December 7, 1964
I am five years old and my Sister is two years old. We would like you to bring us a Chatty doll, tea set, and bunk bed, and a new dress…Love, Joy and Roberta Spencer, Ocracoke Island
By Pat Garber
What becomes of all those letters American children write to Santa Claus each December before Christmas?
Earlier this year, several Ocracoke residents sort of found out.
Fifty years ago on Ocracoke Island, television reception was hard to get. There was no cable, no satellite service.
The screens, if you were lucky, were discernable, though fuzzy and in black-and-white.
With a big antenna on the house one might get three stations from the mainland, but more likely just one.
Nonetheless, December of 1964 found at least three island families sitting before their television sets, watching Santa Claus on Channel 7’s evening children’s show.
The Washie Spencer family, who lived in a house on Ocracoke’s Cedar Road, was one of these families.
Joyce Midgette Spencer sat with her daughters, Joy and Roberta, and as they watched, Santa Claus came on the screen.
He encouraged all the kids to write to him with their Christmas wish requests, and he even read aloud a few of the letters he had already received.
Santa suggested that the letters be sent to him at the television station, WITN, in Washington, NC.
Joyce and her daughters thought this sounded like a great idea. Joy, 5, and Roberta, 2, were too young to write the note. So Joyce penned the letter for them.
They asked for new dresses, a tea set, a bunk bed, and a Chatty doll that talked when you pulled a cord. They also promised Santa that they would set out cake and coffee for him when he came.
Santa must have received that letter, because on Christmas morning at the Spencer’s house, all those wishes were fulfilled.
Fifty years later, in 2014, Byron Miller walked into the Variety Store where Joyce was then working and asked her if she ever went on eBay. He said that a letter to Santa Claus from Joyce’s girls had turned up for sale on the Internet.
Completely amazed, Joyce said that she would like to bid on it, but didn’t know how. So Byron offered to do it for her.
Joyce called her daughters, now grown women with husbands and children of their own, and they were equally excited.
Roberta’s husband, Rick Litka, emailed the owner of the letter and offered to buy it right off, but he was told he would have to wait till the bidding ended.
Unbeknownst to them, Byron and Rick actually bid against each other, but when the bidding closed, Rick won the still un-opened, letter for $12.50.
It was mailed out, and 50 years after its writing, it was returned to Ocracoke.
The letter now sits on a table in Joyce Spencer’s house.
Meanwhile, a similar scenario was taking place in two other Ocracoke homes.
When Byron Miller came across Joyce’s letter to Santa on eBay, he also saw letters to Santa from Ocracokers Ikey-D O’Neal and Evelyn Carol Lynn.
Evelyn’s younger brother, Chester Lynn, owner of Annabelle’s Antiques and Florist, learned of the letter sent by his sister and bought it. Evelyn had asked for gifts for her parents, her brother, and herself.
Starr McKay bought the letter with Ikey-D’s name and presented it to him on Father’s Day.
Ikey, who had only been three at the time, had no memory of the letter, but he guessed that his mother, the late Louise O’Neal, had seen the same show as Joyce. She had written in her son’s name, asking for a wagon, a big airplane and a dump truck. Whether Santa brought the toys, Ikey does not recall.
The letters bring back memories from that long ago Christmas, but where they have been for the last 49 years, and how they ended up on eBay is still unknown.
Categories: Ocracoke's history & its people