In 1991, "The Real" Mr. and Mrs. Santa A. Claus spent the Christmas Season in Orr's Department Store in Bethlehem. Twenty-two years later, they're back not only in "Christmas City," but in the former Orr's building itself.
This year marks a special milestone for the Clauses 50 years of Christmas magic. 2013 is Santa A.'s 50th anniversary as the "jolly old elf" 30 years professionally. He started at the Catasauqua Fire Company in 1963.
Over the years, Santa A. has appeared at Hess's Department Store in Allentown; Orr's Department Store in Bethlehem; Lehigh Valley Mall; Whitehall Mall; Allentown Outlet Mall; Ice City in Allentown; Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, N.J.; Woodbridge Mall in Woodbridge Township, N.J.; and Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, N.J.
His travels have also taken him to Santa's Workshop in North Pole, N.Y.
A former long-time resident of the Lehighton area, Santa A. vividly recalls the night his reindeer got out of his pen and ran away in Franklin Township.
"I'll never forget hearing over the police radio that Santa lost a reindeer," he chuckled. "Everyone thought it was a joke, but it wasn't. Dasher had run away and we were worried about him."
With the help of Dancer, Santa A. was able to retrieve the reindeer and get him back in his pen.
Back in 1986, he began a unique nine-year journey to legally change his name to Santa A. Claus. His request was denied three times including in Lehigh County Court by Judge James N. Diefenderfer in August of 1989. Never giving up, he persevered in his quest.
Finally, on March 13, 1995 in front of family, friends, and well-wishers he received the gift that he most wanted. With the help of Pennsylvania State Senator Roy C. Afflerbach, he legally became Santa A. Claus.
After leaving the Department of Motor Vehicles, he met Governor Tom Ridge and was designated "Pennsylvania's Official Santa."
Following a chance encounter between his sister and a special artists' management agent in New Jersey, Santa A.'s career really "took off."
"It's amazing how God plays a hand in people's lives if we just let him," said Santa A.
From that point on, he began appearing in hundreds of billboard, print, and television advertisements. These include Bed Bath & Beyond; Campbell's; Coca-Cola; The Coffee Grinder; Disney; Harley-Davidson; Park City Mall in Lancaster; Pepsi-Cola; Rileighs; ShopRite; and Tastykake.
When Mall of America opened in 1992 in Bloomington, Minnesota, mall officials visited Santa A. in the Lehigh Valley. Out of hundreds who were interviewed from all over the country, he was hired as "America's Number One Santa at America's Number One Mall."
In 1993, Mr. and Mrs. Santa A. Claus began an 18-year affiliation with Concord Mall in Wilmington, Del. However, in this new economy, no one's job is safe including Santa's. Despite a five-year option on their contract, the Clauses were told that they were being replaced. This was only nine days before the start of the 2011 Christmas season. Like so many others, they scrambled to look for another job and were finally hired at Jersey Garden Mall in Elizabeth, N.J.
fter several years away from the area, the Clauses returned to the Greater Lehigh Valley in 2012. Their busy Christmas Season schedule included appearances at tree lightings; parades; breakfasts with Santa; Christmas story readings; family gatherings; and private parties.
Additional information can be found at www.Santa-A-Claus.com.