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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

Scales gets jolly 'job' for museum Christmas

 

Last updated 12/12/2023 at 8:58pm

Devin Nolan brought his pups Payson' and Dharma to see Santa Claus at Heritage House's Santa Paws event on the back deck Sunday. The museum's historic Sims house is decorated for the season and Santa will make his annual appearance inside to talk with children on Thursday, December 14, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. as the museum holds candlelight tours. Heritage House is on West Division Avenue in Orange, a block west of the county courthouse.

When Larry David passed away in 2020, he left some big boots to fill, along with a red velvet suit and a beard. James Scales made the fit.

The Bridge City native and descendant of two Orange County pioneering families, has now become Santa Claus for Heritage House Museum and the annual Orange Christmas Parade.

He will be appearing at Heritage House's Candle Light Tours Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The museum's main house is a restored 1902 two-story house built by J.O. Sims and furnished as an upper-middle-class home.

Heritage House began the tradition of an annual visit with Santa when it first opened in 1978. Larry David, one of the museum's founders, volunteered to be Santa and continued the role for more than 40 years.

Scales after the loss of David, members of the Heritage House board asked if he would volunteer. He agreed and that first year, wore a costume owned by Heritage House, but without David's personally-owned beard, wig and hat.

Scales stepped into the position without realizing the museum and public will continue to expect him. "I get the feeling now" it's a lifelong gig, he said.

After his first year, his mother, Donna Dorman Scales, bought him his own costume with beard, wig, and hat. "She wanted to make sure I look good," he said.

One of his first regulars was his niece, Stella Scales, who is now accompanied by her little sister, Indie. Scales said Stella, now 6, looked at him closely and curiously the first couple years. Last year, she figured out Santa was portrayed by her uncle.

Scales said he's not sure Indie knows, yet, but he suspects Stella has blabbed to her little sister.

This year for the first time, Heritage House sponsored a Santa Paws event. This past Sunday afternoon, Santa, on a back deck on the Heritage House campus, posed with dogs. Many of the dogs wore Christmas outfits and they got homemade doggie treats.

On Thursday, Santa will be visiting inside the old house and sitting on a carved chair to greet children. He said he loves listening to the little ones talk about their Christmas wishes and dreams.

Scales is a graduate of Bridge City High School and his mother was the longtime parks director for Orange County. His father was the late Bridge City businessman Jimmy Scales, who served as city judge.

James Scales' main job is director of the Orange County Health Department and included restaurant inspections. In addition, he holds the elected position of being on the board of directors for the Orange County Drainage District, an independent agency outside regular county government.

He now serves as a Heritage House board director and on the citizens advisory board for the local Salvation Army. He also volunteers with the Orange County AgriLife Extension office's HOPE program. A couple of years ago, he was named by a Beaumont organization as one of the Top 40 Under 40 leaders for the region.

He can also add another accomplishment as a prize-winning photographer. During the summer, he attended National Environment Health Association's convention. The photo he took while on his job as a health inspector had won first place in the food safety category. It was a dead pig, "ears and and all," in a restaurant cooler.

Santa, though, won't be concerned about refrigerator surprises on Thursday night, but he's probably giving the free cookies and punch a little taste test.

 

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