Each Santa had a unique personality reflected in the carving. After we moved to our new neighborhood one of our new close friend neighbors let us know that she really wanted to purchase a Santa and our father-in-law obliged her with a present as well and she was overjoyed.
Santa 1994Other than selling a few (always originals) through a local gift shop for a couple of years, the Santas remain family gifts to my husband and his siblings. We love each and every one of our Santas as they are all hand made and unique.
Oscar and his siblingsMy father in law was born in Switzerland many decades ago and had his first experience in America when he was two years old. Here he is the baby of the family. His family moved to New Jersey for a few years for his father's work. He returned to Switzerland and while talking about his life, described himself as quite the hellion as a youth. His stories of temper tantrums in stores, putting laundry soap on uphill train tracks (culprits never discovered) and setting high grass on fire (which spread quickly into trees, forcing his and his friend's fathers into fighting a large fire -- identity discovered and he well whipped) supports the idea that in his youth he did make life traumatic for others.
In Switzerland at that time and maybe now, a student spent nine years in school -- five in primary and four in secondary school and from there would either go to college or to a trade school. He did not know what he wanted to do. At that time he reports that his father was not very happy with him. "My brothers and sisters were all very bright and successful. Me, I would not study. I would do just the work I needed to be promoted to the next level. I wouldn't put out any more effort than I had to."
The street in Baden where the family hardware store was locatedHis parents owned a hardware store in Baden, but he just couldn't see himself continuing in that business. He tried out being an apprentice Confectioner with his uncle who was a chef in a hotel, but after a few months he knew that was not his area either. He went to work for his dad for awhile and then World War II came and he got called up for basic training and then spent two years in the army.
Anti-aircraft guns to protect SwitzerlandWhen the War was over, Oscar decided and told his father that he wanted to take an apprenticeship for being on a farm. His father was happy that he wanted to do anything and agreed. He did the one year apprentice ship and from there went to agricultural college. School was very competitive and demanding. During the two years the students took major exams every three or four months. "If you failed an exam you got one more chance. If you failed twice you were gone." He was motivated, worked hard and passed every exam. Out of about 700 students he graduated in the top 10. His dad was especially pleased and Oscar could see how proud he was of him.
Kolping House in LA although it appears to be a different location than Oscar lived at.
Oscar had a friend who encouraged him to go back to school for mechanical engineering. He got a trucking job and repaired and built trucks and trailers. At the same time he went to LA City College and took drafting and other courses. He learned how to weld, read blueprints and to draft and do design work.
While in Los Angeles, he met his wife and after they were married, not wanting to raise children in LA, moved to the mid-West where her family had roots. Oscar did several jobs and ended up working most of his years designing refrigeration units for industry (designing them for an ice rink and a desalinization plant are ones he is especially proud of). He retired a few years ago. Then he finally had time to pursue his hobby that we have all benefited from over the years.
Santa 2004In 1993 we received his carving of Saint Nikolaus von Flue (with an umlaut). He was a Swiss saint who lived from 1417 to 1487. According to Oscar and Wikipedia, "Saint Nicholas of Flüe was a Swiss hermit and ascetic who is the patron saint of Switzerland" (see link above). According to Wikipedia "He is sometimes invoked as 'Brother Klaus.' A farmer, military leader, member of the assembly, councillor, judge and mystic, he was respected as a man of complete moral integrity, Brother Klaus's counsel to the Diet of Stans (1481) helped to prevent war between the Swiss cantons."
We love our Santas and our Swiss saint, but most of all we love Oscar, the man whose creativity and skill brought them to life in our lives.