Mingling with a celebrity
It’s not every day we can sit down and visit with a world-renowned celebrity yet this week 50 people from our community did just that. We don’t have an exclusive relationship, in fact a majority of Americans have taken advantage of the opportunity to not only visit, but to sit on her lap. Mrs. Santa Claus (aka Gladys Pullins) was our guest who shared a number of experiences she’s had during 41 years of appearing as Mrs. Claus.
When four couples started Hot Springs, S.D.’s Christmas in the Hills, fashioned after Nuremberg, Germany’s Cristkindlesmarkt, in 1982, they asked Gladys if she would sit in as Mrs. Claus. It has been a joy for her.
She mentioned she sewed a proper outfit to the season — and it still fits, in fact she wore it to our Westerners meeting. In addition to a red skirt and top she wears a white cap and an heirloom shawl made for her by her mother-in-law.
Gladys used to run a preschool and substitute teach and in those jobs had a great interaction with children of the area. When she started as Mrs. Claus she was concerned her pupils would recognize her. If they did, she was able to downplay it. She was Mrs. Claus, not their teacher. One classroom day as she and her pupils were assembled in a circle on the floor rug, one of the little girls challenged Gladys as to her real identity. Gladys replied, “Santa is so busy so I help him here.” The little girl nudged her friend and said, “She just says that. I KNOW she is Mrs. Claus.”
A thrill for her legacy volunteerism is she now interacts with grandchildren of the youngsters from her first years. So far she has worked with eight different Santas.
For the past 20 years local 4-Hers have been present to take photos of the kiddos and Mrs. Claus to give them a memento. Last year the 4-H clubs gave her a gift certificate for $41, one dollar for every year of her service. Mrs. Claus is always concerned when parents try to force their scared, screaming little ones onto her or Santa’s lap and she wishes they would just wait until the child is older.
Beyond her appearance what stands out is her smile and friendly attitude. We could see how shy children would warm to her and talk with her; she was even sometimes successful in getting these little ones to speak with Santa himself. Mrs. Claus says the kids have not changed though the types of gifts they request has with the advent of electronic items for children.
She has had heartbreaking requests such as the little girl who said she just wanted her mommy to not be sad or another little one who asked for her daddy to come home. Mrs. Claus responded, “We will see what we can do.” Really, what more could she say? ❖