Bring back some good or bad memories


December 19, 2020

Giant Santa Claus at Porter Chevrolet in Dallas, Texas in December 1953

When Porter Chevrolet opened at 5526 East Mockingbird, it asked and got permission from the Dr Pepper Company to use in its ads the statement, “Just across the street from the Dr Pepper Company.”

Then came that big Porter Santa Claus, the one sitting on the roof. It landed on front pages as far away as Atlanta and New York. People came from all over. And cars streamed past it down Mockingbird.

A papier-mache Santa Claus so large, in fact, that he’ll be holding a full-sized automobile in his lap.

Big Santa was the offspring of Big Tex: Porter’s Christmas ornament was designed by none other than Jack Bridges, the very same man who, at the request of then-State Fair president R.L. Thornton in 1951, transformed a 49-foot-tall Santa from Kerens, Texas, into Big Tex. Bridges and a squadron of 11 assistants would spend some two months on the project, which presented several engineering problems – all of which were exacerbated, Bridges said, “because Santa is sitting down.”

Wrote the legendary Frank X. Tolbert: “Biggest chore is coupling Santa’s bent-over torso to his fat steel legs. The head, with its six-foot sweep of a beard, and the legs and the great boots (each boot top will be level with the roof of the building) will be hauled from Bridges’ studio at 3226 East Illinois to the motor company on trucks. The torso will be put on wheels and towed.”

Much of the papier-mache work had to be done outdoors, in the studio’s yard. Santa was too big; so too the problems. Said Bridges, “One of the little ones is getting the expression just right around Santa’s mouth and eyes so the kids will love him.”

But mere hours after Santa took his place, tragedy.

In late November 1953, Jack Bridges’s biggest nightmare had come true: He could not move Santa Claus. A truck big enough to transport an 82-foot figure of Santa Claus can’t be found in Dallas. And so the pieces had to be hauled separately: The torso was put on wheels and trucked across town, while the other pieces were loaded into vehicles for the long haul to the dealership located across the street from the Dr Pepper plant. At which point he was finally assembled.

On December 9, a Wednesday, his head was put on – the final piece at last in place. Santa Claus had come to town, a Chevy perched in his lap.


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