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With visions of toys galore, kids line up to see old St. Nick

November 28, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Post-Thanksgiving shopping may mark the start of the Christmas season for adults, but for their children, it is the arrival of Santa Claus.

St. Nicholas held court in Valley Mall Saturday as dozens of young boys and girls lined up for a photograph and a chance to ask for their most-desired gifts.

Hagerstown residents Terry and Cherry Flaherty waited nearly 20 minutes by an empty chair in the middle of the mall.

"We're waiting for Santa Claus," Terry Flaherty said. "He's coming."

Finally, he came. And Emily Flaherty, 5, got a chance to tell the big guy what she wants most this year - a skateboard.

"I want to ride it on my nanny's blacktop," she said.

Emily's 2-year-old sister waited for St. Nick also. Their 7-month-old brother, Jack, did not appear as excited, but Emily insisted he won't be left out.

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"My brother wants baby toys," she said.

Hunter Heinlein, 3, made his second visit to Santa on Saturday. The Cincinnati resident was visiting his grandparents in Hagerstown and, well, it never hurts to reinforce your desires to the man in the red suit.

Hunter said he wants Emiglio, a remote-controlled robot. The toy has a tray, which is perfect for snacks.

"It brings Coke," he said.

"And Sprite," he added.

Hunter's sister, 5-year-old Sammie Heinlein, said she wants Garden Babies - "because I love babies" - and a Dalmatian coloring book.

Their mother, Tracey Heinlein, said there's no procrastinating when it comes to Santa.

"Once they see Santa the first time, they have to tell them what they want," she said. "Last year, they were real skeptical of Santa. It's old hat now."

Zachary Lucas, of Williamsport, came prepared. He carefully reviewed a sheet of paper on which he listed his requests.

Zachary covets the latest craze to sweep pre-teen America: Pokmon. He wants toys, games and anything else to do with the hit Japanese cartoon.

Ask him why, though, and he shrugs.

"I don't know," he said.

"When you're 5, you like things because everybody else does," said Zachary's grandmother, Barbara Eschblach, of Sharpsburg.

But has he been good? Will he pass muster when Santa double-checks that famous list of his?

Zachary mumbled in the affirmative, although he nervously flung his hands over his face.

Not everybody was into Santa. While Gary Lewis' grandson, Truss Rowe, was busy saying what he wanted, Lewis' granddaughter sat in her carriage.

"She didn't think too much of Santa," Lewis said.

The story was much the same at the Martinsburg (W.Va.) Mall, where Santa - how does he do it? - fielded more Christmas requests.

Justin Loy, 9, of Gerrardstown, W.Va., said he wants a Ferby and PlayStation games.

Courtney Thompkins, 8, of Baltimore, also wants a Ferby. She said she wants the movie "Grease" as well.

Anna Cragon, 9, of Huntsville, Ala., said Santa brought a baby doll, an Easy-Bake Oven and a Gameboy last year.

But this year, she has only one request: A boom box.

Sister Katherine Cragon, 11, said she wants a new watch, new jewelry "and just surprises" for Christmas.

The Santa trip was a bonus to a visit with her grandparents. Katherine said Santa had not set up shop yet at her local mall.

"I bet when we go home, he'll be there," she said.

The youngest Cragon sister, 4-year-old Emily, seemed shy. But her mother, Laura Cragon, said her daughter wants a Baby Kate doll. She predicted Emily would appreciate the Santa experience more this year.

"You're always old enough for Santa. But this year, it's a big deal," she said.

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