PAYSON Don't believe in Santa Claus? You haven't seen Helene Jones' collection of Santas that date back 58 years.
Now on display at the Peteetneet Academy, the local historical society collection was started in the 1950s when friends of Jones' children began telling her there was no Santa Claus.
Her response; "Oh, mercy!"
Of course there is a Santa Claus she would tell her six children. No Santa, no gift, she said. Her children believed her and began showering her with Santas, a tradition that continues today.
One by one, the Santa collection of gifts, mostly from family, grew.
Jones now has more than 80 Santas that she uses to decorate her home every Christmas, the newest one given to her just last year. About 75 of them are in the Peteetneet exhibition.
One of her most cherished Santas is a rock painted as the old whiskered elf, given to her by a daughter, Connie Cooly, in 1976.
She has three Santa monkeys and a 4-foot Santa that sings and dances a variety of tunes. She has a cowboy Santa that sings "Jingle Bells" and "We wish You A Merry Christmas." Another electronic Santa sits in an easy chair and reads stories. Most are electric or battery-powered, except for a 2-foot Santa that winds up. A lead crystal Santa sits in his sled while a single reindeer rises up and down. One is a cover for a chair back, while still another soft Santa sits with its legs crossed or spreads out to stop the draft from under a door.
Four Santas in the exhibition are owned by Payson historian Gloria Barnett.
As for the truth about Santa and the Jones kids?"I never did tell them," she said.
If you go . . .
What: Christmas Santas: a collection of Helene Jones
Where: Peteetneet Academy
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, now through Jan. 4