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ClausNet Gazette: News from the Santa Claus Network


Volume 6, Issue 11

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Michael Rielly

Welcome to our November 2014 newsletter!

As I write this on All Hallows' Eve, I can't help but think how fast this year has gone by. It seems like I was just writing the last November newsletter. Soon it will be Thanksgiving and I am reminded of how much I am thankful for. I am of course, always thankful for my family and my friends, and my good health. But I am also very thankful to be allowed the opportunity to be Santa Claus for children of all ages.

For many of us, November is when we kick off our season. I've already made several appearances this year and I am starting feel a little burned out. But I am sure that once the Christmas programming and store decorations kick into high gear, I'll get my second wind!

Now that the season is upon us, don't forget to stop by ClausNet forums and add your comments to our official countdown to Christmas! Members can post and reply to comments in our countdown leading up to Christmas Day. It's always fun to look back through the thread after the season.

As always, please feel free to contact us with your comments and suggestions.

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In The News

Breaking News on ClausNet

Holiday World and Splashin' Safari to Get Its Close-up -- Holiday World and Splashin' Safari may be closed for the current season, but loyal fans can tune in this week to see their favorite park featured on this week's installment of "All-American Amusement Parks," airing tomorrow evening at 8 p.m., 7 p.m. Central, on Scripps Networks' Great American Country channel.

This original travel series is hosted by J.D. Scott, one of the Scott Brothers featured regularly on GAC's sister network, HGTV. J.D. visited the park in August, accompanied by a family of fans flown in from Lexington, Kentucky.

"When the producers asked us to post on our Facebook page that they were looking for a 'super-fan with a deep connection to the park,' they were deeply amazed to receive several hundreds of e-mails," says Matt Eckert, President and CEO of Holiday World. "Ultimately, they chose Ms. Gwen Lehmkuhler, who worked here seasonally as a teenager back in the '90s, along with two of her children to introduce Holiday World to J.D. Scott and the viewing audience."
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Bogus Battle of Christmas Music -- The calendar has turned to November but many in the media claim shoppers in stores don’t want to hear Christmas music.

This despite the fact that retailers are pushing Christmas sales, “door buster” Black Friday-like bargains and decorations are starting to go up.

This also despite the fact that radio stations nationwide are flipping to all-Christmas music formats that are oh so profitable. Why the disconnect? How can the media portray shoppers as “annoyed” when radio stations can’t get the Christmas music on fast enough? We’ve reached a common crossroads in the annual so-called War on Christmas.

With Halloween behind us it is a little out-of-fashion to keep crying about Christmas creep (though some are still hard at that) so now the media focus takes on two anti-Christmas themes: Christmas music too soon and shopping on Thanksgiving. This same chapter plays out every year. What’s so wrong with Christmas music? If it is so popular on the radio why does the media mind if stores play it too? It is one of the mysteries of Christmas.
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Mattel launches Monster High Freaky Fusion and Hybrid dolls -- Mattel is launching a collection of new Monster High Freaky Fusion and Hybrid dolls this month. The range sees new characters, new fashions and new features join the Monster High portfolio. The new dolls are based on the events seen in new Monster High DVD, Monster High Freaky Fusion.

The DVD tells the story of Frankie Stein and her ghoulfriends who, while attempting to help Frankie learn more about her family scaritage, inadvertently travel back in time. During the adventure, some of the Monster High ghouls get accidentally fused together.

The new range of Monster High Freaky Fusion dolls, Monster High Freaky Fusion Hybrids and the Freaky Fusion Recharge Chamber are launching to support the release of the DVD.
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Featured Member - October 2014

Each month, our Featured Member section profiles one ClausNet member.

Members are chosen totally at random by myself and the staff. Once selected as the ClausNet Featured Member of the Month, we interview the candidate and post the interview on This is a great way to get to know your fellow ClausNet members!

This month our featured ClausNet Member is White Mountain Santa!

November’s Featured Member of the Month began his Santa career a little over 20 years ago. White Mountain Santa aka Robert joined our merry community in January 2013.

ClausNet Featured Member of the Month

We caught up with White Mountain Santa a few days ago and here is what he had to say...
Read the entire interview »

Missed an interview? Visit our Featured Members of the Month section to read past interviews!

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The Real Santa of Miller & Rhoads

Donna Strother Deekens

The following is an excerpt from The Real Santa of Miller & Rhodes, by Donna Strother Deekens.

Introduction: I Believe!

I recall my very young days growing up as a girl in a small Hampton Roads community known as Cradock, in Portsmouth, Virginia, in the early 1950s. It was a wonderful place to spend my formative years. I remember especially the sweet Christmases with our blue spruce tree decked out with the huge multi-colored lights and the silver tinsel that had to be hung tediously one by one, according to the instructions of my dad, Mike Strother. Of course, our dear mom, Evelyn Strother, would offer her suggestions for the tree as well, but her seasonal expertise was wrapping holiday packages and making the delicious Christmas goodies we savored. The finished tree symbol that my sister, Judy, and I had proudly helped decorate, and we thought was so lovely because it “glistened,” was erected in the corner of our family room in our modest home on Dahlgren Avenue.

Our house was not big by today’s standards, but it was the kind of house any child would be proud to call “home,” especially in the 1950s following the tumultuous years of World War II. It was a white, two-storied house with dark green shutters and a white picket fence. There were a few times at Christmas that I recall it snowed, unusual for the eastern section of Virginia, and looking back on those times today, they remind me of the snowy scenes in the classic holiday film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Indeed, for me, it was “a wonderful life!” And Christmastime brought the visit from the Santa Claus – an event that was so special and so anticipated by me and my family.

Christmas for us was the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and we knew that the true reason for the season was to honor Him. Also, we knew that Santa Claus, sometimes known, too, as St. Nick or Father Christmas, visited good little girls’ and boys’ homes at this festive time of year, specifically on Christmas Eve. The excitement of his annual arrival created much enthusiasm and exuberance – bordering on frenzy in our household. With the exception of Christmas Eve, the one merry holiday event that evoked pure glee from me and my sister, and later our little brother, John, was the visit to Santaland at the downtown Miller & Rhoads department store in Richmond.

The capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, located only 100 miles or two hours from our Tidewater home, was a destination location for all folks seeking the “Real Santa.” Devoted followers in Virginia, if not all along the East Coast and even perhaps other parts of the United States, absolutely knew that this Santa Claus was the embodiment of all that is just, right, and good. This Santa, our Santa, “held court” at the famous department store on 517 E. Broad Street, in the 1940s and 1950s. He had declared that Miller & Rhoads was his home away from the North Pole during Christmas, and he had endeared everyone to him since he took up residence at the popular retailer in the early 1940s.
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Santa's Wisdom

Elf on the Shelf, you got me good!

By Santa Lou Knezevich

I live in the Atlanta, Georgia area near one of the suburbs, which is the Headquarters of “Elf on the Shelf.” The story of “Elf on the Shelf” rests with a family tradition which has blossomed into an international business. I’m pretty sure everyone has heard how the “Scout Elf” observes children’s behavior and returns to The North Pole each evening to report events of the household children to Santa Claus.

The idea behind the “Elf on the Shelf” is a very simple but powerful tool. Parents purchase a small doll dressed as an Elf in colors of Red and White. The child or children give the little character a name and the Elf becomes a member of the family.

The Elf is one of Santas Scout Elves who has magical powers. The Elf arrives around Thanksgiving to observe the children’s daily behavior however, after the children are asleep, the Elf flies to the North Pole to tell Santa Claus everything that has happened that day. The “Elf” has become a strong influence upon children and of course, parents are happy to remind their children that the Elf will be visiting Santa, and to watch their behavior!

Many Elves are prankish creatures who create all sorts of household mayhem. I have heard so many Elf stories. Some Elves have toilet papered the inside of houses, been found dangling from ceiling fans or hiding in refrigerators, eating food and causing all sorts of mayhem. Of course they are not supposed to do that however, I have a hunch some enterprising parents are behind this as a way to add realism to the Elf!

When Mrs. Claus accompanies me and I hear these stories I’m quick to defer the remedy to her. I act very upset and disbelieving one of my Elves could have caused such mayhem. I’ll look to Mrs. Claus and tell everyone that she takes care of the Elves. Of course hearing these things about an Elf doesn’t please Mrs. Claus. Maybe Mrs. Claus’s actions are reminiscent of your mother and your being on the “Carpet” for something naughty. I pity that poor Elf because when he returns to the North Pole his pointed ears are going will be filled with reprimands from Mrs. Claus! Take it from me I’ve heard my share too.

My first encounter with the “Elf” happened some years ago and well before the widespread popularity. Mrs. Claus and I host an afternoon “Tea with Santa” at a prominent Atlanta hotel. We greet table after table of guests with a “Santa Visit.” I had just sat down next to a spunky blond haired girl of about six or seven years old. In her hand she clutched a whimsical looking doll which was actually an “Elf.” Unknown to me it was an “Elf on the Shelf.”

“Bet you don’t know the name of my Elf” she said in a taunting voice. I knew instantly I was on the proverbial “hot seat” and my mind fumbled for ways out of this dilemma. I looked into the eyes of her parents hoping they would realize I had not a clue to the elf’s name. I had hoped they might mouth the name so I could say it with confidence. They just looked straight at me, their expressionless faces telegraphing they weren’t going to help at all. My quietness seemed like an eternity and I noticed a smile of victory forming on her face.

Stalling for time I said, “Let me think a little here, you know I have so many Elves at the North Pole it’s hard to remember each one.” My mind was in turmoil thinking of ideas and casting out one after another. I do remember I wasn’t pleased with the creators of the “Elf” because Santa is supposed to know everything. How unfair to trap Santa because he didn’t know the name of his Elf and now he looks bad in front of a child.

About then the little girl mockingly said, “You don’t know the name ….do you?” She knew she had me, so without hesitation I said, “I know it, I know it, it’s….. Bartholomew!” A happy smile uncurled upon her face. She joyfully admonished me by telling me I was wrong of course; because his name is “Ranger.” “Oh no, they did it again. Of course you’re right,” I exclaimed “Those twins are always tricking me.” “Did you know your Elf was a twin?”

The crisis was over and it appeared my explanation was accepted. Since then I’ve been asked that dreaded question a number of times. Some parents have been nice enough to mouth the Elf’s name allowing Santa to answer the question with confidence. When stuck, I fall back on blurting out a name and pretending I mixed up the Elf Twins names. Maybe you have a better solution to this question and if you do I would love to hear from you.

Always remember, “It’s not about you, it’s about the children.”

Santa Lou Knezevich
Creator Legendary Santas Mentoring Program

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Freedom from Want (1943) is the third of the Four Freedoms series of oil paintings by Norman Rockwell

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Santa Claus Hall of Fame

Each month we feature an inductee of the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame. This month we honor Bill Strother.

Miller & Rhoads Department Store hired former Hollywood stunt man Bill Strother to fill Santa’s big red suit in 1942.

Strother brought with him many techniques from Hollywood and made the Miller & Rhoads Santa Claus a symbol of the Christmas season.

His makeup, designed by the famous Max Factor, took Strother about two hours to put on, and he was, without a doubt, the most realistic Santa Claus ever seen.

In addition, he devised a special Santa act. After appearing out of a chimney, he received children on his lap and by use of a concealed throat-mike on an assistant, was able to address each child by name. No act at any theater in Richmond ever drew the crowds, adults as well as children that flocked to see this Santa Claus appear out of a chimney.

Bill Strother not only became the most famous Santa Claus in the history of Virginia, he was also the world’s highest paid Santa Claus according to an article in the Saturday Evening Post in 1951.

Bill Strother
Richmond, Virginia
1896 – 1957

Want to learn more?
Visit the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame website.

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