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The Life and Times of Santa Claus WV

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Looking Back to Move Forward

John Johnson

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Have you ever climbed a hill or mountain? I sure have, living in the Mountain State. My Dad and I used to visit our state parks. At one such park, on top of a large mountain and overlooking what a sign said was five states, was a large log tower. I can remember visiting this with Dad. Now, when I reach the top I often look back to see what obstacles and terrain I have passed over to get to that spot. I try to recall every large rock on which I have stumbled and where it is so that I don't stumble on the way back down. I get a new perspective on what I am doing and how I can proceed forward and either meet or remove a challenge that will be ahead of me on my journey back down. I have found, through practical experience that this is a good rule for life.

Over the past several years (and again rearing its head in certain circles today) the Santa community has done some climbing. There have been many ups and many downs. And, through it all, we are beginning to lose something that is very dear to our community. We are forgetting to pass on to the next generation the way that they can successfully reach the mountain top. We have too many in our community that are bickering over the size of the stones in the path and are ignoring the responsibility we have to one another in this mutual trek.

Through Phil Wenz I am gaining a great respect for Charles W. Howard, one of the greatest Santas to ever live. In conversation we have discussed the fact that Charlie left no stones unturned when it came to Santa. He learned all he could to develop his character, then added his own personality. But in the end what did he do? He didn't keep all that he had learned to himself and hoard information like a squirrel does acorns. He didn't bicker with other Santas about their flaws both private and public. Instead, he did the most wonderful thing that he could ever do - he passed the information on. And, posthumously, he still does.

In my mind, the Santa world should be much like the guilds of the Middle Ages. The guild was a group of like minded artisans and craftsmen who worked to preserve and maintain a standard in their professions. Each member felt responsible for the younger members and passed on a legacy of art and skill to them. That is what every experienced Santa should be doing, as opposed to fighting the battles of bygone days and raking up contention as some continue to do. There comes a time when we need to step back and look at what we are doing and correct it. To me, it seems that a good many are just not willing to move forward. I pray for these.

The state of Santahood is fragile. It needs to be lifted up and standards and practices (as well as trade secrets) need to be passed on and in a positive way. We need to leave a clean legacy for the future. We need to pass on the tenates that make a true Santa. If we can relearn to do that, then there is hope for us yet.

Just a hunch, but I think we need to look back now before we make one step forward and fall on our faces.

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Michael Rielly


I agree! Too many feel that portraying Santa Claus is about, out doing the other Santa, getting the next big gig, or how much they can charge. If you are portraying Santa Claus for these reasons then you are doing it for the WRONG reasons.

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