Estherville Daily News from Estherville, Iowa on December 8, 1972 · Page 15
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Estherville Daily News from Estherville, Iowa · Page 15

Estherville, Iowa
Issue Date:
Friday, December 8, 1972
Page 15
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Page 15 article text (OCR)

This cigarette was made by one of America's leading tobacco . companies. This cigarette was made by Mr. Dave Sloan of Bensenville, Illinois. OIV7I BROWN A WILLIAMSON TOBACCO CORPORATION a ^jV 5*e *Hai* t /3iuUity4lt SUacm SftvducU Santa Glaus Alive and well... in prison! R obert E. Harvey, convict #122-712 at the L Chillicothe Correctional Institute has in the short span of a single year become somewhat of a legend at this bucolic prison in southern Ohio. It all started at Christmastime in 1970 when the officials were searching for a convict to dress up as Santa Claus for the annual all-prison show. The unanimous selection was Bob Harvey. His 310 pounds and his jovial, outgoing personality made him the ideal choice. Bob Harvey made an immediate hit with the inmates as their Santa Claus. He enjoyed the role so much in fact that he hated to put the suit away when his brief appearance in the Christmas show was over. He was the first Santa Claus in memory who really looked and acted like a Santa Claus. Bob Harvey believed in his role. He "became" Santa Claus. And in the process of the masquerade something happened to Bob Harvey. A subtle change was taking place inside him. He liked the role of Santa Claus so well that he prevailed on his fellow Jaycee members in the prison chapter to get official permission to continue his "ho, ho, hoing" in the prison visiting room during the Christmas holiday visits. Harvey spent some of the happiest days of his life bringing joy into the wide-eyed faces of small children visiting their relatives in prison. Santa gave the children candy and posed with them for color polaroid pictures. Where there may have been fear and apprehension, Santa Claus replaced it with love and relaxed happiness. The Santa Claus project was so successful that the prison Jaycees wondered how they could continue the tradition and extend it somehow throughout the year. It was Harvey himself who made the next suggestion. "Why don't I dress up as the Easter Bunny?" And that's how Santa Claus ... I mean Bob Harvey . . . became the Easter Bunny. Harvey gave his measurements to a sympathetic and energetic inmate in the prison tailor shop and there soon emerged a 310 pound Easter Bunny. Once again Harvey submerged his own out-going personality into that of an affectionate, attentive Easter Bunny. The visiting children loved him. Another tradition was born. And Bob Harvey was learning some important lessons about giving himself freely and willingly to make others happy. Perhaps the fact that Bob Harvey was born in Toledo, Ohio on May 30th (Memorial Day) in 1930 had some effect on him. Bob quickly admits that he has spent most of his past twenty years in and out of Ohio prisons starting as a nine year old pre-delinquent by Lou Torek Convict Writer #122-712 Robert E. Harvey Alias: Santa Claus and working his way steadily up the ladder to become a full-time convict. Harvey's regular day-today job inside the prison is in the recreation department where he helps keep the grounds in shape for sporting events. On his own time he volunteers as a regulation sanctioned umpire in the Amateur Softball Association of America of the International Federation of Umpires. Bob teaches a class in umpiring to potential inmate umpires to help them as officially accredited umpires. Harvey began to notice people much more carefully as the result of his experience playing Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. He became more aware of the needs of others. His greatest thrill came when he encountered a real sourpuss and then watched as their over-all expression changed . . . slowly at first as a smile curled the corners of their mouth . . . and then lit up their entire face . . . and then seemed to radiate to their whole body changing their attitude from one of tension and fear and hostility ... to warm outgoing love and interest. As the Independence Day holiday drew near . . . Harvey was hard at work creating a new image. He bustled over to the tailor shop. He hurried to the clothing room. And he ended up in the Flag Shop . . . where all official flags for state institutions are made . . . and there emerged a 310 pound Uncle Sam. Harvey was at it again. This time he passed out small hand-sized American flags to visiting children. The flags were donated by members of the custodial staff. Harvey became thoughtful for a moment as he told me of the significance of what he was doing. "I really dig giving those flags to these kids," he said. "It looks like a toy to them . . . but it might help them to grow up with a real respect for the flag and what it stands for." "A man in prison isn't supposed to have much patriotism. He isn't supposed to love the country that did him so much dirt. Well, I can't agree. Although I may not agree with a lot that is going on — this is still my country. It's probably better than anything else in the world today. It's okay with me." Harvey has had a full year. It started as Santa Claus. It led him into the role of the Easter Bunny. And it brought him to a new awareness of his own deep patriotism as Uncle Sam. Harvey has time now to ponder the question . . . "Who is Bob Harvey?" He may even learn the answer to the question: "What is Bob Harvey?" Through masquerading as benevolent mythical figures Bob Harvey may be getting closer to his own truth than at any time in his life.

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