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Growing Up Santa

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Something I Never Thought About

Last week I gave an interview to a regional publication for their upcoming December issue about being a real fulltime Santa Claus. It was the typical type interview discussing my life growing up as Santa and being able to make it a fulltime career. I do know that very few have had the opportunities and the good fortune that has been unfolding in my life ever since I was 4 years old. During the conversation with the reporter, he asked what I plan on doing when I retire. The question really threw me. Unlike 99% of other Santas who become the character while working a different job and made it a hobby/part time thing or a guy who retires from years of work someplace to grow a real beard and then Santa becomes his retirement hobby/job, I have only been a professional year round Santa. The question of retiring from Santa was a good one. I am a little over a year from turning 50 years old and the Santa business has been very good to me. DeAnn and I have made some good investments, so planning for that part of our future is secure. Like most everyone else there is always some sort of health issues that can or could pop up. But that is under control too. So the question goes back to what the reporter asked… “What are you going to do when you retire?” Well, as odd as it seems to some, I don’t want to be Santa forever. In fifteen to seventeen years when I am in my mid 60s I do plan on retiring from the professional world of Santa. Most folks retire from being a labor, lawyer, teacher, accountant or such but does someone really retire from being Santa? When I retire that is preciously what I will be doing. DeAnn and I look forward to just traveling and enjoying not doing anything at all. I’ll let my hair and beard grow out and then go fishing. And as for Santa, well I look forward to having him go back to being what he was to me before I became him…a magical and inspirational elf that brings the message of love, hope, and peace in a sometime dreary world. And I think that I will appreciate Santa more by not being him. At one time I thought 50 years old was a long way away. But it is sneaking up on me. Retirement is a while away, at least for now, but with all aspects of life you have to plan ahead.

Legendary Santa Claus

Legendary Santa Claus

 

Writings Request

I received an e-mail from a Santa friend that requested that I post some of the writings that I have done and he could not find. All these writings have appeared in threads here at ClausNET at one time or another and are here somewhere on the ClausNET server. So to honor the request here are a few…all in one place. They are in the order that they were written. Toys for Tots (2003) My wish for you this Holiday from deep down in my heart, Is for all good and happy things the Yuletide imparts. I wish you peace and hope with prosperity and happiness too. With love and comfort for your family and those close to you. Little boys and girls full of Christmas fantasy and dreams, Are helped out today by Santa's friends the United States Marines. And all the wonderful people who help them with their cause, to give a child a toy from dear old Santa Claus. Christmas has a meaning its message is clear to see, The children are our future that's the way it’s suppose to be. Each child that we see has an important part to play, It is up to all of us to help them on their way. I thank you for helping the "toys for tots" and the Marines today, And all the special things you do to help children learn to play. The Holidays are magic for all of us to enjoy, You made a Christmas special by giving a child a toy. What Matters… (2008) One hundred years from now, it will not matter... What kind of beard you had, traditional or real... What kind of suit you wore, velvet or wool... How much money you charged or if you charged at all... Nor the events you appeared... Or what group you belonged… What matters is… That you played Santa with honesty and integrity… You shared with your peers to help foster fellowship… Your conduct exhibited was worthy of Santa… But most importantly what matters… Knowing that you are blessed to have the opportunity to make the world be a little brighter and better because, as Santa, you were important in the life of a child. Santa Hears of the News (2008) T’was months before Christmas when all across the land, Santas sat in anticipation of what might be written from a journalist’s hand. The media has gotten wind from Kansas City way, of a story that has been building for many a day. The Santa world it seems has been out of tilt, as accusations fly about of innocence and guilt. The money, the plans, the behavior and such, has driven Santa’s sleigh through so much more than muck. “I want retribution and an apology!” some Santas say, but is it past that point? Is there really a way? If the law has been broken it is a legal affair, If no law were broken lets clear the air. Can anything be changed at this stage of the game? Or shall we all continue with this problem with all the same? What has happened in the past has left all Santas hurt, From this point on stop bringing it up and stirring up the dirt. It takes a special person to let hurtful feelings fall away, but it might be the only way to start a new day. The truth of this matter is already known, by the people who lived it in their hearts and their home. It really does not matter what the Wall Street Journal writes or who the public blames, for the opinions of those involved, on both sides, will always remain the same. Santa Claus Oath (2008) I will seek knowledge to be well versed in the mysteries of bringing Christmas cheer and good will to all the people that I encounter in my journeys and travels. I shall be dedicated to hearing the secret dreams of both children and adults. I understand that the true and only gift I can give, as Santa, is myself. I acknowledge that some of the requests I will hear will be difficult and sad. I know in these difficulties there lies an opportunity to bring a spirit of warmth, understanding and compassion. I know the "real reason for the season" and know that I am blessed to be able to be a part of it. I realize that I belong to a brotherhood and will be supportive, honest and show fellowship to my peers. I promise to use "my" powers to create happiness, spread love and make fantasies come to life in the true and sincere tradition of the Santa Claus Legend. I pledge myself to these principles as a descendant of St. Nicholas the gift giver of Myra. Santa’s Sadness (2008) Santa sat in his chair with a newspaper at his side, reading of the story of Santas fighting far and wide. Unrest had come to the jolly old one, questioning himself on what should be done. Troubled and tired he stared into space, his fingers trembled as a tear rolled down his face. Shaking his head and thinking out loud… “This is not good. I thought we all were part of the same brotherhood?” “When you put on that suit to represent me, you have to leave out all the hostilities.” “I know there has been confusion and distrusted claimed acts, but its time to move on and build a new pact.” “A pact of putting this whole issue behind, let the healing begin. It is time.” “A new trust in Santa and Christmas as a whole, If you don’t like an old organization let it go.” “Find a group that fits your needs and course, stop beating up on that old horse.” “There may be things that I cannot understand or answer, but if this keeps up it will spread like a bad cancer.” “I am not the one who can judge as I even don’t want to look, I don't keep a list or a good or bad book.” “You see the man that I work for is also very, very sad And he, he alone, not me, will judge of the good and the bad.” Through the Eyes of a Child (2008) I remember being almost three when I sat upon Santa's knee. He was a lot bigger than I had imagined him to be. As I sat there I started to cry, really not knowing the reason why. He was nice, jolly, tender and mild… I was too young to realize all the while, I had just met Santa through the eyes of a child. When I got older and went to school, some of the other children told me that I was being fooled. "Santa is not real." some of my friends said, "Your parents put out the toys when you fall asleep in bed." I asked my big brother what he thought about what I heard. "Of course Santa is real." He reassured. On Christmas morning there was no doubt, Santa had come with presents all about. I saw the belief in Santa through the eyes of a child. Years later, married, with a family of my own, I experienced a part of Christmas that only a parent knows. Each of our children has a wish from Santa for Christmas Day; they want books, candy and toys for play. We tell them to be good, behave and don't fight, for Santa is watching you all day and all night. When the big day comes and the moment arrives, my children wake me up in the morning at a quarter of five. I saw the magic of Santa through the eyes of a child. Now that I am older with my children all grown, each of them now has a family and a house of their own. We gather each December to celebrate our traditions with stories, stockings and cookies in the kitchen. I as sit in my rocker, getting ready to read, my youngest granddaughter crawls upon my knee. "Twas the night before Christmas…" as the poem goes; I look at all my granddaughter with her face all a glow. I see something in her eyes from a long, long time ago… I see the legacy of Santa through the eyes of a child. A Prayer for the Sick (2009) Heavenly Father, Please comfort and bless our fellow brother in red, Santa xxxxxx. Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort him with a sense of thy goodness; and give him patience. In thy good time, restore him to his Santa stature so he may continue providing the spirit of Christmas for all children and adults he may encounter. We ask for your blessing on Santa xxxxxx and all that pray for him. Amen. The Borrowed Gift (2009) Charles Howard once stated that “being Santa Claus is a privilege and an honor.” Charles was right in all aspects of his statement. When a person takes on the persona of Santa Claus or Mrs. Claus, they step into a life that is steeped with legend, folklore and tradition. The window of opportunity to be Santa Claus in one’s own life is short, with a few exceptions, and is a gift. How is being Santa a gift? Some how, some way, a person gets a calling from some power that drives that individual to seek out the enjoyment of being Santa. This calling can come at anytime in life…I am proof of that. This calling is the gift. The gift may come to you in your teenage years, your forties or like most in your fifties. How it starts is as unique as the individual who receives the gift of being Santa. The gift becomes the spirit that dwells and lives in your heart. It grows as you grow and gain experience. The gift started with St. Nicholas and the legends that developed into Santa Claus folklore. The gift evolved throughout the centuries. Then in 1890, James Edgar became the first known department store Santa. All of 130 years later, tens of thousands all across the World have taken up the gift. Santa is a gift, a gift that has passed from generation to generation. The gift has no one owner and the gift is not given without sacrifice. When our days upon this earth are done, the gift will leave us and pass into part of our individual collective being, along with our other earthly endeavors. Being Santa Claus is a gift to be cherished…and the gift is only ours to borrow. The True Gift of Christmas (2009) What started two thousand years ago with a gift from above, was given to all mankind with unconditional love. It was given to all who would accept its mysterious beauty and joy, when a virgin mother gave birth to a little baby boy. The little boy’s life was like no other ever recorded on stone, paper or clay. He taught us many a lesson on life as he went through his days. During his Passion he fully gave of himself to all others, as he laid down the gift of his life for the sins of his sisters and brothers. Long ago his birth was made a day of mass and commemoration, which is celebrated by men, women, and children of every nation. His simple birth is a reminder of what is true, pure, and believed; that it is genuinely truly better to give than to receive. Centuries have come and gone; with man adding secular traditions to his birth; there are Santas, sleigh bells, candy canes and gatherings with much mirth. Sometimes we forget what was given from above, Keep CHRIST in CHRISTMAS; THE TRUE GIFT OF GOD’S LOVE. The Truth (2010) Everyone will experience the consequences of his own acts. If his acts are right, he’ll get good consequences; if they’re not, he and others will suffer for his dishonesty. One should rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud. – Et al; Best of Success. The Knights of St. Nicholas (2010) More information added at Knights of St. Nicholas Note: This is not a new Santa group. It is a basic philosophy that can be a common thread to link the pre-existing groups together. The strength of the Santa Community is in its local and regional groups/meetings. That is where the concept begins. If we can all agree on some basic building blocks and fundamentals, we can start to understand each other and start to move in a direction that is supportive and positive in our community. We believe most Santas, Mrs. Clauses, and helpers just want honesty, trust, and fellowship from their /and or a Santa group. We do need to demand certain things of each other as the mission statement says. This is a new approach working into what is already established in our culture of internet / regional groups. By linking core values, maybe as a society of Santas, we can attain peace among ourselves. Mission Statement For God, Christmas, and the true sincere Legend of Santa Claus, we associate ourselves together as the Knights of St. Nicholas for the following purposes… To uphold the principles of the Santa Claus Oath in our thoughts, actions, and words. To maintain dignity and respect for all people no matter what race, creed, religion or faith. To not be intimidated to stand up for the basic elements of truth, sincerity, and responsibility. To foster, demand, and perpetuate one hundred percent accountability to ourselves and our brethren who belong to the greater Santa Claus Community. To pledge to keep ourselves above reproach to the best of our abilities. To think and act like Santa Claus as much as possible, not taking advantage of the role for unethical motives and dishonorable intentions. We will preserve the memories and stories of our departed associates with respect. We shall not forget those whom have come before us and passed the traditions to us. We accept our responsibility to them by fostering new Santas, Mrs. Clauses, and Elves to join one of the pre-established local, regional or national Santa groups. We acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas and will seek to participate in volunteerism in our villages, towns, and cities proving our dedication that it is better to give than to receive. We will promote peace on earth and goodwill towards all men, women, and children everywhere. We will sanctify the Spirit of St. Nicholas by committing to our Santa groups by our devotion to the mutual understanding that we are mere human beings, but as a brotherhood, we represent something much larger and extraordinary…the opportunity and privilege to be Santa Claus. We pledge ourselves to remain true and not falter when challenges to our mission occur and to be faithful to our mission and to each other. Goals of the Knights of St. Nicholas To Interface and work within the established Santa Claus Community groups to: Invite all established groups and their members to participate in a philosophy that links us all together by setting basic values and morals as the corner stone of our overall Santa Claus Community. Work together in spreading the availability of resources and information throughout the established communities. Increase cross participation within the established groups. Demonstrate to all the individual groups and organizations our commitment to the entire Santa Claus Community. Recognize those groups and individuals that dedicate themselves to the mission. Participation in the Knights of St. Nicholas is completely voluntary to individuals and groups. Core Values of the Knights of St. Nicholas We must have the Belief in ourselves when we undertake challenges to our community. We must have Courage to face the difficulties. We must have the Desire, as nothing is impossible to a willing heart. We must strive for Excellence in doing the very best each and every time. We might stumble, but we must accept Failure as the new building blocks to achieve new opportunities. We must set reasonable Goals to accomplish our reality. We must only accept Honesty, as not being honest only hurts all of us. We must use our Imagination to see the possibilities of our dreams. We must Love one another, as even in hardship love and truth shine through. We must seek and look for Opportunity in the Santa world to better ourselves in our communities. We must have Persistence to overcome obstacles and the ability to push forward. We must take and have Responsibility as the fulfillment of integrity, honesty, truth, and fellowship in our community. We must have Accountability to our community. We must find Forgiveness for honest mistakes. We must strive for Loyalty in our community and each other. We must have Understanding when transgressions are asked to be healed. Misconduct and Unscrupulous Deeds are not to be Tolerated We as a unity need to hold ourselves and each other accountable for any actions that bring disgrace, dishonor, and infamy to our community. We as a community shall not tolerate any individuals or companies that discredit and degrade the good name of Santa Claus by their actions and deeds. We will not be a police force, we will not be a judge and jury, but we will ask for accountabilty as a community. Code of Conduct and Ethics of the Knights of St. Nicholas Display ethical behavior in the presentation of the Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus characters to the public and in our conduct as portrayers, including not interfering with or jeopardizing the performance of another Santa Claus or Mrs. Claus either through personal intervention or the unauthorized use of acquiring his contracted appearance. Be true to the religious aspect of Christmas, be true to the traditional customs of Christmas, and be true to your conviction as Santa Claus or Mrs. Santa Claus. Recognize and have respect for rights of the creators, authors, and owners of Santa Claus or Mrs. Santa Claus concepts, presentations, and literature, and their rights to have exclusive use of, or to grant permission for the use by others of such creations. Dissuade false, dishonest, and misleading methods in the recruitment of Santas, Mrs. Clauses, and Helpers for personal or financial gain. Encourage the honest and truthful fellowship of all Santas, Mrs. Clauses, and Helpers. Hold ourselves and each other accountable for misconduct by encouraging communication, tolerance, and telling the truth. Oppose the willful exposure to the public of any secrets of the Santa Claus Legend and any attempt to destroy the hope, belief, and magic of children of all ages. Be responsible for our personal actions be it good or bad. Support each other in true, clean, and honest business practices. Encourage volunteerism in the true Spirit of Christmas. Promote the humane treatment and care of reindeer or any livestock used in a Santa Claus or Mrs. Santa Claus appearance. Refrain from the use of alcohol, tobacco or foul language while in character. More Information Coming Soon... The Pillars of Knighthood Knighthood Foundation in the Local and Regional Santa Groups Missions and Quests to be a Knight of St. Nicholas Note: Suggestions are welcome as this is a work in progress. The Knights of St. Nicholas' overview (above) is a added document to the Santa Claus Oath Foundation and is covered by numerous permissions and service registrations. The proceeding writings are either copyrighted or are registered with Creative Commons License Protection2008 & 2009 by Phillip L. Wenz

Legendary Santa Claus

Legendary Santa Claus

 

Holly

Just a very special kid. I have one child and she is a wonderful young lady in her early twenties. Holly is part of not only my life and family; she is part of my Santa Claus world. As a child she came out to Santa's Village to see me and enjoyed the park. She knew that I "helped" Santa. When I did have a day off, I would take her around the park and enjoy Santa's Village just as any other parent would. I often wonder how she felt about having a father that was basically Santa all the time. Other fathers were firemen, managers and such, but hers is a year round Santa…all of her life. She could not tell her friends as no one would believe her. Think about it. Here is a child who has been to Santa's House, seen the frozen North Pole, feeds the reindeer, rides in a sleigh and can do it when ever she pleases. (Thanks to all the props at the park.) I was always busy at Christmas time of course. She would come see me at one of the locations I might be working at. I travel a lot and did back then too, so I was rarely home during the Holiday Season. I imagine her memories of childhood at Christmas are "Dads gone again." Which I was. I can count on one hand the Christmas Eves and Christmas Days she and I have been together. I do believe her childhood was tainted by me and my job. My wife and I told her there was a "real Santa" but I don't think the magic of Santa was ever there for her. How could it be? I did take her to see Santa when she was little, but you could see it in her eyes she wasn't buying it. After she grew up a bit, Holly often joked that if she wanted to see me all she had to do was walk into any mall and I would be sitting in center court. Our memories of Santa relate to her and I doing things together. Each year for about eight or nine years, I would photograph her sitting in Santa's Chair by herself at the park. I now have my daughter growing up in pictures in that chair. She filmed a couple commercials with me along with some print work. I was asked by some other Santas why I just didn't try to hide the fact I was Santa from Santa's Village. That way she could enjoy the magic. How would she feel though when she found out? The daughter of a very famous Santa once told me to never hide the facts of what I do from her. In the long run, that was the best advice I ever got. Today, I think Holly has some very fond memories of Santa and the experiences she got to have. She has a unique perspective on the whole issue. The day she was born she was Santa's daughter and the same is true to this very day. She sees me every now and then in full regalia and when people get excited to see "Santa" she just smiles and says, "That's just my Dad." Thanks Holly for sharing and this "Santa" will always keep your name in his good book.

Legendary Santa Claus

Legendary Santa Claus

 

A Tale of two Santas

I am known as the "Santa from Santa's Village" ...but to me there is only one Santa Claus that is really Santa from Santa's Village and that man is Don Goers. An Algonquin, Illinois native, Don first came to Santa's Village in 1959 as part of the maintenance department. He started to help out "Santa" that same year by playing the part to give a day off to the main Santa. He is among the original gentlemen who played the role at the park in 1959. Goers made "Santa" his own in 1966 taking the role over fulltime that year. As Santa, he invoked a jolly demeanor that was more a reflection of his personality making him a natural for the character. His wide smile and hearty belly laugh is was his trademark. Spending twenty years at Santa's Village in the maintenance department and then as Santa, Goers saw the park grow from just a few rides and attractions to the addition of the Polar Dome and the "Coney Island " section. Each year, tens of thousands of children visited him in Santa's House and throughout the park. Leaving the park in 1979, he returned only once to be Santa again. It would be in 1994 on the 35th anniversary year of the park. I met Don Goers as a child many years before I was to t become his successor. I would not meet him again until the Christmas of 1993 at Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee, Illinois. I was the opening day shift Santa that year. Sometime during the course of that Christmas Season while out shopping, Don and his wife came up to the Santa set at the mall and started to have a small conversation with the photo operation manager. After this conversation, Don came up and introduced himself to me. Of course hearing his name I knew exactly who he was. We chatted for a minute and I asked if he would stick around a few minutes as my shift was about to end. He agreed. After I was out of costume, Don, his wife and I sat in my dressing room talking about Santa and Santa's Village. We had a lot in common. The conversation lasted about an hour when we exchanged phone numbers. Spring of 1994 saw Santa's Village celebrate 35 years of being a landmark in the Northern Fox River Valley. As the park's season progressed, I thought it would be neat if I could have Don come back for a day and be Santa once again at Santa's Village. After a few phone calls between us and he agreed. June saw Santa Don Goers return to Santa's Village. The day started off with me meeting Don in the main office. (It wasn't like he didn't know his way around.) From there I took him to the dressing room where he changed into his costume. When he walked out in full regalia as Santa, you could see a little smile beneath his moustache. Standing in front of me was the Santa that I knew as a child. Santa Don and I went out of the dressing area and over to Santa's House. I opened the door for him and for the first time in 15 years, Don was back "home" once again. He sat in Santa's chair and rapped his knuckles on the chair. It was of course the same chair that he and all who ever played the character had sat in. I left Santa's House for a few minutes and when I came back, I glanced in the window. It was strange feeling peering into the house. There was Santa, in his house, just as I remembered him as a child. Walking inside, I felt as I had just traveled back into time. Don Goers had changed himself into Santa Claus and he had change me into a little boy once again. It was magic. Don played Santa all day that day. A few newspapers came out to interview him. It was his day, but it was also my day. It is not too often that two people form different eras have a chance to interact and share some of the same experiences. Each of us got to go back in time for a brief moment. In age we are 38 years apart, but in the Santa's Village world we share so much and the same role. We will always be connected by that common bond. I still see Santa Don every now and then. I enjoy the conversations and enjoy the fact that we have the opportunity to talk about the park. Of all my days at Santa's Village, the day I got to "re-visit" with Santa is by far my most cherished.

Legendary Santa Claus

Legendary Santa Claus

 

Memories of Watseka, Illinois

I came across some old photos and articles the other day about my early years in Watseka, Illinois and playing Santa there as a teenager. They brought back quite a few memories and how lucky I am to have had these wonderful opportunities at such a young age. As some of you know I have been playing Santa in public since I was four years old, as a little Santa at the hospital where my Dad was the administrator, at local nursing homes and at school parties. By 1977 I was a six foot tall freshman in high school when the local chamber of commerce approached my father to ask if I might be interested in being the official Santa Claus for their annual Christmas Parade and Santa House promotion. My Dad wasn't sure. I was a fourteen year old kid. Sure I did this Santa thing, but this was a paid job with a lot of stuff that went with it. When my Dad talked to me about it I did not know what to think. Could I do it? What were the hours? What would my friends think? The decision was all mine to make. I thought about it a lot and finally said yes. Santa House would be open everyday from the Saturday after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. The hours were Saturdays were 9am to 5pm, Sunday noon to 5pm and weekdays 3:30 pm until 8 pm. I would be in the Parade and have some other obligations as well. I would be paid $3.00 an hour. Even my schedule at school was change to allow me to get out early to work. As Thanksgiving approached and my big day came near I grew nervous. I almost backed out, but my desire to be a professional Santa drove me. I knew I had some experience, a whopping ten years at the time. The day of the Parade I was surprisingly relaxed. My Mom and Dad on the other had were not. I believe they knew that this might be that start of something. I had a dressing room in the basement of one of the local stores. My Dad came down to see me before the Chief of Police picked me up to drive me to the sleigh I was to ride in. Dad reminded me that this might be the first step to bigger things. Just enjoy yourself and the experience your about to have. He gave me a hug and went to find a spot on the street to watch. The Parade that day in 1977 went off without a hitch. I did eight Parades and Santa House promotions for the chamber from 1977 through 1984. From a 14 year old freshman in high school to a 22 year old young man. Those eight years in Watseka helped me with getting hired with my first job with Instant Photo Corporation of America in 1985, which led to Santa's Village in 1986. They also led me to a career as Santa. I would do a ninth Parade in Watseka in 2001. It was for my 20th high school class reunion. I have done a lot of Santa things in the last 31 years since that Christmas. But nothing will be like that first feeling of turning the corner onto the parade route in Watseka that day. Dad was right…it was the first step.

Legendary Santa Claus

Legendary Santa Claus

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