Christmas Comes Early: The Story of Davis Carr, the Santa of Wallace, NC

by Rebecca J. Whitman (originally published in The Duplin Times)

“If you saw him on the street and didn’t already know better, Davis Carr was the kind of man who made you think, ‘he’d make a great Santa Clause”, long-term former mayor, Charley Farrior said. With a round face, jolly personality, and a full white beard that he wore year-round, Manley Davis Carr looked the part. He didn’t have to act; he was kind, gentle, and generous in his everyday regular life. “He was a wonderful Santa. He loved children, and he was good at handling all kinds of them–from the ones that knew and loved Santa to the ones meeting him for the first time and a little scared of him,” Farrior said. Davis welcomed the celebrity role that his appearance played with children. When they stared at him in restaurants, Davis welcomed them to come sit and talk briefly. When they awed at him in church, Davis always had something to give them–even just a stick of gum. “I don’t know how he did it,” Georgia Farrior remembered, “but he always knew the kids’ names and what they had been up to.” There was just something magical about Davis.

Davis walking with some of the Farrior grandchildren

Manley Davis Carr–known as Davis or Santa or Papa D to locals–was a land surveyor by trade and a successful businessman. He knew the land in intimate detail from who owned it down to what it was good for. Many times this depth of knowledge was put to the test in town meetings as Mr. Carr was called on to give an opinion of land in consideration for different projects. “Even though he didn’t live here anymore,” Former Mayor Farrior remembered, “he came religiously to Wallace town board meetings. We could always count on him to be there and be helpful whenever we needed him.”

Santa sits and rests at a park event

The generosity of Davis’s character spilled over into everything he did. He appeared as Santa at countless events and photo ops–many times with his wife, Brenda, as Mrs. Claus. “There wasn’t a single time that I asked him to assist with a fundraiser for The Friends of the Wallace Parks that he didn’t help us- even in the early days when we couldn’t compensate him for his time. He was always there for class parties, special events for The Depot Commission, and simple one-on-one visits with children as they inevitably spotted him around town,” Georgia Farrior said. He also served in Wallace’s town government. For many years, he was President of the Wallace Chamber of Commerce. In 2016, he retired from being the Chamber President and became Chairman of the Wallace Depot Committee. During his time in that role, several museum fre wwds a we 3 31st 1 wrestling p Ieatures were established including a hobo display in a railroad boxcar and a learning center in the depot. Davis was also an integral part of the Carolina Strawberry Festival. Several have touted Carr’s commitment to serve Wallace in any way possible–but he did not even live there. He lived in Wilmington and commuted because it meant so much to him.

Wallace may have held a special place in his heart because of his family. Davis was born and raised in Teachey. He was a Wallace-Rose Hill graduate with long-term farming and merchant ties to the area–his grandfather owned one of the largest grocery stores between Wilmington and Goldsboro. Grandpa Willie had a large family, and many of them stayed in the Wallace area to live and work–including Davis’ parents, Manley Alexander and Alice Jones Carr. Davis had a servant’s heart from a very young age. He was active in Boy Scouts of America, became an Eagle Scout, and continued to serve as a Scout Master later in life. As a boy, he was honored with the Carnegie Heroism Award for saving a young man from drowning. Following this early exposure to heroic life, Davis Carr attended UNC Wilmington and then joined the United States Army.

Hard work and dedication were part of Davis’ lifestyle, and they brought him success in his profession. Following his military service, Davis began working for Robert H. Goslee and Associates Land Surveyors. He worked hard to obtain both his Professional Land Surveyor License and his NC General Contractor License. In 1998, he got the opportunity to buy the company and return to his hometown with a Wallace office site. For decades, Davis served as the treasurer of the Southeastern Chapter of the NC Society of Surveyors, and he was named their Surveyor of the Year in 2012. Christian faith was an important part of Davis’ life and upbringing. His family became members of the Rockfish Presbyterian Church–one of the oldest churches in the area–and were buried there. Davis himself was a member of Northside Church in Wilmington, and he served there faithfully as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, and youth leader. When it came time to welcome eternity, services for Davis were held at Northside, but Davis was laid to rest with his family in Rockfish. It seems fitting that such a classic, family-oriented man was laid to rest in a historic location with family.

It is hard to imagine the world without Davis in it. Many have lamented the fact that no one else can quite be Santa in Wallace as Davis was, but he was so much more than Santa for this town; he was a light. His light still shines even to those who never knew him. Isn’t that the example of exactly how life should be lived–making an impact for good in our communities?

Davis was my friend, my inspiration, and a dedicated leader in our community. He leaves behind shoes that could never be filled, but also a desire in his board members to continue his work.

Georgia Farrior

Davis Carr will be remembered through multiple generations of lives in eastern NC. The ripple effect of his love and care will continue to shine his light long after the flame was extinguished.

Santa, Dickens, And The Real Meaning Of Christmas

I remember the first Christmas when I started to wake up from the belief in Santa. I don’t remember how old I was, but I know from the house we were in that I was about in the third grade. Kids were mean back then, as they inevitably always are, so I had most likely been bullied by some classmate for my faith in Old Saint Nick.

The room that I shared with my sister was an enormous one. On the side nearest the hall and the rest of the house was an attached bath with a three-dimensional plaque on the wall of Big Bird from Sesame Street smiling down at me. Opposite the bath was a large bay window that looked out into the yard. Between the two walls were our bunk beds and shelves stuffed with linens, clothes, and toys.  I loved that room.

I remember feeling dismally sad when Christmas Eve came. My sister and I were scurried off to our beds with the advisory that can only be given at Christmas: “You must be in your beds before Santa comes or you may not get your presents”. I was dismally sad because I wasn’t sure there was a Santa to be bringing me presents. I desperately wanted to believe, but I was losing my belief.

At just that moment, I heard sleigh bells coming from the roof of my house! I ran to the bay window in my room and heard them again–louder. This time it sounded like hooves may have been with them. What doubts I had vanished. I flew into bed and pulled the covers over my head, so Santa would find a good girl at my house and leave her presents. Some parents may have climbed on roofs and shaked bells to help their children believe, but mine didn’t. What I heard was as real as it ever could be, and it came at a time when I desperately needed it. Children need to believe in Santa.

There is a wonder and magic to Christmas that hovers in the airy notes of Christmas songs and tastes sweet with Christmas goodies and hot chocolate. It twinkles in the lights on houses and trees. It reflects in the image of every treasured ornament. It laughs with families as they gather and share meals, and as they create tornadoes of torn paper from unwrapped presents. At Christmas it feels like all your best and brightest hopes and dreams can come true. For a moment, they actually do.

But what happens when a child stops believing in Santa Clause? What happens is the child loses their sense of awe and wonder about the world. They can’t dream or aspire to greatness because they can’t imagine a world beyond what they can see or create. They are harder to please and tend to expect everything to be handed to them. They worry constantly about what others think of them, so they spend more time in social media then they do face-to-face and unplugged. Does this sound familiar? We have a lot of Scrooge-like children–and adults–in the world today.

I think the trouble starts when greedy parents want all the glory for the gifts they are giving. They tell the child that they are the ones that bought the gifts with the “from Santa” tags. They tell them this for no other reason than to see all the thankfulness for the gifts be directed to the true person who provided for them.

Another contributing factor to this epidemic is the misguided Christians who tell their children not to believe in Santa because they feel his presence takes away from that of the Christ child. They see the commercialism that comes with Santa as feeding the proverbial sweet tooth of want that most kids have. As the wish lists grow longer, kids step farther away from the true meaning of Christmas and into their own caverns of selfishness and want. I wonder how different Christmas could be if we let it be a learning opportunity to interact with our kids. What if the kind, generous man called Santa giving gifts to others became a spotlight on the fact that God gave the ultimate gift of his Son to the Earth?

I don’t know where Santa is these days, but I know where he isn’t. He’s not in a store increasing sales numbers. He’s not in a movie with no other lines than “ho, ho, ho.” He isn’t in a chapel reveared as a god, nor is he on a name tag borrowed by boozy elves filled with too much Christmas “spirit”. Wherever Santa is, I bet he’s looking at a digitised naughty and nice list–he’s cool with techie stuff like that. I bet he is still eating Mrs. Clause’s cookies with eggnog and giving too many samples to Rudolph and his friends. I bet he is more than a little disappointed by the people on his naughty list and how much longer that list is than the other one. But Santa is nothing if not optimistic; he is still holding out hope for us Scrooges to change.

In the same way, God is holding out hope too. He never intended for us to become embittered by Christmas or enraged by it to rally to a cause. God doesn’t expect his people to tear Santa out of Christmas or, as some are in the habit of doing, refuse to celebrate it altogether. He expects us to love each other and approach the world with childlike innocence and wonder.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 18:1-4, NIV

This is the lesson Scrooge learned himself in the end of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

 “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

This Christmas, may you find yourself learning to see the world through the eyes of a child. May that sense of Christian wonder, awe, and charity guide you through the coming year.