Sunday, December 23, 2018

21 Vintage Photographs From a Santa Claus School in 1961 Reveal Some of the Secrets of Being a Good Santa

So you thought you’d be a great Santa, didn’t you? Well, think again. It’s actually pretty tough work. You have to know how to squint your eyes into a Santa twinkle, how to talk to kids and even how to put on a little act.

Such was the fate of those who, for years, chose to take instruction at Charles Howard’s Santa Claus School in the upstate New York town of Albion, not far from Rochester. In fact, the school still exists today, it was founded by Howard in 1937; since the mid-1960s, it has operated out of Midland, Mich., and remains the world’s oldest Santa school.

In 1961, LIFE’s Alfred Eisenstaedt visited Howard’s school for would-be Santas, and made a series of photos chronicling the evidently quite fun process of learning to be all the Santa Claus one can be.




On third day of school, Marine John Ray learns how to squint his eyes into a Santa twinkle. His wig and beard are of yak hair. Ray will work at the W. G. Swartz store in Norfolk, Va.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



John Ray holds the diploma naming him a Santa's helper. Next year he can work for B.S.C. degree. To get it he will have to present recommendations from customers and write 1,500-word thesis.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Santas at work.



Santas at work.



Santas at work.



Santas at work.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Feeding the deer at Charles Howard's Santa Claus School, Albion, N.Y., 1961.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Santa Claus school, 1961.



Santa school portrait, 1961



(Photos: Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) 



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