Issue 7: A Holiday Memory

Remembering Bob Ingraham

Founder of the AKA

by Al Hargus

Most of you know that the late Bob Ingraham was the founder of the American Kitefliers Association. Bob was also an accomplished violinist, and played in a local band until his death.

Bob was also a writer. He edited and wrote the original publication for kitefliers, “Kite Tales”. Bob also wrote regular feature articles for the Silver City, New Mexico newspaper.

I was very fortunate to receive many of these newspaper articles from Bob while he was alive. What follows is his 1994 Christmas feature.


A Christmas Article
by Bob Ingraham

December 1994

“Christmas is the busiest time for Santa…”

After contacting the public relations office at the Santa Claus headquarters near Point Barrow, Alaska, I was turned down in my request to do the annual interview with Santa and referred instead to Heathcliff, an elf who is the chief of staff, holding the same position there as Leon Panetta does in the White House.

Heathcliff (elves have no last name) is a rather crusty little guy who carries an enormous load of responsibility, particularly in the Christmas month of December. When I caught up with him in the warehouse, he was checking UPS deliveries.

After a few pleasantries, I asked why it was that the headquarters were now in Alaska when in the past they were at the North Pole. The following is a transcription of the tape recording I made during that interview:

“We had to give up the North Pole location although it isn’t difficult to get there anymore. People are walking there, in fact, but, as you know, the Pole is on an ice cap under which there is nothing but water. It isn’t like the Antarctic where there’s a big land mass and penguins have a place to stand and hatch out their eggs.

“I know”.

“Well, anyway, the ice moves around a lot and one year we found ourselves located just off the coast of Greenland right at out busiest time of year. We rented a bunch of U-Haul sleighs and moved the whole kite and caboodle to this location.”

“Is there anything at the North Pole location now?”

“The last time we were there to pick up a few things, we got chased off by two polar bears and a mean walrus. Had to leave some things just like the astronauts did on the moon.”

“Do you have much trouble with the reindeer? I thought that they were a little cantankerous at times.”

“No, they’re pretty docile, all except Rudolph. He’s not a real reindeer, y’know, but one of those electronic things run by a computer. We have a lot of problems with his wiring and our resident electrician spends a lot of time keeping him operative. Last year, his red nose light went out over Moscow in Russia and the boss got a ticket from the KGB.”

“Has the NAFTA thing made any difference in this operation?”

“Not that we have noticed. It’s the GATT thing that worries the boss. He’s quite universal.”

“Yes, I know. Do you have a general maintenance man here?”

“Yes, but if it wasn’t for WD-40 he’d be out of a job. That stuff works great on the harnesses and sleigh runners but isn’t good for the computers. Thornton, that’s the maintenance man, spends a lot of time at the Elf’s Club playing pinochle. He’ll be up for retirement soon. The old goat’s almost 900 years old.”

“ If you don’t mind I’d like to ask your age, “ I queried.

“I do mind but since you’ve asked I’ll tell you. I’m almost 879.”

“What part of your job do you dislike most?”

“ It’s clearing the snow off the runway early Christmas Eve and chasing the seals off. They’re on the endangered species list and think they’re pretty special. We have to get takeouts from Long John Silver’s for them now. They won’t eat ordinary fish.”

I thanked the little guy for his time and left him busy putting “Batteries Not Included” labels on boxes of battery operated toys. I drove the rental sleigh back to the Hertz office in Anchorage and went on home just in time to do my Christmas shopping.