The Lone Wiseman

The Lone Wiseman

Unlike the Lone Ranger, who first emerged in disguise after surviving a wild shootout with the Cavendish Gang, a Lone Wiseman appeared peacefully at Christmas time a half century ago in our home. The Wiseman’s emergence was neither miraculous nor prophetic, but he became legendary never the less.

I was in the first grade as I recall and had saved a few cents from my allowance, which I was bent on using to purchase something for my mom for Christmas. When I spotted a set of The Three Wise Men in Palyocsik’s hardware store in town, I dejectedly realized that I didn’t have enough money to buy all three.

I remember vividly being in the store myself, so borrowing the difference was not an option. Remember, this took place at a time when it was perfectly safe for a six or seven year old to walk into a store in town without the accompaniment of an adult.

Although I was very young and quite naïve, I somehow managed to catch the glance that the clerk received from the owner of the store. It was a nod of approval, as they agreed to allow me to make the purchase of just one Wiseman, even though it meant breaking up the set. For some reason, fifty nine cents rings a bell as the negotiated price, but it was a long time ago and the actual price is not significant in this story.

What is noteworthy however is that Mrs. Palyocsik was willing to allow the transaction even though she fully knew that selling the remaining two Wise Men would be difficult to do.

I walked out of that store as proud as a young man about to surprise his fiancé with an engagement ring. As soon as I could, I wrapped the gift in a small white box, and placed a bow on the outside. Then I almost exploded with anticipation for Christmas Eve, when I finally placed the gift under the tree for Mom.

When my dad and mom heard the whole story behind the purchase, they seemed to appreciate my gift even more and they were grateful to the Palyocsiks for their kindness too. I think my dad may have gone down to the store later to thank them for their good deed and to see if the remaining two wise men were still available for purchase. They were not. I never did discover what happened to them. It’s possible that they were just taken home by the store owners and used as decorations in their house for the Holidays.

Without fail, Mom displayed that lone Wiseman every Christmas season for years. When I came home from college, he was there. After I married and returned at Christmas to visit with my wife, he was there. And when I returned to visit with my kids, he was always there. In fact he remained there, on display, riding his camel every year until about 10 years ago, when Mom felt the man should be moved to my home.

Since then, you guessed it - that lone Wiseman has been an annual exhibit in my home and my kids have cherished hearing and re-hearing the legend behind the lonely gentleman. Mom has since passed away, but the legend of my gift to her will continue.

This year I will sit with my grandchildren, and re-tell that story once again. Like all of my stories, it will end with the customary “and he lived happily ever after” conclusion.

You see, when a little boy with little money was granted an act of kindness by a business owner, it evolved into a cherished Christmas legend for an entire family. The lone Wiseman will be passed on in the future to my family too, and the story behind him will no doubt be told and re-told again for a long time to come.

Oh, and if you once resided in the Sidman, Pennsylvania area, and you happen to know of two Wise Men who may be missing a member of the trio, please let me know. A reunion of sorts is far overdue.

I hope you all have a merry Christmas and I wish you the very best for the New Year.

The Lone Wiseman as he's positioned in the right corner of this year's Nativity display

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA