By Bonnie Davidson
The Courier 

The Real Santa Lives In Glasgow

 

Bonnie Davidson

Jana Jensen snaps a photo of Jade Malmend, Jared Malmend, young Jettlynn Malmend and Janessa Malmend surrounding Santa Claus. The family has had a photo taken with the same Santa for 20 years.

"It's everyday and all year for Santa," Santa Claus said.

It was going to be a long day, but there will certainly be some magic in the air as he worked through. He took a quick look at his hair and beard in the mirror. Time to strap on his boots and striped socks and get ready for his big debut. He left behind the big red coat and heavy clothes, because that's for traveling the world in one day, not for the bright lights of the camera.

Santa Claus spent a few hours prepping the day before with family. They placed a backdrop and a giant green chair. Computers, printers and cameras that are up to date and high tech were placed, plugged in and ready to go for the upcoming main event. This was the 20th year that Santa prepped for the camera.

He remembered when the beard started years ago. He was in the Navy and they had a beard contest. When he got out of the military he decided to keep the facial hair. Santa worked many different jobs over the years. One thing always remained after a friend suggested he be Santa Claus. He paused for a moment thinking that perhaps he might get peed on, or get his hair pulled.


Now looking back he realized that was a rare happening. Each happening only once. He got so good sitting in the big green chair he trained other ambassadors of Santa on how to be the real Santa Claus. Knowing how to respond to questions about reindeer, about the North Pole and the naughty list are all part of the magic.

The real Santa Claus frequented Billings each year, but resided in Glasgow. In years past he started on Black Friday and he could remember times where he started out with a Polaroid camera and limited equipment. That time sure had passed.

He always made an appearance in Glasgow, long ago stopping at True Value, in the last five years he stopped at Farm Equipment and Sales. Some of his best memories are from unexpected visitors. He remembered meeting a professional wrestler, the evil "Kane" in Billings. But some of the best memories are seeing the same families visit year after year.

Over the years Santa Claus has worked several jobs during the rest of the year. He worked at a service station in Wolf Point, he worked for Good Year and he worked as a chemical dependency counselor to name a few. He also records his own music in a recording studio. His favorites are old country songs and old rock and roll.

One thing he is pretty sure he'll never turn in is his Santa boots and his thick beard. The rewards are much more plentiful than the few moments he spends with each child or family.

"I love this, I love the little ones and I love the babies," Claus said.

One of the most difficult parts of the job are visiting with those who are struggling. He vividly remembered a mother who brought her baby and her 6-year-old son. The baby was very small. When he asked what they wanted for Christmas, the mother replied she wanted wings for her baby. Her baby was going to pass away. He struggled for a moment with tears in his eyes. He gave her a bell, a small bell that he gives specifically to terminally ill. The woman came back the next year, she brought her son again. Her baby passed away a few weeks after Christmas the previous year.


"Those are the things I'm glad that I was there, I wouldn't have missed it," Claus said.

Part of the job is visiting the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Car Unit) each year to visit with the babies. His youngest baby was only an hour and a half old. Some of the babies are only two or three pounds, but a visit from Santa brightens the atmosphere for family and staff in the unit.

Santa also visits with the old. He recalls a few times having visiting with the young at heart as old as 103 or 104. Some families have visited with Santa for 20 years. Each year he sees them age. The children he first started to see each year are now bringing their own children.

"He is the real Santa Claus," Tracy Perry said. The family has a photo with the same Santa for 20 years, saying that the only time they missed him was last year when he lost his wife and he had to step down early in the season.

Losing his wife was a difficult time. It may have slowed him down, but one thing he won't give up any time soon is being the real Santa Claus. While she didn't go out with him as Mrs. Claus, she was always in the Christmas spirit and would decorate extensively, one year she had five Christmas trees throughout the house.


He explained that children throughout the year look up to him and when spotted they can suddenly behave in restaurants and in stores. He remembers years ago in Johnny's Cafe in Glasgow one child was misbehaving. The mother later came over and thanked Santa for making an appearance as the young boy suddenly decided to behave to avoid the naughty list.

Children throughout the town know that the big red sleigh only comes out once a year, but throughout the rest of the year he can be seen driving a big red pickup truck. One local boy boasted his knowledge of that fact.

The real Santa is so convincing that he's even been listed on invoices and discussed around town with the name Santa Claus. All his combined experiences at Santa has been special, you might even say magical.

"It makes you thankful for what you have after seeing very tough situation," Santa said.

 

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