SOAPSUDS HOLLOW: Santa sightings still exciting
December 31. 2013 1:01PM
Meeting Santa for the first time is quite an experience.
Most kids get a chance to meet Santa at a store, before Christmas. Small eyes widen, and children gleefully jump up and down upon first glimpse. Parents smile as they snap photos and shoot video, remembering their first visit to Santa.
Santa's helpers make all of this possible, of course. We all know that the “real” Santa doesn't leave the North Pole until Dec. 24.
My Grandpa, Frank Mihin, was one of Santa's helpers. After moving from the family homestead near Hadley, Minn., to Sioux Falls, Grandpa was fortunate enough to land a seasonal job at Shriver's Department Store. He worked for Shriver's during the Christmas season – as their Santa.
My sister, Karen, and I knew it was Grandpa when we went to Shriver's in December, but we had been told that we should not ruin Christmas for the other children. We should call Grandpa "Santa" at Shriver's. And we obeyed.
Grandpa was a jolly Irishman. I can never remember him being angry about anything. He loved children, and humored his grandkids any day of the year by allowing them to sit on his lap and comb his thick, white hair as he made funny faces. If you weren't careful, he would lightly pinch the tendons behind your knee, causing great squirming and laughter as he chorused, "Bee in your knee! Bee in your knee!"
Some older kids had once come to Shriver's and were being somewhat mischievous with some of their remarks. Santa, knowing the importance of the moment to the younger children, reached behind his chair and, with his cane in hand, made it very clear that Santa would not allow them to spoil Christmas for the little kids. He made his point, and preserved the magic of Christmas for the little ones.
Santa was recently at the Pizza Ranch in Dell Rapids, on Kid's Night, and I happened to stop by. The wide eyes were there, and gleeful jumping, and plenty of pictures were taken.