By BOB LEWIS
ROSE DISTRICT VISIT: Santa took time off from overseeing the making of Christmas toys to visit with children in B.A.’s Rose District.
For more than 20 years, Roger Hale has been a bigger part of Broken Arrow’s Christmases than chestnuts roasting on an open fire, holly, mistletoe and sleigh bells ringing combined.
Retired from Broken Arrow Public Schools where he served as Transportation Coordinator, Hale is a cross country bus driver for Village Tours and Travel. But during this time of year, as his busy schedule permits, he slips into his trusty red suit and in the twinkling of an eye is transformed into Santa Claus.
Hale appears to be custom made for the role. A large man with a” bowl full of jelly” type tummy and white flowing beard, he says simply, “I love kids and love making them happy.”
Since assuming the role of the annual visitor from the North Pole, Hale says he has collected more than a super Santa-size toy bag full of heart-warming memories.
His favorite moment came at an event where a woman said her son feared that Santa wouldn’t know he had recently moved from Sapulpa to west Tulsa. After listening to details of the situation, Hale took the youngster on his knee and pretended to recognize him suddenly, asking if he was the same boy who had just moved to his uncle’s house.
“He was all excited,” Hale said. “Later, Mom came up and said, ‘Thank you for making our Christmas.’ That touched my heart.”
A close second on his favorites list came during one of his annual visits to the community Christmas party at Forest Ridge. After learning one of the children living in that subdivision was heart-broken that medical problems made it impossible for her attend, Hale loaded up a wrapped gift and delivered it to her in person. The delight on her face the moment he walked through the front door is an image he says he will treasure for life.
While the wide-eyed children who climb upon his lap have changed over the years, the questions they ask have not. One of the most common is, “Where are your reindeer?” The answer: When he’s in Oklahoma before Christmas Eve, he leaves them up north, where there’s more snow.
Many of them want to know if his beard is real. A sometimes not-so-gentle tug provides an instant answer.
Over the years, Hale has added holiday cheer to the annual Broken Arrow Christmas Parade, the Downtown Merchants Association Holiday Tea Off and more events both public and private than he and all of Santa’s elves together have fingers and toes to count them with.
Hale is such an endearing figure with children that he often stops them in their tracks, even when he isn’t in his red suit.
“Even when I’m just out in street clothes, it’s, ‘Are you – you look like – are you Santa?’ I tell them ‘you never know. You never know where Santa may be.’”