Eric Faircloth of Faircloth & Sons on U.S. Highway 82 in Lee County, displays the 1974 914 Porsche, complete with Santa behind the wheel, that was part of Walter Flint’s well- known West Third Avenue Christmas decorations in Albany for 13 years.
ALBANY, Ga. — For more than 50 years, the waving Santa sitting in a convertible at Walter Flint’s house at 615 W. Third Ave. was an Albany tradition and surefire proof that the Christmas season was here.
Santa last waved to passersby from his Porsche in 2009, then disappeared after an aging Flint decided he was no longer up to the task of setting up the display, which included the outlining of his house with soldered strings of radio lights.
But thanks to Eric Faircloth of Faircloth and Sons, Santa has been resurrected and is waving at kids once again, at a different location — at the dealership at 1425 Highway 82.
The Porsche 914 that sat in front of Flint’s house for 13 Christmases is owned by Faircloth technician Gene Cannon and had been in storage for the past two years. Faircloth decided to dust it — and Santa — off.
“We knew Mr. Flint had stopped putting up the original display a couple of years ago,” Faircloth said Thursday. “Business has been slow and I thought we have have access to the original Porsche and with Christmas coming up we thought that putting Santa back into the car might be a way to get people to sit up and take notice.”
Faircloth and his father, Wallace, went to work.
“We needed some Christmas spirit around here,” said Faircloth. “The waving Santa is an Albany icon and we we wanted to bring something back that people thought was lost. It took awhile for my Dad and me to get all the lights up.
“Now I know why he (Flint) quit doing it. That’s a lot of hard work.”
As things turned out, getting a life-sized Santa was also tricky.
“I Googled ‘life-size Santas’ and some of them were selling for as much as $2,000, and that was too rich for us,” Faircloth said. “So we found a used mannequin for $50 and suited him up. Then Dad asked, ‘How are you going to make him wave?’ I knew Walter had used an old record turntable to make his Santa wave, but we are using a windshield wiper motor for ours.”
When Flint pulled down his display in 2009, he thought it was gone for good. But fate had other ideas.
“I had no idea it (the waving Santa) was back up this year,” Flint said. “I heard about it from some friends. I am delighted they (the Faircloths) have decided to put it back up. I am happy the tradition is still being carried on.
“I haven’t see it (the display) yet, but I plan on seeing it today.”
Faircloth put Santa in his Porsche the day after Thanksgiving and it didn’t take long to draw attention.
“Santa had not been in the car for three minutes and an SUV drove by, slowed down and some kids started waving,” Faircloth said. “I waved back, but then I realized they weren’t waving at me, they were waving at Santa.”
Aside from some unanticipated traffic problems, Faircloth is pleased with they results.
“I’d call it a roaring success so far,” he said. “I know we put it up as a way to attract attention, but seeing those excited kids is worthwhile. If it brings a smile to just one child then I’d say the effort has been worth it.”