the bad guys, Dad?”
“How”, said Roland. “When the movie starts you look for the guys in
the black hats.” “ They're the bad guys.” Roland had no chance
to respond because Scooter ran
off to his room.
“Hi Honey.” Roland kisses Susan and grins. “What's
for supper?” “How's pork chops sound?” “Wonderful!” he replies. In a
much lower voice Roland says, “I see he's still on that cap pistol
set.” “I guess we better get them for him.” “Can we afford it?”
Matching his volume, Susan says, “With the pies I made for the Lions
Club Christmas dinner, we can.” “I'll call Lobban's and have them put a set
aside.” “Don't forget,” said Roland.
the town's furniture store and during Christmas they dedicated a large
space to toys for the kids. On the right side of the door, in the
window, they had a large train set on top of a couple of tables, and
further back in the store was the toy section which seem to be
occupied by kids all day long while they were on Christmas break.
Scooter is a big fan of Westerns, and for an 8 year old, he has seen a
lot of them at the Alpine theater. Even his room has evidence of his
love for cowboys. His bed has cowboys on the sheets and pillows and
so does his pajamas. The light shade on the ceiling has cowboys on
their horses painted on it. Also in his room he has a radio where he
listens to shows like “Straight Arrow”, “The Lone Ranger”,
“Gunsmoke”, and other radio shows. Hearing his mom calling him to supper, he
turns off his radio and heads for the kitchen.
"Oh boy!" says Scooter, "Pork Chops", "Yummy." "I thought
you'd say that", said his mom. The Ballards sat down for supper.
next day while Scooter is in school, Susan makes the call. “Mr. Lobban?” “This is Susan
Ballard.” "Do you still have those double cap pistol sets?" “The ones
with Roy Rogers on the holsters?" “Yes, I have three or four sets
left.” “Could you put aside one set and I'll pick it up on the
23rd.” “I certainly will Susan.” “Thank you Mr. Lobban.” “Merry
Christmas.” “You too Susan.” " Good by.”
Well, it seems things were progressing right along with everything
falling into place. The next day would start the Christmas break, and for
children like Scooter, this is a time for building up expectations
and playing in the snow.
Scooter had developing a daily ritual in
the morning of getting the Beckley Post Herald and looking at the
upper left corner where there was a drawing of Santa Claus holding a
sign telling how many days there were left until Christmas. In the
late afternoon just before supper, he would go over to Main Street to look at the
Christmas decorations and go into Lobban's to see the gun set and
play with the toys. He did this almost every day until Christmas.
Scooter awoke suddenly and looked at
the clock, and then he remembered it was Saturday
and school was out for Christmas.
Lying on his back he stares at his light shade with all the actions
pictures of cowboys. One in particular was a cowboy riding his horse
and firing both guns. “Just like Roy Rogers” he thought. Something
else caught his attention. It was the sound, or the lack of it.
It was too quiet. He
jumps to the window and pulls back the curtains. “Wow!” he said.
About 4 inches of new snow had fallen during the night and the
outside sounds muffled with snow on the ground.
Scooter dresses and runs
to the front door, opens it and looks outside. With the new fallen
snow, only a few tire tracks on the street revealed that any one was up and
around. “Mom?” “Did the paper
come?”. “It's in here on the kitchen table,” she said. He picked up
the paper and looked in the upper left hand corner and read it.
“Only five more days 'til Christmas.” “Mom?” “Can I go sleigh ridin' today?” “Oh, I suppose so, who are you going with?” “I'm
gonna see if David can go.” “OK.” she said. “Just be home for
David, living on High
Street, on the Monroe side, had a steep hill in his own yard, but it wasn't very long,
and the sledding trail would cross the street. Not a good idea
during the day. The kids occasionally use it to sleigh ride at night when
they could continue the trail across the street and into the field
on the other side, and post someone to give warning in case a car
was coming down the street. They would burn an old tire for warmth
Discussing the possibilities, David and Scooter decided to go to Mr. Fitzgerald
house on Dark Hollow road because it was isolated from any vehicle traffic. Along the way they discuss what they each
wanted for Christmas and David was hoping for a bike. Of course
Scooter would like to have one also, but he knows they're expensive.
And, for the "umpteenth" time, he told David that he wanted the gun set.
About a quarter of a mile
after turning on to Dark Hollow road, they got to Mr.
Fitzgerald's. His house sat high on a steep hill with an
empty lot on the side which he also owned. It was long
and smooth lot, quickly leveling out about 50 feet
before reaching the creek. They knocked on Mr.
Fitzgerald's door and asked him if they could sleigh
ride on his lot. “Sure, just don't run in the
creek,” he said with a smile. The boys promised and
climbed up to the top and started breaking trails to the
a few runs it got pretty fast and they were approaching the creek
closer each time. They now had to drag their feet to keep from going
into the creek. They road their sleds until about noon and then went
to Scooter's for lunch, with Susan fixing them sandwiches. She also
agreed to let Scooter go back and sleigh ride a couple of hours
Once more they walked to Mr.
Fitzgerald's house and climbed the hill. It was a lot warmer than in
the morning and the sun
was already melting the snow. Scooter sat down on his sled, grabbed
the rope, and put his feet on the guiders. “Gimme' a push!” he said.
Without hesitation David put his foot on the back of Scooter's sled
and pushed. Scooter started waving his hand in the air like he was riding a
bronco as his sled pick up speed. When the sled reached the place where the lot started to
level out, it sunk and stopped quickly in the melting snow. Then, the most
amazing thing happened. While the
sled had stopped, Scooter kept going. At that angle he was launched
and landed face down. Still holding on to the sled's rope, his momentum
had pulled the sled out of the snow and it followed Scooter, ending
up on his back. Observing all this, David was laughing so hard he
lost his footing and slid down the hill on his butt. David arrived
quickly and jumped up. “That was great, Scooter!”. “I've never seen
any one put on the breaks like that!” “Scooter pushed the sled off
and laid there glaring at David. “You stinkin' polecat!” yelled
Scooter. “Help me up!” David grabbed his hand and helped him stand.
The boys realized there would be no more sleigh riding today so they
decided to go home. “You better go get your sled,” Scooter grinned.
David climbed the hill one more time and got his sled, but did get
the last ride down, carefully stopping before reaching the soft
The Ballards went
to church that morning, sang Christmas hymns and the preacher told
the Christmas story, and afterward stayed home the rest of the
day. Roland and Susan rested and entertained a few folks that came
by. Scooter looked at the
Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog, counted the Christmas presents, listened to his radio and played outside
in what was left of the snow.
For Susan and Roland, just a relaxing day.
Monday morning, work continued for
Susan and Roland, and Scooter did whatever he could find to do. In the
afternoon he was once more in Lobban's closely
examining the set of guns. His friend Mickey came up and said,
"They're beauties, ain't they?” “Yeah” said Scooter, “Prettiest
guns I ever saw.” Pausing a moment he continues. “Do you believe
in Santa Claus?” “Naww..”, answered Mickey, “My dad says he ain't
real.” Still questioning, Scooter says. “Yeah, but what do you
think?” Mickey stares at the floor and says. “I'm not really sure”.
Scooter answers, “I ain't either.” Scooter carefully puts the gun set
back on the table and says, “See ya”. “OK Scooter” said Mickey.
Scooter didn't realize how long he
had been in Lobbans' until he walks out the door. The sun was setting
and it was getting dark. He walks up the street, glancing in every
window. Standing on the corner in
front of the bank, he looks at Alderson's. In the dimming light, the
their windows are sparkling. Smiling, Scooter turns and walks across
the bridge and heads for home.
That morning Susan
receives a phone call. “Susan?” “This is Floyd Lobban.” “I hate to
have to tell you this, but someone bought the gun set I put away
for you.” “Oh no!" said Susan. “I'm really sorry it happen.” he
said. “I know it wouldn't be here for Christmas, but I would be
happy to order one for you.” “Well”, said Susan. “I guess that would
be the best thing we could do at this point, although Scooter is
really going to be disappointed.” “I wouldn't have had this happen
for anything,” said Mr. Lobban. “Its alright”, said Susan,' it will
all work out. “I'll call you immediately as soon as it comes in,”
said Mr. Lobban. “Merry Christmas Susan” “Merry Christmas to you
also, Mr. Lobban.
evening when Roland gets home, Susan meets him at the door. “Ive got
some bad news.” The gun set got sold and they don't have any more.”
“How on earth did that happen?” “He didn't know. One of the clerks
must have found it and sold it.”, “He's going to be disappointed,”
Roland said “Yes he will,” she said. “We have other presents for him
and he doesn't really know for sure that he's getting the gun set.”
Mr. Lobban offered to order one and I told him to go ahead.” “Lets
not worry about it” “Boy,” Roland said, “That's too bad.” After
supper, the Ballard family went to the movies.
Wednesday, December 24,
Scooter was making his daily trip west on Main Street. This time he
decided to go straight to the theater and work his way back.
Standing in front of the Alpine he read the posters. “The Bishop's
Wife, staring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven.” Scooter
had just seen it the night before. Actually he goes every time the movies changes, which is
usually three times a week. From there, he could hear Christmas
music playing from the speaker mounted in the doorway of Jim Russell's Radio Shop.
Standing outside, Scooter listens briefly and goes in
to warm up a bit. “Hello Mr. Russell.” “Hi “Scooter.” Mr. Russell
replies. “Come to listen to some Christmas music, huh?” Scooter
nodded his head. “How 'bout a nice record player or radio for
Christmas?” “Nope!” “I got a radio.” Scooter answered quickly. “I
want that Roy Rogers double cap pistol set that's in Lobban's.”
“Well,” said Mr. Russell. “That's the place to get 'em.” Mr. Russell
adds, "Suppose to snow tonight." Scooter
nodded his head as he turned to walk out the door. “See you later,
Mr. Russell.” “OK Scooter.” “Merry Christmas.”
A few steps later, he was
standing in front of Lobban's window watching that
marvelous train set that was positioned on two large
tables, winding around with lots of buildings and cotton
for snow. “I'll get one of those also one day.” Scooter
thought. As if it were right on cue, a light snow
started to fall. Scooter watched a moment and went
inside where Mr. Lobban had his “tables of toys”. As
they did every year, Scooter, and all the other kids in
town had spent hours playing with them all.
But this time he went straight for the Roy Rogers double cap
pistol set. His heart sank! They weren't there! Franticly he
searched every table. And he searched them again. No Roy Rogers
double cap pistol set!! Scooter looked for Mr. Lobban and saw him
walking back into his office. He ran through the store and hollered
out, “Mr. Lobban! Mr. Lobban”! Mr. Lobban turned and said. “Yes
Scooter”. “What is it?” “I don't see the cap pistol set!” “You know,
the Roy Rogers double cap pistol set?” “Sorry Scooter, we're all
sold out.” he said. “Will you get more?” Scooter said. “'Fraid not
my friend”. “You'll just have to rely on Santa Claus.” Mr. Lobban
laughed and went into his office.
Scooter was really getting
worried. He wasn't so certain he could count on Santa Claus this
Christmas for some of his friends were saying there wasn't any Santa
Claus! At least he had his bases covered because Lobban's had the
But now, he had no back up.
As he walked up the
street, his spirit was low. Normally he would look at the large pine
tree beside the railroad track that was decorated each Christmas,
but this time he didn't notice. His mind was so fixed on that gun
set, he didn't even look at Alderson's beautifully decorated window
as he walked by. Just then, Mr. Alderson came out of the store.
“Scooter!” “Your mother has been calling all over town and you
better get home!” Scooter just stared at Mr. Alderson but didn't say
a word. He turned and started toward the bridge. With his head down he
didn't look at the lights that covered the bridge either.
The snow was lightly falling
and normally Scooter would enjoy walking home in it,
but at the moment, it didn't seem to matter much. He did notice a few cars out
with Christmas presents in their back windows, and he
wonders if it were possible he would get his gun set. From the tower
of the Baptist church he heard the
chimes playing Christmas
carols. "It's six o'clock", he thought. "Better hurry home." A chill
came over him and fastened the top button on his coat.
who told you to come home this time?” Susan said with a grin. “Mr. Alderson”, he
mumbled. “Who?” she said. “Mr. Alderson!” he yelled. “Now, don't get
smart!,” said his mom. “Go wash your hands!” Scooter then realized
he had just yelled at his mom and that was something he didn't do.
He went to the bathroom to wash his hands and his mom was wondering what was bothering
him. Going back to the kitchen he says, “Mom,” “Do
you think Santa Claus is real?” “Why do you ask that?” she said.
“Aw......some of the guys at school said I was goofy for believin'
in Santa Claus.” “Well,” “don't pay any attention to them.” She
rubs his head and says, “Your dad will be here soon and supper is
Scooter went in the living
room and checked all the
presents under the tree to see if there were any new ones, which
didn't take long, because by now, he had them all memorized. He then sat on
the couch and looked at the Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog. "They've
got a better toy section than Lobban's, but not much better",
he thinks. Page by
page he slowly went through. He knew where the gun set was, but it
was more fun to gradually get to them. “There
it is,” he thought. “A Roy Rogers double cap pistol set.” “I hope
there's a Santa Claus.” He thumbed through a few more pages, closed
the catalog and laid it down, back cover up. Staring up at him was a
page full of Christmas fruitcakes. “Blah”, he said with disgust.
Scooter heard his Dad
wiping his feet at the back door. As soon as Roland came in the
house, Scooter ran up to him and said. “Dad?” “There really is a
Santa Claus, isn't there?” Roland stoops, hugs Scooter and says, “You bet there is bud!” That's all
Scooter needed to hear and it raised his spirit. “Come to supper.”
said Susan. While Roland was still bent over, Scooter
whispered in his ear, “Mom fried oysters”, and grins real big.
Grinning back, Roland says, “Yeah, I smelled them
when I hit the door.”
After supper the Ballards went to the Methodist Church for the Christmas Eve
Candlelight Service. The snow was still falling and getting heavy.
About the same time Mr. Lobban had just finished with his last
customer and had locked the door. He returns to his office for his
overcoat. With the lights off in the store, vision wasn't too good
and he kicks an empty box by the coat rack uncovering another box
that looked familiar. “I'll be doggone.” he said. “There's the cap
pistol set!” “It wasn't sold after all.” Immediately he phones Susan
Ballard to tell her he's found the gun set. With no answer he
decides they must be visiting friends or at church. Then he gets an
idea. He puts a couple rolls of caps in the box, wraps the gun set with Christmas paper and places a nice
big bow on the side. He then fills out a tag that said, “To:
Scooter – From: Santa.” He drives over to the Ballard home and
knocks on the door to see if they had returned. With no answer, he
opens the screen door to put the present there and noticed the front
door is slightly ajar. He goes in and places the present under the
Christmas tree and leaves.
About an hour later, the
Ballards return. Susan starts cleaning up the kitchen, Roland sat
down to read the
Hinton Daily News, and Scooter went straight to his room to listen to
radio. Before he can finish his show, Susan tells Scooter to go to
bed. “But I wanna listen to
Inner Sanctum”, he whined.
“You know that show give you nightmares,” she scolded. “But, there's
no school!”, he pleaded. Then with her patience running short she
demanded. “If you don't do as you're told, Santa Claus won't come to
see you tonight!” “OK Mom, I'll go to bed
right now.” Almost before Susan could sit down, Scooter ran in and
had his pajamas on and his teeth brushed. He gave them both a kiss
and ran to his room, turned off the lights and jumped in bed. “What's
got into him?” Roland asked. “Oh, just a little threat”, she sighed.
“What's wrong with his pajamas.” asked Roland. She wasn't paying
attention. Her eye just caught glimpse of a new present under the
tree. “Roland?” “Did you put that present under the tree?” “What
present.” he asked. “The square one, on the right.” “Nope.” “Wasn't
me.” Susan goes over to the tree, picks up the present and reads the
tag. Turning to Roland she says, “To Scooter – From Santa?”
“I don't know anything about it,” Roland says again. She sits down
beside Roland and they both stare at the present and for a few
moments. “You know,” she said, “it could be the gun set and Mr.
Lobban brought it over.” “But how did he get it so fast?" "And how
did he get in the house?" Again, as
if he were pleading the fifth,
Roland repeats his original statement. “I don't know anything about
it.” Then, like a little boy he says excitingly, “Do you think we
should open it?” “No!” “We're not going to open it.” she scolds.
“You're just like Scooter.” Let's just let him open it in the
morning.” “It's a miracle Scooter didn't see it.”
Scooter laid there, his
eyes wide open, too excited to sleep. He gets out of bed and pulls
the curtains back and looks out the window, as if he were looking
for Santa. The snowfall is heavy and everything is all white. He thinks, “Snow for Christmas." "This is gonna be great.”
Looking at the street light he can see the snow falling
in front of it. He sits on the cedar chest by the window and watches
for a while. The snow flakes change from large to small,
and back again. He thinks, “Why can't it
snow like this during school?” He goes back to bed and his mind
drifts from cap pistols,.... to snow,.... to Christmas,.... and falls asleep.
Thursday, December, 25: Christmas
Susan is up early despite the fact she was exhausted with all the
busyness of the season. But the exhaustion felt good, as a “good
tired” feeling, and she wanted to enjoy as much of her next few days
off as she could. Both Roland and Scooter were still in bed. She
didn't think much of Roland still in bed, but Scooter, she thought,
would have been the first one up. “I know how to get Roland up,” she
said. She makes a pot of coffee, pores her a cup and settles on the
couch. Just then Roland appears in the door. “I knew the coffee
would get you up.” she grins. Roland continues to the kitchen, gets
his coffee, comes back and sits beside her. They both stare at the mystery
Christmas present. Susan starts singing out, “Scoooo-ter,”
“Scooo-ter.” echoes Roland. Again she says. “Scoooo-ter.” “Scoooo-ter,” Roland echoes again. Scooter comes thorough the door,
his hair standing on end, his pajama top is on wrong side out, and the
bottom is on backwards. He runs over and starts to sit down beside
them. Roland tells him “Go out side and get the morning paper!”
“Roland, don't,” she says. With two fingers Roland touches Susan's
lips lightly and repeats. “Go out side and get the
morning paper!” In bare feet Scooter opens the door. The snow is
piled up on the screen door and he has a hard time getting it open.
He goes out in the snow on the porch and brings in the
paper and offers it to his dad. With her apron, Susan wipes off
Scooter's feet. “You look at it.” Roland says.
Scooter unfolds it to the front page. Roland says, “What does it say
in the upper left corner?' Scooter reads Santa's sign. “No more days
until Christmas.” “It's Christmas!! he yells.
Scooter was shivering with
excitement. The “new” present caught his eye. “Is that from Santa
Claus?” he said. “Why don't you open it and see.” said his mom. Like
a flash he picked it up and ripped the paper off. There is was! A
Roy Rogers double cap pistol set. Roland and Susan were relieved.
Scooter found the tag and read it.
“To: Scooter – From: Santa” “There is a Santa Claus!,”
"There is a Santa Claus!” he yells. He tares open
the box, grabs the holsters and lifts the set high in
the air, as if to show the world what beauties they
The lights reflects off
the chrome metal and written on both holsters and belt, the revered
name of “Roy Rogers!” Hunter of all bad guys. Scooter takes out the
guns, pulls the triggers and remembers. Caps! Where's the caps? He
searches through Christmas paper and found them lying on the floor.
He loads each pistol, straps on the holsters, draws both guns and
fires. Snap! Snap! The caps exploded from each gun. “Wait a minute”
said his dad. “I think you should only shoot them outside, OK?” “OK
Dad!” agreed Scooter. Holstering each gun, Scooter starts opening
the rest of his presents. In the end he accumulated a new pair of
pants, some underwear, couple pair of socks, and a nifty jackknife.
But nothing could compare to the Roy Roger double cap pistol set.
Around noon the
Ballards did what most of the town did, and ate a marvelous dinner
that had been preparing for a couple of days. The rest of the day was
spent going to see family and friends, and family and friends coming
to see them. They drove to Ronceverte for a couple of hours to visit
Susan's sister and Scooter got another Christmas present that he
described as " just another pair of socks". In between Scooter would fire off a few shots outside
when he could.
David called and told Scooter he got his bike, and said when
the snow melted a bit, he would bring it over. But not until Scooter went to bed
that night did those pistols leave his side. At bedtime he finally
took off the guns and hung them on the bed post by his head. That
was so he could get to them quickly if any bad guys showed up.
Next morning Susan called
Mr. Lobban at home to thank him for getting the guns to Scooter in
time for Christmas. Strangely enough he flatly denied knowing
anything about it and insisted that it was probably one of their
family or friends that got the guns. Most of all he even refused to
accept any payment for them. As Mr. Lobban hung up the phone he smiled
sheepishly and said “Ho,” “Ho,” “Ho.”
As the years passed, Scooter played with those guns
until he grew too old for cap pistols. Eventually he got a train set
and a bike and he loved those presents also. But the "Roy Rogers
Double Cap Pistol Set" was always his favorite Christmas present.
That's the end of the story. For our friend Scooter, it all
worked out just as his mom predicted and though it doesn't
always happen, he got exactly what he
wanted. No one ever found out who put the present under the tree and
Floyd Lobban never told anyone that we know of, because for the next several
months it was just speculation.
all kids do when they grow up, they eventually find out there is no
Santa Claus. But thinking again, maybe there is. Perhaps we just
have the wrong perception of who Santa really is.