Posted in Oakland, People, Transportation

Santa Claus Rides the Bus

On Facebook, I have been sharing photos of holiday-themed AC Transit Coaches (Bus). In researching the tradition, I learned that Nickolas P. Alevizos played Santa Claus for more than 40 years. A bit of history here.

Nick P. Alevizos -In front of a 10 seater Model-A Motor Bus one of the original West Oakland Motor Buses – Undated AC Transit Photo

Santa Claus – St Nick

In December of 1960, AC Transit’s new streamlined “Transit Liners” went into service on Christmas Day.

AC Transit Photoflickr

A colorful parade called the “Travelcade of Progress” was held on the streets of downtown Oakland to introduce the new buses. The parade included all forms of East Bay public transportation since the horse and cable cars. 

AC Transit Times December of 1960

Alevizos led the parade as Santa Claus .

Alevizos became a legend by dressing as Santa Claus at wheeling through the East Bay in an AC-Transit holiday-themed decorated bus.  

Oakland Tribune 1964

He started playing Santa Claus in 1933 for the Shrine, Richmond Kiwanis Club, and at the Division 3 Christmas parties.

Oakland Tribune 1975

He also played the roles of Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, and Uncle Sam on the year’s appropriate dates. But Santa Claus remained his most extended running role, beginning in 1933.

Oakland’s Early ‘Jitney King’

Oakland Tribune May 23, 1971

A transportation pioneer in the East Bay, Nichols P. Alevizos, in 1921 started a jitney bus service. The major Oakland Jitney route was 7th Street from Pine Street to Clay Street. There were 16 jitneys and 16 drivers on the run, with 15 in use each day and the 16th taking the day off.

West Oakland Motor Bus Lines 1928 – AC Transit flickr

Alevizos organized a jitney association in 1924 and became its first and only president. In 1928 the association bought 8 Model A Ford buses. The association was named West Oakland Motor Bus Lines.

Oakland Tribune 1929

In 1935 Alevizos sold the company to the Key System.  Part of the deal made by Alfred J. Lundberg, Key System president, was for Alevizos to have a lifetime supervisor job with the company.

Oakland Tribune 1934

He served as superintendent of the Key System and later AC Transits Richmond Division. His career spanned 56 years.

AC Transit Times December 1962

Retirement

Alevizos retired at the end of 1977, his career spanned over 56 years. He continued as Santa for 2 more years . He passed away in April of 2000.

History of the Holiday Bus

In 1963, AC Transit launched its first holiday-themed bus.  The “Candy Cane Express” was painted white and tied with big red bows.

AC Transit Times

In the years that followed, the Holiday Bus became more elaborate, with the vehicles being custom-painted and decorated with handmade wooden ornaments. By the mid-1960s, a full-size sleigh was installed on the roof, in which “Santa” would ride.

The 1966 “Santa Claus Express”AC Transit Flickr.AC Transit Times December 1966

There have been many versions of the Holiday Bus throughout the years. Decals and full custom vinyl wrap have replaced the custom paint jobs and bolted on decorations.

Santa’s Toyland – 1969 – AC Transit Times
Santa’s Workshop 1970 – AC Transit Times
Santa’s Express – AC Transit –
Winter Wonderland – 1979 – AC Transit Times
Santa’s Toyland – 1973 – AC Transit Times

This year’s (2020) theme is “Holidays Always Keep Their Sparkle.”

2015 Holiday Bus – ACTransit
2020 Holiday Bus – AC Transit

More Info:

Themes

  • Seasons Greetings – 1965
  • Santa Claus Express – 1966
  • Candy Cane – 1967
  • Happy Holidays – 1968
  • Santa’s Toyland – 1969
  • Santa’s Workshop – 1970
  • Santa’s Toyland – 1971
  • Santa’s Toyland – 1973
  • Happy Holidays – 1974-1975
  • Santa’s Toyland – 1976
  • Santa’s Express – 1977
  • Candy Cane Coach – 1978
  • Winter Wonderland – 1979

The End

Author:

I grew up in the Montclair District of Oakland, CA. I attended Thornhill Elementary School, Montera Junior High, Skyline High School, and spent some time at Merritt College.

2 thoughts on “Santa Claus Rides the Bus

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s