Richmond remembers own Santa
an era of increasing disillusionment, many children no longer
believe in Santa Claus, whom they see as "a Christmas-time huckster
of coffee-makers and used cars." But not in North Richmond, where
children have their "real-life Santa, Charles Reid."
Tribune writer Gerald Davis wrote those words around Christmas
1979, nine months after the death of the longtime Richmond recreation
director and mentor to two generations of North Richmond youths.
But the words were as up-to-date as ever at Sunday's annual Charlie
Reid Christmas Party at Shields-Reid Community Center, where
volunteers with the foundation that bears Reid's name, including
many from his own family, kept Santa alive, singing Christmas
carols, handing out gifts and playing Santa.
in its 59th year, the party is one of North Richmond's most enduring
Daddy started this when I was a little, teeny girl," said Reid's
daughter, Florence Reid-Randle, who presided over Sunday's event
with her sister, Ivy Reid-Lewis, and Reid-Lewis' son Todd Lewis,
Charles Reid's grandson. "Now I'm 71 and it's still going."
Lewis, who went to camp with the San Francisco 49ers, headed
a volunteer gallery of former National Football League players,
including Benny Barnes of the Dallas Cowboys, Gary Weaver of
the Oakland Raiders, Larry Bates of the Seattle Seahawks and
Greg Kragen of the Carolina Panthers
of the former players have roots in the North Richmond area.
NFL Players Association and other NFL-affiliated groups co-sponsored
the event along with several businesses including the family-owned
Omega Pacific Electrical Supply Co. of Richmond, where Lewis
is vice president. The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office and
the San Francisco and Contra Costa County fire departments provided
toys and other assistance, Lewis said.
Nicholas Betts of Davis Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal
Church thanked God for the gift of Jesus Christ, the memory of
Charles Reid and the kindness of Reid's family.
Vargas, one of Reid's earliest disciples who now lives in Antioch,
translated the proceedings into Spanish.
children sang "Deck the Halls," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Jingle
Bells" and took turns sitting on Santa's lap. Then came a drawing,
with the winners receiving bicycles and other large toys. Every
child got several gifts: a book, sweets, dolls, cars and other
toys. Last year, 1,000 children got gifts, Reid-Randle said.
On Sunday, there seemed to be even more children, said several
repeat visitors who were lined up awaiting their turn.
Rendon of Richmond, who came with her four children, said that
with unemployment and underemployment on the rise among friends
and acquaintances, Sunday's event helped fatten an otherwise
lean Christmas. Maria Velazquez of Richmond came with her husband
and two children in tow. With her husband unemployed, there is
little money for gifts this year, so Sunday's party was a godsend,
into a California pioneer family in 1898, Charles Reid moved
to Berkeley when he was 6, according to the Oakland Tribune article.
Reid became a star pitcher for the all-black semi-pro Pierce
Giants. With his semi-pro playing days over, he moved to Richmond
was watching a baseball game in Nicholl Park when someone asked
him to umpire, and he did so regularly from then on. In 1947,
Reid became recreation director; later that year, he put on his
first community Christmas party.
Oakland Tribune article, this one in 1975, dubbed Reid "the man
who helped build black sports in Richmond." In fact, Reid helped
kids regardless of their ethnicity.
Reid taught me how to play baseball, basketball, football, the
punching bag, jumping rope," said Vargas, 58, who later played
quarterback for the Dodge Boys, a North Richmond-based Latino
sandlot football team. "He taught me to be a good sportsman,
to go to school and not drink -- drugs weren't as prevalent then,
but he mentioned them."
never cursed and laid down the rules fairly but firmly, Vargas
you didn't have the right attitude, if you were a troublemaker,
if you were a bully, if you treated the little kids bad, you
were suspended from the playground for a day or two until you
changed your attitude," Vargas said.
remembered Reid fondly, down to his cocker spaniel, Sparky, who
entertained the kids by leaping through the water sprinklers
in the park. The man who taught him sports and sportsmanship
is his role model to this day.
was no angel; my halo was tarnished," Vargas said. "Mr. Reid
taught me to walk on spiritual ground."
Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Reid Foundation www.charlesreidfoundation.org