How did you get started?
Jim Boyd, Parkway Plaza
Jim Boyd Parkway Plaza
I've only been here a short while. A friend called me and said one of the Santas didn't come in. I don't know if he was fired or what. I said I'd come fill in for two days. I'm just doing them a favor. It's just four hours a day. It's all right — you know, having the kids believe in me. 1 felt pretty silly when I saw myself. Normally I'm a bouncer. I just got a job with San Diego Concerts Association. I thought I was too young to be a bouncer, but I'm six-four, so I guess that made the difference. So this Santa Claus thing is very temporary. The pay's pretty good just
for sitting up here. People think
it's easy, but it's hot, really hot in this costume with kids crawlin' all over you. And no matter what, even with squirming, crying kids all over you, you have to act like it doesn't matter. I've got to hang on to them. It seems like I'm being mean and I'm not. I've been poked in the eye twice. Some of it's okay. It's surprising to hear what the kids want. One five-year-old told me he wanted a spotlight. It's unusual when they ask for clothes. Usually it's all the stuff they see on television. I'd like a new Chevy truck, myself. I get older girls — you know, teen-agers. I'm just eighteen, so I guess that makes me a teen-ager. They sit on your lap. My girlfriend works up here. I don't think she likes it very much. I doubt that I'll ever be doing it again.
Roland Wharton, Grossmont Center
Roland Wharton Grossmont Center
This is my second year. I just started last year when the other fellow got sick or something. My son talked me into it. He runs a photo business up here at the center. I've got six grandchildren, so I'm right at home. I'm retired so I thought, why not. I'd give it a try. It's grand. I like it. Back when I was a kid.
they didn't try to portray Santa like this; it was all so different. You didn't have your shopping malls. It's a big thing now. You get about 700 kids through here over one weekend. You take time; you work with them. Parents are good, as a rule, but it's tough when they pull the kids in here, when they try to force them. Kids are asking for a lot of Star Wars things. A lot of baking ovens for the girls. Cars, trucks, electronic toys, roller skates. Roller skates are big this year. You always get a couple of odd ones. One girl wanted a skunk. Another one wanted a star — just a regular star. Personally, I'd like more time, more hours in a day. The days are too short. There's just not enough time to get anything done. Next year? I don't know. I wouldn't be surprised if I do it all over again.
Anonymous, College Grove Center
Anonymous (by request) College Grove Center
I was fascinated as a child, going to different shopping centers and seeing the different Santas. I always thought I'd like to do it someday. I was in the Navy, and back in '61 or '62 I volunteered to do a part as Santa at an orphanage. This was in Japan. I've been doing it in San Diego on and off for twelve years. It helped getting a large enough body so I didn't need padding. Here, it started at family parties, hospitals. I love children. You get some memorable moments. They come in asking for live babies for their moms . . . snakes, lizards, puppies. A lot of ponies this year. I take time with them to overcome the fear. I don't believe in grabbing the child or promising the child exactly what he wants. Usually I'll say, "We'll see." Most of the parents are great. But there's one stickler over the years. Sometimes parents use Santa as a threat: "Santa won't bring it if you're bad." You should never use Santa as punishment for a child. I tell people that Christmas is Christ's birthday. Santa is just a symbol that spreads joy and happiness. I'm not like the president or the pope. I equal myself to, like, Mickey Mouse —
a fictional character that kids associate with. I think this year will be a better year than it's ever been. People are leaning away from rock and turning back to country-western. As long as God lets me have good health I'll go on working with children. My name is just Santa, if you don't mind. There's nothing worse to a child than to see some man stuff pillows up his shirt. One of the TV stations did a feature on a Santa school, and that's what they showed. Mothers must have been horrified. I don't care if Ted Leitner came in here. Just Santa, that's how I want people to know me.
Joe Calucci, Mission Valley Center
Mission Valley Center
Back in the early Fifties I was playing centerfield for the Detroit Tigers, but I always wanted to write country-western music. So that's what I did. I got a job working the stockroom with the J.L. Hudson Company, the big department store, and wrote music in my free time. One year the Santa in the Christmas parade had a heart attack. They knew I loved children and asked if I would cover for him. So I was the store Santa from about '58 to '61. Then in 19621 went to New York. I met Conway Twitty and he gave me
a letter of introduction to take to Spanker Music. By this time I had three children of my own — two boys and a girl. I just couldn't get my foot in the door with the music business, so in the meantime I got a job at Macy's in the stockroom. They asked if I wanted to be Santa Claus at Christmas 'cause they heard I had been one in Detroit. So that year, right near Christmas, my own wife and my three children came to see me at Macy's. About an hour and a half later I got the news. Some drunk had run a stop sign . . . and they were all taken to Bellevue Hospital. By the time I got there all four of them were dead. My wife and three kids. Right around then's when I decided to be a professional Santa, to be around children — the laughter, the crying. Over the years I've had my shins kicked, my beard pulled off, babies do their job on me. But the children are wonderful. I was with Macy's for about five years, then I moved to
Rockford, Illinois. I was Santa there, too. Eventually I moved to San Diego for the dry climate, for my asthma. I got a job for a while as a groundskeeper for the San Diego Padres. I had done that before for the Cincinnati Reds. I always look forward to Christmas and to being Santa Claus. You have to start looking for work in June. I do my beard and my costume myself. I think I'm the most realistic Santa. It takes me about a half hour to get ready. I had a little boy come in last week and he asked me if I could make him see again. "I fell off my bike," he says. He was blinded. I told him I would pray for him and send a letter to Oral Roberts to put in a prayer for him. Those things really touch you. Most of the requests are what you expect — dolls, bicycles. Orr December 21 the Clippers are sponsoring a Toys for Tots benefit. I'll be there as Santa. I hope people come out there to the Sports Arena. A lot of kids right here in San Diego
are less fortunate. Myself, I'd really like to be the official San Diego Santa Claus. I'm still writing country-western. I'd like to be able to get a good song on the market. That's what I'd like for Christmas.
Steve Boeckel University Towne Centre
Steve Boeckel University Towne Centre
To tell you the truth, I know the guy in charge of hiring Santa Claus. Some of the shopping center Santa businesses are run
by a New Jersey photo franchise. They hire different guys to keep rotating. This is my first week. It's fun. It's all right. I like kids and everything, but I was apprehensive at first. I work as a janitor. I only do this four hours a day. When I was a kid, I don't remember seeing younger guys. I was surprised that they would even hire younger guys. There's no special training. They really don't like you to "ho, ho, ho" anymore. Mostly, you rely on your personality — at least I do. In the morning when you come in, you have to psych yourself up. I laughed when I first put this outfit on. I get a kick out of it, but it gets hot under here. Some of the kids that come in are afraid of you. You have to put them at ease. Sometimes it's hard when parents are trying to force them to sit on my lap. Here I am, some strange guy in a red suit and a white beard. The kid is afraid of you, he's screaming and the parent wants a cheery Christmas picture. Most of the
kids are pretty good. I had a little kid about four years old, really confident. He came right in, sat on my lap and said, "Santa, I want a big, fast Corvette for Christmas." Right after that, one of the janitors came in and said he wanted a big new Chrysler for Christmas. I told him he'd have to talk to Lee Iacocca about that one. Another older woman came in. Her husband was recovering from cancer. She asked me to pray for him. It surprised me, but it was refreshing. I really like to see spirit like that. It brings out the best in people. This Santa thing is also kind of a novelty for the college girls. They come in. I like it. I had three girls from Tijuana the other day. Had 'em all on my lap. They were about eighteen or nineteen. They were surprised that I spoke Spanish. They kept saying, "Hey, Santa Claus speaks Spanish." What do I want for Christmas? Clothes. A new pair of designer jeans.