It's Christmas Eve 2010. Earlier this week longtime Northwest radio personality "Sugar" Bruce Cannon passed away. Word of his death quickly circulated among Facebook friends, fans, and family.
I worked for KTAC as Jaynie Dillon and KBRD-FM as Jane Robbins for several years and had done the afternoon show with Bruce back then doing traffic reporting and news as his sidekick for a time. A memorial tribute page was set up so that people could post their favorite photos of Bruce and share memorable stories about him. Amidst the swirl of reminiscing, it has taken me back in time to ...
Thirty years ago tonight, right now, I was on-the-air at KTAC.
Christmas Eve 1980 I was filling in for one of the other members of the air staff and working the 10 p.m. - 2 a.m. on-air shift.
As with most live radio and TV news stations there are the traditional stories of NORAD tracking Santa on his deliveries across the US and around the globe. That evening I engaged in the same banter, confirming on-air that Santa had made it to Tacoma.
I had in fact just seen Santa passing through the parking lot at Tacoma Mall. That was not fiction. A sleigh with a Santa on-board had passed through the mall parking lot moments before I reported it. I had seen Santa through our KTAC/KBRD studio windows from the 6th Floor of the Tacoma Mall Office Building.
A listener called in when he heard me talking about seeing Santa in Tacoma. The young man sounded profoundly depressed. He told me did not believe that Santa would visit his apartment home. He told me of being out of work, of having a precious, loving, wonderful, young wife, and a 3-week-old baby girl at home. He was ashamed that he was broke, out of work, and yet had the rich blessings himself of his sweet wife and baby, but no gifts to give to either of them. It was breaking his heart. He wanted so much to be able to gift each of them a gift as an expression of his love for them.
Even though Tacoma Mall and stores all around were closed, quite fortuitously there were some Christmas gifts at the radio station.
KTAC had been a drop-site for Toys for Tots that year. Someone had dropped off toys after the for the end of the campaign when the donations would have already been delivered to children for Christmas.
I asked the caller if he could come over to the Tacoma Mall Office Building. I told him that even at that late hour I could guarantee him that Santa had some gifts for his wife and baby. Granted, the toys were for the baby. But I quickly created a little gift basket for his wife with an assortment of tea and packets of hot chocolate.
He arrived at KTAC within the hour shortly before the midnight transition from Christmas Eve into Christmas Day. His spirits were buoyed by the surprise gifts for his baby and his wife. I had never seen anyone more grateful for anything.
The following summer I left Tacoma radio to do The Overnight Club on KOMO Radio.
Even after changing stations and leaving the Tacoma area, that young man and his family kept in contact and sent me Christmas cards for years reflecting back on that bleak winter for them in 1980. Year after year they shared their progress and how they'd been able to turn their lives around with steady employment and even the purchase of a home.
We often hear the expression that 'life comes full circle' and it certainly has for me. Thirty years later I now live where not only Mount Rainier and Tacoma Mall are in view, but also the Tacoma Mall Office Building. As I look out at the Tacoma Mall Office Building tonight (image attached), it takes me right back to Christmas Even 1980.
I remember the years at KTAC and KBRD-FM ("K-Bird, Tacoma's beautiful bird...") and among the cherish the special privileges and memories of those years of working with Bruce Cannon, Ric Hansen, Chuck Bolland, Greg Cook, Sean Carter, J.J. Reagan, and others. Bruce Cannon was renowned for his efforts on behalf of community and charitable organizations. He had a good heart, too.
There is no more precious memory to me than of Christmas Eve 1980 when Santa really and truly did deliver just before midnight in Tacoma.