Extol Magazine

OCT-NOV 2016

Extol Magazine Celebrating Southern Indiana is a local publication that covers stories about businesses people places or events throughout the cities of New Albany Jeffersonville Clarksville Sellersburg and Louisville KY

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Th e re i s a nat i o nw i d e c o m mu n i t y o f t h e s e Sa nt a s w h o b e l o ng to o r g a n i z a t i o n s l i k e t h e In t e r n a t i o n a l B ro t h e r h o o d o f R e a l B e a rd e d Santas. Yet, Shaw saw the benefit of a local organization in which Santas from throughout Indiana could get together during the year, exchange experiences and advice, help find Santa bookings and maintain certain standards of behavior and levels of performance that are important to any professional group. Being Santa Claus is considered a profession by these men who dress up at Christmastime and say "ho ho ho" on a regular basis. They charge for their appearances, but most take no fees for many of their visits, especially when little children, the needy, the homeless or the elderly are involved. They know what Santa Claus means to little children. They know what Santa meant to them. "When I was a little kid, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said I wanted to be Santa," says Clamer of Evansville, now 63. "I thought of Santa as a jolly old soul who loved kids, and that's who I wanted to be." "I explain to new Santas that we have a powerful responsibility," says Owens of New Albany, who has been portraying Santa in Southern Indiana for 26 years. "If you're going to look like this man, you're going to have to think like this man and act like this man, year-round. That means you don't go to bars, don't smoke in public, don't drink, don't lose your temper. Wherever you go, some child somewhere is looking at you. You have to reflect the individual you've chosen to look like, or else trim your beard and do something else." Why do they do it? It can't be for the money, since being a serious Santa Claus is surprisingly expensive. "My suit alone costs $1,220," says Owens. "I'm having a suit re-furred right now that's going to cost me $400, and I have to get it re- furred ever 2 and a half years." In fact, most of them disdain those Santas who are motivated by the income opportunities, especially the mall gigs. "Only about 20 percent of our group are mall Santas," Shaw says. "Malls are all about the pictures," Owens explains. "There's no time to talk to them, to have the satisfaction of seeing a little kid smile." Kids and Their Smiles Giving That – kids and their smiles – is what drives most of these Hoosier Santas. I've taught Sunday school for 35-plus years," says Clamer. "There's a joy in seeing those little faces light up about wanting to be in Sunday school. It's the same with Santa Claus." "The first time I did it, a kid shouted 'Santa' and hugged me around the waist," says Santa Brian McCutchan of Mt. Vernon. "I began to get the feeling of love, and I wanted to give it back to all these children." "I do some auctioneering for Indy Liquidators," says Imhausen. "A guy asked me if I would play Santa for The Lord's Pantry at Anna's House in Indianapolis. I was starting to grow a beard – and it might also have had something to do with my jolly belly. That got me hooked. There are so many things out here to make kids sad. It's nice to give them one little thing to make them smile." Bellies and Beards The "jolly belly" was the entry point for many of the Santas. Most got into it because, well, they just looked the part. Or they had the right personality. Or fate simply intruded. "Ever yone told me I was starting to look like Santa," recalls Owens, who worked in the engineering department of the Veterans Association Hospital in Louisville. "At Christmastime, I'd wear a red sweater and red seasonal hat and carry a bag of candy canes with me. When I went into patients' rooms, they'd say, 'Santa, what are you doing here?' I'd hand them a candy cane and say, 'I'm just checking to see who's been naughty or nice.' " Hoosier Santas Jocelyn Hamburger, 8, Caroline Hamburger, 3, Puddy McCutchan, Brian McCutchan, Charlotte Hamburger, 5, Fred Imhausen, Molly Kleinert, 8, Rich Clarner, Linda Clarner, Jerry Owens, Naimah Vizhnay, 7, Zaina Vizhnay, 4, and Larry Shaw. 52 EXTOL • OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2016

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