The story that follows, with minor changes, appeared in my memoir, “Days With The Dads: Recollections of a Small-Time Journalist,” which was published in 2008. Please read the conclusion with a grain of salt. I never again got the opportunity to play Santa, but I’d have done it in a heartbeat just to see the expressions of awe and joy on the little ones’ faces.
Best wishes to you and all the kids in your life for a wonderful holiday season.
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Ho, Ho, Ho. . . .No, No, No
It has been hard to escape Santa since merchants succeeded in advancing the holiday season to start right around Thanksgiving time.
You now can visit a Santa just about everywhere serious shopping is happening, rent one for the kids’ party, or be one after you buy an outfit complete with beard for $39.95.
Santas weren’t nearly so ubiquitous in 1957, but they did make plenty of appearances and I was among those on duty. No chimneys were involved in my appearance. It was a bigger deal than that. I arrived on Broadway Avenue in De Pere, Wisconsin, in a giant motorized sleigh pulled by plastic reindeer, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce.
In a discussion of how we at the Journal-Democrat were going to participate in Santa’s annual visit, a burning question was who would play the rotund one since publisher John Creviere was getting a bit old for the job. As the youngest, chubbiest, and most naive person around, I was volunteered.
The elder Creviere’s lengthy resume included work with amateur acting groups. He had a professional makeup kit and knew how to use it. He made 21-year-old me into a truly authentic-looking Claus, complete with rosy cheeks and a beard the little ones couldn’t pull off.
The children of De Pere certainly believed I was the real thing. Santa and a couple of helpers handed out 2,000 popcorn balls during the event. It was a very long day.
A photo, taken by Paul Creviere, of one handout to a cute little tyke appeared on the front page of our paper that week. That was pretty easy to pull off, since John owned the printing press, Paul was the general manager, and I was the editor.
It was the only time a photo of me ever graced the front page of a newspaper, and I couldn’t even identify myself in the caption!
Santa was totally pooped after passing out all the goodies and muttering nice things to the multitude of kiddies. When John started removing my greasepaint after handing me a shot of brandy, he asked how I was feeling about the whole thing. I was feeling like I never wanted to play Santa again.
Ho, ho,ho, but no thanks. I learned it was much more pleasant to admire the activities of the old gent from a distance than to occupy the suit. There are easier ways to get your picture in the paper.