Santa brings smiles; Grinch doesn’t

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
As the story goes, you really are a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
But at least the famous heartless character who deprived Whoville of Christmas had a change of spirit.
This year, the biggest Grinch of all to steal Christmas might be the sluggish economy.
And unlike the ugly green recluse, the economy might not be so forgiving.
Some parents who took their kids to see Santa Claus ó and the Grinch ó in Salisbury on Saturday said economic uncertainties will mean fewer presents under the tree this Christmas.
Tammy Whitlatch of Salisbury said she will spend “way, way less” than usual on presents for her two kids.
Whitlatch took her daughter, son and nephew to the event Saturday at the park near the bell tower at the intersection of Innes and Jackson streets.
Downtown Salisbury Inc. puts on the event every year. The Innes Street Drug Co. sponsored the festivities.
Whitlatch said money issues are too big a problem this year.
Her husband was laid off from his job a couple of months ago, she said.
She works as a substitute teacher.
Last year, Whitlatch said, she spent about $250 on each of her children.
This year, though, she will probably spend less than half that ó about $100 each, she said.
Her 7-year-old daughter, Lacee, wants a pink MP3 player. Twelve-year-old Corey wants a printer for his computer.
“We’re trying to make it good for them,” Whitlatch said. “They come first.”
Other parents said despite tough times, they want their children to be happy on Christmas.
“I’m a real estate appraiser,” Scott Whittington of Salisbury said. “The economy has hit us pretty hard.”
Luckily for Scott and his wife, Ellen, their 4-year-old daughter isn’t asking for many high-priced items yet.
A scooter would be nice, young Bree has told her parents. But at the top of her wish-list is a gift that can only come from the North Pole.
Bree was upset when her battery-operated cat she named Fur broke recently, Ellen said.
“She wants Santa to use his Christmas magic to make Fur walk again,” Ellen said.
On Saturday morning, Bree sat on Santa’s lap and told him all about her wishes.
Paul Gilyard of Salisbury isn’t as lucky as the Whittingtons ó his 8-year-old daughter, Grace, rattles off a Christmas list that retail executives would love.
She wants Biscuit, a FurReal Friend motorized dog that costs about $190.
She also wants a digital camera, a beta fish ó “Yeah, those things are cool,” Grace said ó and a pet hamster.
“And coal,” her father said. “Don’t forget the coal.”
Grace said she realizes the FurReal pup is a little pricey.
“She can keep wishing for that,” Paul Gilyard said playfully.
A motorized FurReal cat that costs about $40 would be an acceptable alternative, Grace said.
Gilyard said the economy is a source of concern for him.
“Heck yeah,” he said. “It’s a worry for everybody.”
Venus and Adam Byrd of Salisbury said they depend on their daughter Hannah’s grandparents to help out at Christmas.
Although Hannah is only 2, her mother said she already wants electronics.
The Whittingtons said they get help from their families, too.
“Thank God for grandparents,” Ellen Whittington said.
To the surprise of some analysts, Black Friday shoppers were willing to spend, according to some reports.
Retail sales in the South were up 3.4 percent from last year, the Associated Press reported.
Too-good-to-pass-up bargains might be luring customers, despite their money worries.
So the economic Grinch might have a hard time stealing Christmas after all.
But that $190 motorized dog is still a longshot for Grace Gilyard.
“Yeah, she’s going to cry like a baby when all she gets is rocks and dirt,” her father teased.