An interview with Santaís friend, Cliff. HIS ROLE: He represents Santa Claus at the Lima Mall.
1. How did you get interested in becoming Santa at the mall?
I canít really tell you how, but for years Iíve always wanted to. Iíve done it on occasions off and on, and as I got closer to retirement age, I thought this was something Iíd like to do. Iíve always wanted to be in the mall, so I worked private parties for a couple years. In fact, that gentleman right there, I worked with him, and when he come out here to the mall I asked him how you got hired out here as Santa Claus. He told me, so I came out here to talk to them. Low and behold, I got hired that very year. I worked evenings until I retired. Now Iíve been down here at the mall for eight years.
2. Is there any kind of training process you have to go through?
No, to me itís almost something the other Santas Iíve met ó itís just something that comes natural to them. The company I work for does have a school in July out in Colorado. I havenít been able to attend it yet. I want to, but I just havenít been able to make that happen yet.
3. What kind of hours do you work?
Now that Iím retired I do days and evenings. Thereís another Santa that works too, and we trade off if one of us needs a day or an evening. The hours this is open is 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. We get every second Sunday off. The season lasts about six weeks. We started the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
4. What are the most popular items you get asked for?
For girls, Barbies are always popular. This year, Iíve gotten lots of requests for Monster High dolls and the Monster High castles. Then there are Nintendo Ds and the Leapsters. The Leapsters have come back quite a bit this year. Dolls, trucks ó all are popular ó and dinosaurs are real popular with little boys this year. The boys have the footballs and basketballs and Nerf guns.
5. What ages do you usually have coming to see you?
Anywhere from between 2 weeks to 8 or 9 years old are the most common. If there is an older sibling with the younger one, Iíll get the older one to come sit with me too. They donít always like it, but theyíll usually do it. I think somewhere in the back of their hearts they believe Santa is still there, but they think theyíre too old for it. Iíve had some as old as 90 years old come sit on my lap and talk to me.
6. Whatís the strangest request youíve had?
I guess thereís been two. One was this week. I had a little girl. Iíd say she was 6 or 7 years old. She came up and sat on my lap, and I was taking her Christmas list of what she wanted. She said she had a secret request and could she whisper it in my ear, so I leaned down, and this is one of those moments that almost breaks your heart. She said, ďSanta, my mom is in jail. Is there any chance you can get her home for Christmas?Ē Now, that is sad.
Then, on the other side of it, I had a little girl sit up on my lap, and I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She said, ďSanta, I donít want anything.Ē Kids will sometimes say that, so I said, ďOh, surely thereís something Santa can bring you for Christmas.Ē She said, ďNope, I have everything I want.Ē I tried again and she said, ďNope, I have a mom and dad now. I have everything I want.Ē She had just got adopted.
7. How do you answer those hard requests?
I never promise anything, even things off their Christmas list. I donít want anyone to be disappointed. You have to be very careful how you answer their questions.
8. Whatís the most rewarding part of your job?
The kids ó understandably. The joy I see in them ó they are so enjoyable to work with. My son, who is in the Air Force told me that when I put this suit on, I change. For me, when I put this suit on, I am Santa Claus.