Winter, spring, summer and fall, Santa spent many happy seasons welcoming travelers to Carpinteria. The street that eventually became Santa Claus Lane began its famous history as a segment of the old coastal highway, a portion of which was purchased by the McKeon family in 1948. The McKeons ran a juice stand on the site and used a Santa Claus costume to wave travelers off the road for a refreshing juice during the Christmas season. In their second year of business, the McKeons were visited by a man offering to build a Santa Claus on the roof for $500. They accepted the proposal, and a jolly era began for the beachside business community.
Once Santa capped the building, the attention received by the McKeons’ business warranted an expansion. Tourist buses stopped to fill up on date shakes, gift baskets full of Christmas kitch and beach shells. Construction on Highway 101 was completed in the early 1950s, and in 1954, the street graced by Saint Nick officially became Santa Claus Lane.
By that time, the big Santa was surrounded by a winter wonderland. A shopkeeper down the row had constructed a huge snowman atop his business, flying reindeer strung up to a telephone pole appeared to be making their Christmas Eve journey, and a 40-passenger miniature train filled with good little girls and boys wound its way through the buildings.
But Carpinteria’s version of the north pole eventually lost its luster. The train stopped running in the 1980s, the snowman went next and in January of 2003, a leaking, dry-rotted Santa Claus was removed from his perch. His roadside reign continues, however, and he happily waves to northbound freeway travelers from his Oxnard digs.