Lowell man keeps holiday spirit truckin’ all year long

Kristi O’Harran

Kristi’s Notebook

Twas a couple of weeks before Christmas when I found Santa Claus eating an Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s.

His name was Bob.

He was a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.

I’m only kidding. I knew I could tease a bit when with a wink of his eye and a twist of his head, I soon came to know I had nothing to dread at this interview.

Bob Baker doesn’t claim to be the real Christmas Kahuna, but I did notice he wore a red hat with a white tassel and green brim reading "I believe in Santa Claus," a Christmas T-shirt reading "Chief elf and toymaker" and had Santa and a reindeer painted on his truck.

Mr. Baker loved the little old sleigh driver.

Bob and Joyce Baker didn’t have visions of sugar plums six years ago when they dreamed about buying a cherry Ford Ranchero or Chevy El Camino. They found a black and white picture advertisement of a 1977 Ranchero, but what should appear to their wondering eyes, but some sort of smudge the picture didn’t disguise.

The seller disclosed the smudge was a Santa face painted on both sides of the truck. Bob and Joyce Baker both said, "Cool."

They spoke not a word but went straight to Carnation. They knew in a moment they’d found a dandy creation.

"I wanted the truck," Baker said. "I found it touching."

The Santa face painted on the Ranchero was commissioned by an elderly gentleman in California, Bob Baker said. When he died, his daughter took possession of the truck.

"Her husband was a construction guy," Baker said. "He didn’t want Santa around."

The daughter wanted to know if the buyers would paint over the Santa face. Bob Baker assured her he would keep the truck as is. So they did a dash away all and drove the truck to its new home in Lowell.

If the Ranchero ever needs a paint job, Baker said he’ll reapply the Santa face. On the tailgate of the truck is a reindeer with the words "Dasher, Dancer, Donder, Blitzen, Prancer, Cupid, Comet and Vixen." Yes, in a twinkling poof, you could almost hear the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

Viewers can see the truck most weekdays about 7:30 a.m. at McDonald’s at 41st Street and Colby Avenue in Everett. Baker and his wife stop there for coffee or a bite to eat on their way to work. Bob Baker works at NAPA Auto Parts south of Everett. Joyce Baker works in the print shop at Providence Everett Medical Center.

They both said they enjoy looks they get from children nestled all snug in back seats.

"It happens all year," Joyce Baker said. "Cars speed up to get even with you. Then we see kids’ eyes peer over the window, then a little hand waves."

Joyce Baker said her husband doesn’t look like Santa, but the kids must figure he knows St. Nick.

I think Bob Baker resembled the painted face on the truck. Joyce Baker said she thinks the truck face looks like her husband, too.

"It’s all fat guys," Bob Baker said.

While he sipped a glass of water at McDonald’s, Mr. Baker said the couple had enjoyed stopping at the fast-food restaurant for years. Only employees named Steve and Skippy have been there longer, Bob Baker said, laughing.

The laugh wasn’t like a bowlful of jelly, but his eyes twinkled and his dimples were merry, etc., etc. Over his bright red sweater, Mr. Baker wore a Mariners jacket. The couple are huge baseball fans.

When it was time for us to get to work, we walked outside to the Santa truck. Bob Baker didn’t spring to his sleigh, or to his team give a whistle.

He didn’t even lay a finger aside of his nose. I did hear him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight: "See you later."

I’m pretty sure he meant, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

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