1. How did you get interested in becoming Santa at the mall?
I can’t really tell you how, but for years I’ve always wanted to. I’ve done it on occasions off and on, and as I got closer to retirement age, I thought this was something I’d like to do. I’ve 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 I’ve 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 it’s almost something the other Santas I’ve met — it’s just something that comes natural to them. The company I work for does have a school in July out in Colorado. I haven’t been able to attend it yet. I want to, but I just haven’t been able to make that happen yet.
3. What kind of hours do you work?
Now that I’m retired I do days and evenings. There’s 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, I’ve 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 — all are popular — 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, I’ll get the older one to come sit with me too. They don’t always like it, but they’ll usually do it. I think somewhere in the back of their hearts they believe Santa is still there, but they think they’re too old for it. I’ve had some as old as 90 years old come sit on my lap and talk to me.
6. What’s the strangest request you’ve had?
I guess there’s been two. One was this week. I had a little girl. I’d 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, “Santa, my mom is in jail. Is there any chance you can get her home for Christmas?” 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, “Santa, I don’t want anything.” Kids will sometimes say that, so I said, “Oh, surely there’s something Santa can bring you for Christmas.” She said, “Nope, I have everything I want.” I tried again and she said, “Nope, I have a mom and dad now. I have everything I want.” She had just got adopted.
7. How do you answer those hard requests?
I never promise anything, even things off their Christmas list. I don’t want anyone to be disappointed. You have to be very careful how you answer their questions.
8. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
The kids — understandably. The joy I see in them — 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.