Remembering the True Santa of Chapman Street

by Ben Holder

The house at 507 South Chapman Street has been decorated at Christmas time by the same family for over 40 years.

Sometime in the late 1960’s Jack True and his wife, Jettie, were forced to move their family of two young sons, Jack Jr. and Roger, because the house they lived in caught on fire. The True family ended up finding a house to rent at 507 South Chapman St. What happened next started one of Greensboro’s oldest Christmas traditions that continues on to this day.

“Mamma wanted Daddy to decorate our house with lights and dress up as Santa and wave to people that drove by. Both of my parents loved Christmas,” said Roger True in a recent YES! Weekly interview. According to Roger, 507 South Chapman St. has been illuminated with Christmas lights since Thanksgiving eve of 1970.

Once Mr. Jack True stood outside his decorated house dressed as Santa it didn’t take long for people to take notice. “People would be lined up at the front of our house so their kids could see Santa Claus,” Roger said. Before the Sunset Hills neighborhood had even thought about lighting up their neighborhood with beautiful Christmas balls, 507 South Chapman St. carried the neighborhood’s decorating tradition.

“Our house became famous because of daddy dressing up as Santa and decorating our house,” Roger said. “He was written about in the 1970’s by Jerry Bledsoe, he was in that show PM Magazine. A bunch of people came by to do a story about him. Everyone knew about our house it seemed. One time a man that lived near us got hit by a car on our street and the News and Record reported that is was Daddy that got hit. People were always talking about us. We were famous.”

Early Christmas morning in 1976, Mrs. Jettie True died at home of a massive heart attack. “She had spent the entire day cooking Christmas Eve dinner. We all sat down to eat and everything was great. We were all ready for Christmas morning. She went to bed that night and died early Christmas day. I remember hearing my Daddy scream when he realized she had died,” Roger said.

Mr. True never remarried and he never moved from the house after his wife died. He also didn’t stop decorating the house or playing Santa either. The True family kept up the tradition their mother started and even started decorating for Halloween, Easter and even hosted backyard movies for the neighborhood.

However, in 1982 it appeared as if the True family would be forced to move again because the owner of the house they rented wanted to sell and had told the True family they would have to move. “I remember my Daddy sitting in the living room crying with his head in his hands because he didn’t want to move,” said Roger.

Once word got out about the True family’s situation, a woman named Sandra Boyle started a fundraising effort to help Mr. True buy the house he and his boys lived in. “She was the real estate agent in charge of selling our house. When she saw how sad my daddy was I guess she decided she would try to help him so we could keep living there. She put little jars all over town and people could donate their change or whatever into the jars. On Valentine’s day in 1982, she came over and told Daddy she had raised enough money for us to buy the house,” Roger said.

From that point on, the house has been a Christmas decoration for Greensboro. Mr. True kept playing Santa but as time went on his health deteriorated and he just wasn’t able to keep going. His son’s took over the family tradition, then Jack Jr. got married and moved out of the house. Roger remained there and lived with his father until his father died in 2003. Roger currently lives in his family’s home with his wife and two young kids and has been decorating it for Christmas since his father died. !