How Gus Stole Christmas… Literally

In Reports from Green Lake by Brady Carlson0 Comments

The infamous story of Gus Hubbell, Green Lake’s own Santa Claus.

In the season of giving there are always people called the “Santa Claus of such and such”. It really doesn’t take a lot to be called this if you just do the right thing. For example, a good friend of mine was once named the Santa Claus of my college dormitory, though that was less for his giving presents than for his being able to crawl through the chimney ducts and secretly take photos in the girls’ dorms.

Still, a giving spirit can go a long way. Green Lake is quite a giving town. Just last year the mayor gave three square miles of open land to Queasland Petrochemical! Or who could forget the Performance Artists Guild and their giving nature (though they give away what they could never sell). And no one knows more about generosity and kindness than our own Millie Winter, who at last turned off those super-bright Christmas lights and finally allowed the neighbors’ children to get some sleep. For that spirit they would all qualify to be called the Santa Clauses of Green Lake… but then there was Gus Hubbell. And rightly or wrongly, Gus Hubbell, was, is, and ever shall be remembered as our town’s Santa Claus.

In 1958 a retired gentleman named Gus Hubbell began volunteering at Crosshairs Mall as a Santa. Parents were impressed at how kids just loved the Santa at Crosshairs, and they flocked there by the dozens to show their kids that the Christmas spirit was alive and well.

Gus had ulterior motives, however. As a child he had always wanted Matchbox cars for Christmas but had never received them. Santa thought he’d been bad, young Gus had reasoned, so every year he worked harder and harder to be good. The cars never came; Gus never forgot them. (The real reason he never got them was that Matchbox cars hadn’t yet been invented, but such logic hadn’t occurred to him.)

Gus resolved that no Green Lake child would ever suffer that fate again. He wrote the children’s Christmas wishes down, as any mall Santa would, but now he promised the children they would get what they wanted, despite many dirty looks from their parents. At night, Gus pored over his lists, got out a town map and dreamed of what he would soon accomplish.

Christmas Eve came and the mall closed. Gus told the mall employees that he had lost his glasses and would be a while before leaving, that they could go without him. Once they left, he broke into store after store, getting dollies for little June Morgan, trucks for Joey Simpson and so forth. At the end of the night, he climbed into his Edsel and dropped the toys off at every door. Once satisfied with what he had accomplished, he drove home.

The next day, children woke up and, though puzzled by Santa’s inability to go down the chimney, were happy to get just what they wanted. Mall storeowners, however, were furious. They put two and two together and had Gus arrested for dozens of charges. In court, the evidence was overwhelming; Gus even confessed to everything. But the jury, made of twelve parents, refused to convict. Gus, now a folk hero and legend, was thrilled, though he was banned from the mall for 90 days.

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