In the 32 years that I served on the Rome police department I answered a lot of calls from people, some that was forgotten as soon as I got back into the patrol car. There were some that I will never forget. Some I smile at and some I frown at. This was one of those calls that I didn’t smile, but still laugh out loud when I think of it. I will try to tell it as best as I can considering the time that has passed.
The partner that I had was a short, plump little fellow. He knew that behind his back he was called Baby Huey. He would laugh and say bring on the food. It was always a pleasure to ride with him, especially during the Christmas season. He would tell some mean kid that he was Santa’s elf hunting down mean boys and girls so he could turn their names into Santa Claus.
It was on the day shift. It was the day before Christmas Eve. We received a call to assist in finding a missing child. It was in the area around Elm Street, close to the cemetery. We pulled in front of the house and a lady came out to meet us. His name was Junior and he had a habit of walking off from the house and not letting her know where he was going. She called him Junior and gave a description of him. He was “big for his age” was all that she kept saying. With little to nothing to go on, we started to look for him.
There, at the intersection at the traffic light, we saw a huge fellow in a Santa Claus suit. We looked him over, shaking our heads. That couldn’t be him. That fellow in the Santa suit would weigh in at a good 300 pounds. We were looking for a small boy named Junior.
With no Junior in sight, we went back to the house where the child was missing. We were met at the door by the lady and asked to come in. She said that Junior had returned. I stepped into the house. We both stopped, for there on the couch sat the huge fellow in the Santa Claus suit. He had a gallon of ice cream in his lap and was digging it out with a huge spoon. He put enough ice cream in his mouth to fill a good-sized bowl. He smiled at us and continued to eat. The lady followed us back out on the porch. We talked for a few minutes and left. Back in the car we had an ongoing conversation about the huge man who was only 14-years-old.
We had not had time to get out of the area when we were called back. The lady was frantic, for Junior was gone again. She could not understand what had got into him. He had never done this before. She said he had picked up a gallon of ice cream from the freezer and left. We went back to the car and began to search. Seeing him at the intersection before, we went back and pulled in front of a store that was there. We got out and looked up and down Elm Street. I made a remark to my partner, “It was awful hot for the day before Christmas Eve.”
As I sat down in the car I saw him. He was sitting on the porch of a house on Sycamore Street. I pulled up to the house and we got out. Junior sat there with his gallon of ice cream. The door opened and a small boy and girl came out and sat down beside him. They held bowls in their hands. Junior began to fill them with the ice cream.
They began to talk to each other as if we were not there. The small kids were calling Junior Santa Claus. I walked up to the door and looked in. A man sat in a chair with a pair of crutches laying close by. He motioned for me to come in. He began to explain that he had got hurt in an accident and couldn’t get around very good. He told me how Junior would bring ice cream and sit on the porch and they would eat it. He said his wife was a waitress and didn’t get home until late evening. I found out that there would be no Christmas for these small kids. I stood on the porch and listened to Junior and the kids talk. I listened as they called him Santa Claus.
We both had a case of sniffles as we went into headquarters. My partner got on the telephone and called an organization that helped people. He hung up, smiling, and said, “We are to meet them at the house in the morning at ten o’clock.” The next morning we explained to dispatch what we were doing when we checked out on Sycamore Street. The people came with food and toys for the family. We felt better knowing that there was a Santa Claus.
The question is, is there a Santa Claus? When we went to look for Junior and found him sharing his ice cream with two small children was he not Santa Claus. We were guided there and saw what the situation was and was able to get them some help. I remember that when my partner and I led the funeral procession for Junior to the cemetery we believed that in some strange way there is a Santa Claus. We knew that a higher power guided Junior. We were blessed to have known him.
Lonie Adcock of Rome is a retired Rome Police Department lieutenant. His latest book is “Fact or Fiction.”