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Michael Rielly

Joyful memories of teaching the jolliest

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Michael Rielly

Joyful memories of teaching the jolliest

Punta Gorda resident Joy Merkel reflects on her friendship with Charles W. Howard and the years she taught his students how to dance at his Santa Claus School in Albion, N.Y.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Charlotte Sun and Herald

By Pamela Staik

EXCERPT:

PUNTA GORDA -- Joy Merkel couldn't help but smile as she grasped an aged, black-and-white photograph by the edges.

At a mere 5 feet tall, Merkel was shown in the 1960s-era photo kicking her right leg into the air as she held hands with two towering male students from the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Albion, N.Y.

"This was a very fun and wonderful time in my life," the 78-year-old Punta Gorda resident said, reminiscing on the seven years she spent teaching hundreds of men and women how to gracefully represent Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

With the school's dean being none other than Charles Howard, she said, that wasn't hard to do.

Howard, who was honored as the first inductee to the Santa Claus Hall of Fame, rose to fame as the bearded and jolly fellow in Macy's Annual Thanksgiving Day Christmas Parade, where he rode a sleigh-shaped float every year from 1948 to 1965.

While he also served as the technical adviser to Edmund Gwenn, the actor who played Santa in "Miracle on 34th Street," the man known worldwide as the Santa Claus embraced his love of the season and the role of Kris Kringle by starting an etiquette school for Santas in 1937.

The school, located on Howard's property called "Christmas Park," taught aspiring Clauses the ins and outs of the holiday business, with graduates receiving a Bachelor of Santa Claus degree upon completion.

The week long school featured several seminars, including those on the history of the jolly man, child psychology, toys, the art of makeup, how to care for and wear Santa costumes, and, of course, what dance steps every Santa and Mrs. Claus should know.

...

Merkel has kept all of the news stories and photographs, along with all her memorabilia from this time period. While most bring smiles to her face, there is one photograph that is still shocking for her to look at.

As she held up the photo in her Punta Gorda home, Merkel showed an image of her sharing a dance step with a man wearing a cotton beard and a disheveled Santa costume.

Not only was the man not a Santa School student, Merkel said he contradicted the image Howard taught at his school.

"My real Santa, Mr. Howard, would have frowned on that because he was wearing a cotton beard and he just wasn't Santa," she said. "He would have been mortified by it. He was so particular about his Santas."

She should know.

In addition to the seven years the two worked together at the school, Merkel and Howard had a friendship that spanned more than two decades.

After Howard's death in 1966, friends from Michigan took on the task of heading the school. In 1970, they moved the school to Midland, Mich., where it still operates as The Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School.

While the school continues to churn out new Santas, Merkel said none of the jolly men would ever replace her Santa -- Mr. Charles W. Howard.

...

SOURCE

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Santa Everett
Merkel has kept all of the news stories and photographs, along with all her memorabilia from this time period. While most bring smiles to her face, there is one photograph that is still shocking for her to look at.

As she held up the photo in her Punta Gorda home, Merkel showed an image of her sharing a dance step with a man wearing a cotton beard and a disheveled Santa costume.

Not only was the man not a Santa School student, Merkel said he contradicted the image Howard taught at his school.

"My real Santa, Mr. Howard, would have frowned on that because he was wearing a cotton beard and he just wasn't Santa," she said. "He would have been mortified by it. He was so particular about his Santas."

We have come a long way, and made vast improvements on our looks. I'm sure CWH would approve.

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Santa TJS

Love those old photo's

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