Today: How Putty Henck, a successful real estate developer, found his dream job.
J. Putnam Henck (“Putty”), a long time builder constructed hundreds of projects, including cultural centers, churches and libraries.
But in 1953, he began construction of an unusual project that would ultimately change his life. It was high up in the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.
Glenn Holland, a creative man with a novel idea, leased 15 acres from the Henck family and hired Putty to build Santa’s Village, a year round Christmas Theme Park.
Beneath crystal blue skies and under 50 feet tall lush green pine trees, Putty built little log cabins with artificial snow atop them. He built Santa’s work shop, and a candy kitchen, kiddy rides and ginger bread men. Santa and his helpers and real reindeer arrived as construction concluded.
Santa’s Village opened in 1955, six weeks ahead of Disneyland in nearby Anaheim. It became a very popular tourist attraction, throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, as families drove up the Rim of the World Highway to enjoy the Village and all the natural wonders that surrounded it.
But in the 1970’s, the Village declined as a tourist attraction until in 1978, it went bankrupt. That’s where our story takes an interesting twist.
Putty and his wife Pamela took over the Village. He got its finances in order, made the buildings more attractive and introduced new rides such as the Bumble Bee monorail and a Ferris wheel.
Pamela, who had been a Broadway actress and singer prior to marrying Putty, organized puppet shows and other entertainment, hired performers, and wrote their scripts. She also became the “Lollipop Lady,” greeting guests and handing out lollipops.
The couple immersed themselves in the operation, often working seven days a week, 12 hours a day and loved it. They were so involved; Putty built a Santa themed guest cottage at the back of the Village as their home.
To promote the Village, Putty and Pamela created television commercials and 180,000 visitors a year came there, as the Village became very popular again.
But in the 1990’s, a Recession took its toll and attendance fell sharply. In 1997, Pamela passed away and for heartbroken Putty, the joy the Park brought was greatly diminished. The following year, he closed Santa’s Village after 43 years in operation.
In 2010, Putty passed away in his home at the age of 91. He is survived by a daughter and two sons, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. But in addition, he is also survived by millions of visitors who found so much happiness in Santa’s Village.
In a 1984 Los Angeles Times interview, Putty mentioned the long hours he and Pamela worked at the Village and added, “But just seeing the people happy and all the kids laughing and yelling and having fun makes it all worthwhile.”
Santa’s Village was a dream come true for Putty and Pamela and brought them as much joy as it did the Village’s many visitors. And perhaps the thought of it brought you a little joy today.
Success Tip of the Week:
Do you have a dream that could uplift you far beyond the work-a-day world? If so, why not make this the week you take it to the next stage.
In the next KazanToday:
A remarkable man offers us a valuable lesson in life’s priorities.