GREENVILLE – Roy and Sharon Harrison decided that this would be their last Christmas Open House, which took place on Dec. 22 at their home at 606 Central Ave.
By word of mouth and Facebook, people were invited to stop in and tour their home, in which every room is decorated in the Christmas spirit, not to mention on the exterior of the home.
The Harrisons have been doing this for 43 years and have enjoyed it immensely but feel it’s time to slow down in their golden years.
They started with a reindeer on the porch and roof, and it escalated from there.
“Our very first Santa and reindeer had the perfect spot on the roof,” Sharon said. “This was back in 1980. Forty-three years later, it has made its way back to the same spot. We gave this to our daughter, Jeanna, so she could use it after we had purchased a bigger Santa. It has been stored in the attic of their garage and has been very well taken care of. She and Arney brought this to the house today to put back up on the roof.”
She went on, “Discussions have been about this being the last year for us and to cut back on the outside decorating next year. It was only fitting that this Santa and reindeer made it back ‘home’ for this Christmas season. We thank Jeanna and Arney for sharing this piece of nostalgia with us. Memories that will always be there and no amount of money can buy. Priceless.”
“We started doing this for the kids more than anything,” said Roy, a retired Greenville police officer. “We put up a big Santa one time in 1993 and won second place in the city contest. We also won a first place honor, but I couldn’t find it (that report).”
The couple has lived at their address for 48 years.
“Rocky, our son, was five months old when we moved here,” said Sharon, who also noted that they won the Ladybug Garden Club award in 2015. “Now, we have five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Roy retired as a sergeant in 1998.
He and his wife, the former Sharon Lowman, have been married for 52 years. How did they meet? “I stopped her one night because her tail light was out,” Roy recalled.
Sharon added, with a slight grin, “He gave me 72 hours, but I wanted to meet him again. I still have that red ticket he gave me. I used to work for GC Murphy and had an apartment across from the State Theater. I went to the police station and asked if they could get me back into my apartment. The dispatcher sent Roy there. The landlord came over and thought I was in trouble.”
But she wasn’t.
In fact, the couple was married out of state at a later date.
Sharon, who later went to work for the local now-defunct Jamesway Store, graduated from Gettysburg High School in 1968, while her husband graduated from Versailles in 1964.
Each year, when a new grandchild comes along, they get an ornament, according to the Harrisons. And everyone gets to view their handiwork.
“It comes to life when the lights come on,” Sharon said. “It’s dark and gloomy when it goes down.”
Roy does most of the outside work on the decorations.
“He’s so particular,” said Sharon, who does all of the inside decorating.
Their children used to help but now have families of their own.
One of their memories involved a little boy who came out of nowhere to see their Santa on the roof.
“He was 7, maybe, and no parents around,” she recalled.
He asked for a new pair of shoestrings.
“I looked at the boy’s feet, and he had no shoestrings,” Sharon said. “I came into the house and found a pair of shoestrings in our junk drawer and gave them to the boy. He was the happiest child. That was at least 30 years ago, and we haven’t seen him since.”
They also remember a little girl with her parents visiting their lighted setup, and all she wanted was a little broom.
“I came into our closet and found a corn broom,” said Sharon, who was dressed in a Mrs. Claus cape at the time. “I took it to her, and she said, ‘Thank you, Mrs. Claus.’ We didn’t have our open houses at that time.”
Another special memory was when they had two real reindeer on their property, thanks to Mike Hartzell from Ansonia, who brought in the two animals, dubbed Jingle and Bell, into town on a trailer.
“We had so many here that night. It was packed. People walked down here from the Brethren Church to see them,” Sharon said. “I warned our neighbor, Chelsie Stout, that they were coming, and she came over and thanked me for letting her know.”
That was the only time there were live reindeer there.
Another memory involved twins Autumn and Brianna Dotson, who called the Harrison home the North Pole. They asked their grandmother, Joyce Dotson, to take them to the North Pole, but she said it is too far away.
“They are seniors this year,” Joyce noted. “They loved going to their house to see everything.”
Roy spent many Christmases up on the roof, standing by the lighted sleigh. However, he would never go up there if it was icy.
“I’m a fair-weather Santa,” Roy said.
The mailbox on the Harrisons’ front porch gets used quite a bit for various children to put their wishes in there. Nearby is a rocking chair, where Santa usually sits with a Christmas tree, a life-size snowman, and gifts close by.
There are nine rooms in the house, upstairs and downstairs, and each room is decorated in a particular theme. Among them are the kitchen with a gingerbread theme, Roy’s police vehicle display area, elves, Ohio State, and a National Lampoon movie on a TV with the Griswolds upstairs, and a Victorian area.
Where have they gotten their decorations?
“At the end of the year, we get discounted stuff,” he replied. “We have seven trees in the house and three outside. We usually have some blow-ups outside, and there is a merry-go-round. One of the life-size Santas inside was bought at a 90 percent discount at a Hobby Lobby store. There is still a lot of stuff we didn’t get out this year.”
Family is everything to the Harrisons. They enjoy Christmas movies, especially Hallmark, and yule-time music.
“One time, we all wore pajamas, and Rocky came dressed up as Cousin Eddie, and, one year, we took the kids to the Polar Express in Connersville, Ind.,” said Sharon.
On Christmas Eve, the family all comes to their house. Rocky reads “The Night Before Christmas.” And, they also stop to listen on the scanner for Brian K. Hathaway’s traditional announcement of Santa’s arrival in Darke County.
“Roy and I received the best Christmas present anyone could ever ask for this year,” said Sharon. “It wasn’t wrapped in any glitter paper, fancy bow, or ribbon. It came with smiles, lots of giggles, and so much laughter. We were so blessed with all 23 family members (including us) to spend a wonderful evening at Kings Island Winterfest. The weather was perfect, and the holiday spirit was in the air. The gift and love of family is something that you cannot buy from a store. Memories were made, and no price tag attached. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank each family member for making this a special Christmas.”
Next year, Rocky has the intention of taking the display out back for his own backyard, across from Dick Brown’s house, which always has an annual Christmas display on Requarth Road.