Friday, December 10, 2004
Larry Kline has an obsession, and December is the month he gets his fix.
Each year he dusts off a pair of big black boots and a bright red suit with white trim. He ties a curly white beard over his ears and covers his head with a long stocking cap.
And with a convincingly robust "Ho ho ho!" the transformation is complete.
Kline, of Lawrence, has played Santa Claus off and on for 30 years, making appearances for the young and old at nursery schools and nursing homes each Christmas season.
"Santa is a special figure," Kline said. "It makes me feel good to be Santa, because you are giving of yourself, and you make people happy."
But his Santa cravings are not satiated simply by impersonating the jolly old elf. For the past two years, Kline has turned the second story of his house into a showcase for his collection of Santa figurines, a collection which numbers in the dozens and continues to grow.
"Next year we might have to move it into the basement," said Tanya Kline, Larry's wife. "It's gotten pretty big."
For now, though, the figurines stand neatly arranged on a white table cloth. There's a firefighter Santa that Kline bought after the 9-11 attacks. There are two Kansas University-themed Santas, part of a four-Santa series put out by Hallmark.
"I'm looking for the other two," Kline said.
And then there is a conspicuously clad Santa in a white sailor suit.
"That one reminds me of my days in the Navy," he said. "It's pretty special to me."
While Kline said he got a good deal of personal enjoyment from collecting the figures, his true motive for buying so many Santas was for a special group of children.
"My grandkids love them," he said. "They get a real kick out of it when I put the display up."