HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - It's a tradition dating back further than Red Allen can even recall. All he knows is he was young, and somehow found himself with a basket in hand loading up with Christmas lights to display on his home. “I enjoy doing it. People drive by here; they'll toot their horn, or stick their thumb up, holler," said Allen.
It's been a rainy week leading up to Christmas, Allen's lights are turned off while the outlets dry. His display is one he's proud of. He's worked hard on perfecting it. "I already have [the lights] here. Boom. I put up something else," said Allen.
The twinkle of the lights, "makes me feel good," said Allen. And the sparkle in the eyes of those gazing at the red and green are what keeps this 81-year-old war veteran putting up the lights. "I just enjoy doing for other people," he said. Even when old age is making it difficult; he's no quitter. "As long as I’m able to crawl out there and back. I'll do it. I will do it and be proud to do it," said Allen.
But his display isn't providing just enjoyment for passers-by, for two little youngsters, it's the gateway to a Christmas wish. "I looked in there and I saw these two pieces of paper," said Allen. "They thought this is where Santa Claus lived."
"Santa, I want an elf, but I don't think I will get one this year. Please get me one, I will name him patch. He will look like this," read the card.
"I love you. I love you to the moon and back. Keep an eye on me," said the other one.
In the decades he's been doing this, this is a first. Both letters written by children "just tore me up, from the floor up," he said, worried that, by what the letters said, these kids might not get a Christmas.
He admits he's not the real guy in red, but he's happy to be Santa’s helper this year, and take some of the load off, and make sure these kids get the Christmas they asked for. "I need to find out where they're at. They must be here close by. And if that's all they're asking for Christmas, and if I find them, they're going to have one hell of a Christmas," said Allen.