Wednesday, December 19, 2012
When Rob Mitchell was a young boy growing up in St. Louis, he noticed something peculiar at the Jamestown Mall around Christmas time. He had visited with what he thought was one Santa and then noticed another Santa at the other end of the mall.
“My Mom told me they were both Santa’s helpers,” said Mitchell, who works for Tom’s Slaughterhouse in Linn Creek and lives in Macks Creek. “Then, I found out that my uncle was also a Santa’s helper.”
At the very first Christmas on the Square, Mitchell’s uncle Vern Latham sat down with children to hear their Christmas wishes, helping the real Santa Claus out in delivering their lists and requests in time for Christmas Eve. For about 10 years, Latham helped Santa, and Mitchell then decided to keep the tradition, becoming Santa’s helper for the last 14 years at Christmas on the Square.
“It gets bigger and bigger every year. We saw 411 kids this year and in the past, with colder weather, we saw 200-some kids. We make sure we don’t leave until every child is seen, because we have to make sure they get their messages delivered,” he said. “I absolutely enjoy it.”
For Mitchell, he enjoys the children’s facial expressions, getting his beard tugged, questions and seeing them grow up right before his eyes, just like Santa Claus does. He said it is amazing to visit with a child that he holds in his arms and then see them when they are 14 years old.
Mitchell also helps Santa Claus in other ways in the Lake Area as well, visiting holiday Christmas parties such as the Osage Beach Fire Protection District, events such as the holiday Troop Appreciation Event and other Christmas affairs as he did at Mid-County Fire Protection District, in which he was a firefighter for 18 years. In addition, Mitchell does all these events free of charge because he truly is Santa’s helper.
Santa’s helper also makes sure Kris Kringle answers letters that come into the Camdenton post office so no child is left behind around the holidays. He hopes to continue this tradition as long as can.
Mitchell’s youngest child, which is one of five with his wife, Christina, understands how his father is Santa’s helper, and agrees to talk with his Dad at the events. Yet, he is still curious about one thing.
“He’ll tell me, ‘I will sit on your lap and talk to you, but how do you know and remember everything kids tell you to tell Santa?’ I say, ‘I’m real smart,’” Mitchell said.
And for Mitchell, that is the truth. The Lake Today staff asked children in the area to submit questions they have always wanted to ask Santa Claus. Mitchell was able to get in touch with the big man in the red suit to get their questions answered. In fact, he even was able to have Santa himself sign a professional picture of Santa’s helper taken at Christmas on the Square.
Read about what Santa Claus had to say to these Lake Area kids, as well as a few bonus questions The Lake Today staff included since they had Mitchell’s help in contacting him.
Questions to and answered by Santa Claus:
From Andrea Weiss’ kindergarten class at Camdenton School District’s Osage Beach Elementary
Q: Why do you make the presents?
A: To say thanks to all the boys and girls that have been good all year and give them something to look forward to.
Q: How are you so quiet? (So you don’t wake us up).
A: Santa is magic, with magic you can’t hear a sound when he tiptoes.
Q: How old are the reindeer?
A: They have been around since 1823 when Christmas got known worldwide
Q: Have you ever gotten stuck on a roof (or in a chimney)?
A: Never been stuck on roof but Mrs. Claus watches how many cookies I eat so I don’t get stuck.
Q: Why do you give presents to kids?
A: It’s a way to say, ‘Be good,’ for your parents and keep Christmas spirit alive.
From Courtney Steen’s second grade class at School of the Osage’s Mills Elementary
Q: What are the names of your elves?
A: I have many elves, to many to list but a few are Ira, Chris, Todd, Missy, Jess and old Dave
Q: How do your reindeer fly?
A: It’s a magic dust, made of Christmas dreams throughout the ages.
Q: What kind of cookies do you like?
A: All of them; one is as tasty as the other.
Q: What is your full name?
A: Kris Kringle
Q: How old are you?
A: I was born a long time ago. My age is determined on the spirit and love of one another throughout the years.
Bonus questions from The Lake Today staff:
Q: Is your red suit the only clothing you have or do you have other clothes?
A: I have a closet full of red, green, gold shorts and T-shirts for my off-season.
Q: How long have you held the position of Santa Claus?
A: The reindeer have been around since 1823, so I have been in this position just as long as the reindeer.
Q: How did you meet Mrs. Claus?
A: I met her while delivering presents and she decided to help keep things in order for Santa.