Roy Louttit had an idea something was up during the last big snowfall.
He was in his front yard, surveying the spectacular Christmas display he puts up every year. Four hundred and forty volts, thousands of lights, and this year a new addition. In the middle of it all, a white wooden ferris wheel about eight feet in diameter, glittering with lights and turning round and round. His heart swelled with pride, knowing the work that went into it.
But as he came closer he noticed something curious.
Footprints in the snow, leading up to the ferris wheel, then circling around it. Someone had shown keen interest in Roy’s creation, and now he was feeling a tug of suspicion. Living where they did, in the 8,800 block of Broadway, he made sure to bolt most of his display to the ground. But the ferris wheel was big and bulky, and who would take a ferris wheel?
On the evening of Dec. 28 Roy was next door visiting a sick neighbor, and came home shortly after nine. His wife, Wilma, spent most of that night knitting in the living room. She could hear cars slowing in front of their house, as they often did. Every once in a while, she noticed a flash of light.
“They’re taking pictures,” she thought.
Around 10:20 she got up to get more wool from another room. She glanced out the window and rushed back to the living room.
“Did you take the ferris wheel down today?” she asked Roy.
“No,” he replied. “It’s still out there.”
“Well no, it’s not,” she said.
Roy rushed into the front yard and looked with dismay at the spot on his lawn where the ferris wheel should have been.
He rushed back into the house and called the police. Then he put his head in his hands and wondered why? Why would someone do this?
“It was just a dream in my head,” he said with a smile when asked why he built it in the first place. “One night after last year’s Christmas, I went to bed and thought, ‘I’m building a ferris wheel for Christmas.’ And that’s what I did. Just a pipe dream, but it worked out to this.”
Louttit did it without a plan. All the 77-year-old former carpenter had was a picture in his mind and a boatload of skill.
“It was all up here,” he laughed, pointing to his noggin. “I just got it started, and one thing led to another.”
From start to finish, construction took about a year, with Wilma scowling through most of it.
“He spent so much time doing that, nothing else got done around the house or yard,” she chuckled. “His whole heart was into that.”
But when it was done?
“Just beautiful, and you’d be surprised how many people stopped to take pictures of it,” Roy said. “But then, for somebody to destroy that, I hate that. That’s what hurts.”
The RCMP found the ferris wheel the next morning, way out on Banford Road, stripped of several light strings and dumped over a fence. He needed a flat-bed truck to get it back to his workshop, and he stood beside it Monday afternoon assessing the damage.
“Every one of these is pressure weighed, so you get a complete balance of the wheel,” he said, pointing at the spokes that he cut and measured with care. “Every one of these seats is balanced too, so when the wheel turns they stay vertical. But now it’s all full of grass and dirt and the wheel has to be rebuilt.”
Right after it happened, Roy was so distraught that he considered throwing in the towel.
“People love to stop and look at it, and the young kids really blow up, and I do it for them people,” he said. “But with this thing gone I was just about ready to call it quits.”
At this point Roy teared up and walked away, leaving Wilma to continue.
“He was ready to give up and not do it anymore, and I said, ‘Don’t let ‘em beat you,’” she said.
They went to a local store the Sunday before New Year’s and snapped up some new lights at 70 per cent off.
“We got them for $65,” she grinned. “At regular price it would have cost $500.”
The most important purchase will come later. No matter how much it costs, Wilma is pledging to have security cameras installed in time for next Christmas.
It’s sad that such a thing is necessary, but she’s not letting Roy go through this again.
“If someone comes into our yard next year they’d better smile, because they’ll be on camera,” Wilma said. “But we’ll have a Christmas display up again next year, you can bet on it. Too many people enjoy it too much for us to stop.”