Our Dad was Santa Clause and much more
The role of Santa is being played most sincerely by:
George H. Heid Senior:
October 8, 1902 – December 23, 1973
Early 1960's - Santa reading childrens "letters to Santa" on Paul Shannon's ADVENTURE TIME. A kids program broadcast weekdays on WTAE Channel 4 Pittsburgh. The set paid tribute to the 1960's space race with Santa's NORTH POLE ROCKET which took off each evening with a full cargo of the childrens letters to Santa
George Herman Heid was born, over a century ago, in New York City and was the youngest of seven children. His mother moved him with his youngest brother and sister to Oakland, California in 1919. This began his journey in show business which progressed to a prominent and illustrious career in Legit Theater and Grand Opera.
After a very successful decade in the theater, he entered the young and growing radio industry as program director of KPO, the dominant NBC radio station in San Francisco. He later moved on as station manager and part owner of KVOA in Tucson Arizona.
Around 1934 he received a call from a good friend, Dale Jackson who had recently moved to Pittsburgh from Tucson. With the nation in the depths of the depression, Mr. Jackson encouraged Mr. Heid to do the same. Pittsburgh was a big Radio, music, and performance city and there were opportunities. He made the move and took the position of program director at KQV. With early successes at KQV, he was soon lured over to KDKA.
During the 1930's through the 1940’s, he produced and hosted many popular radio series including one of Pittsburghers' favorites, Al Marsico's "Memory Time". He also produced music programs with Max Adkins Orchestra at the Stanley Theater like "The Big Swing to Isaly's". Another favorite was "Dimling's Candy Kids". It was on this program that Mr. Heid gave, the then 7 year old child prodigy Erroll Garner his first professional paying job. Additionally, he was producing live radio programs for WCAE, WJAS, and WWSW.
He started George Heid Productions in the mid 1930’s – Pittsburgh’s first recording studio. Using on-location equipment he made the first recordings of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He recorded early pivotal music career dates for Billy Strayhorn, Marylou Williams, Henry Mancini, Erroll Garner, George Benson, and Fred Rogers. He was appreciated as a warm, sincere and creative individual by all who worked with him.
He founded George Heid School of Radio and Television Arts in 1948. Acclaimed graduates of his school include national sportscasters Dick Stockton, Ray Scott, plus numerous other personalities such as Henry Debecco, Perry Marshall, Marie Torre, Eleanor Schano, Nick Perry, and Ray Lehman.
He moved his recording studio in 1948 to larger, state-of-the-art facilities on the Club Floor of the William Penn Hotel. George Heid Productions became the place to record music. Many of Pittsburgh’s finest artists became regulars at the studio like Johnny Costa, Bobby Cardillo, and Loren Mazel, Walt Harper, Shirley Jones, Michael "Dodo" Marmarosa, Danny Conn, Eddie Jefferson, George Benson, the Skyliners, El Capris, Marcels and the Del Vikings made memorable if not historical recordings there.
With all the activities he managed, he always left the door open to performing. He sang in the Church choir, or was asked to sing the national anthem at many prominent events. He also sang in a fine Barber Shop Quartet. He was Master of Ceremonies at the Allegheny County Fair in South Park for many years. As Dave Garroway (creator of the Today Show for NBC said of George Heid… 'He's the most versatile, creative man I know in show business".
Finally, his most enduring performance was playing the roll of Santa Claus. Perhaps it was his fine tenor voice that bellowed forth the Ho Ho Ho Santa laugh. To be certain it was the sincere sparkle in his eyes along with his warm smile and genuine love for all children that made him Pittsburgh's most beloved Santa. For many years he played the much cherished Santa for Paul Shannon's "Adventure Time" on WTAE Channel 4. But it was the volunteer charity work of playing Santa to hundreds of handicapped children throughout the Pittsburgh area that brought him his greatest joy. I, his son, was witness to many of these events and recall seeing the tears welling up in his eyes as he sang, with heartfelt love, "Toyland" to all those children's beaming smiles.
He was a great man and a great dad... he passed away 34 years ago and not a day goes by without there being something in my life that reminds me of him.