Answering kids letters a 98-year tradition in Santa Claus | Community Spirit
As Christmas lights begin to appear and thoughts turn to the holiday season, a group of volunteers in the town of Santa Claus, meets to organize another year of answering children’s letters to Santa Claus.
“Children have been sending letters to our town for more than a century,” says Pat Koch, who is on the board of Santa’s Elves, Inc. a non-profit organization formed in 1974 to ensure that postage costs are provided each year. “This year, thanks to the recent restoration of the original 1856 Santa Claus Post Office building, Santa’s Elves will have a beautiful and festive workshop.”
Records show that the first person to answer the children’s letters to Santa was the Santa Claus Postmaster, James Martin, in the year 1914. Years later, Koch’s father, Jim Yellig, who assumed the role of Santa Claus while serving in the Navy during World War I, offered to help with the letters after the war, and soon enlisted the assistance of a friend from Tell City, Roy Fenn. The number of letters increased each year; a series of features in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not turned the light dusting of letters into a blizzard.
In 1939, Yellig and Fenn approached the American Legion and the “40 et 8” organization for help. To this day, both organizations continue to provide postage money and letter-writing assistance. “My father didn’t ‘play’ Santa Claus,” says Koch. “When he put on that red suit, he was Santa Claus. As a girl, I remember him always carrying a box of letters in his car—and now I’m doing the same thing.” Yellig was Santa Claus at the theme park Santa Claus Land, as well as many national events, including an appearance on the television game show, “What’s My Line.”
Up to 30,000 letters are answered each year by the Santa’s Elves, who are assisted by the Christmas Lake Village Garden Club, local senior citizens, and other yuletide volunteers. The Christmasy letters and envelopes are printed and contributed each year by Koch’s family’s business Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, formerly Santa Claus Land.
Children wishing to write to Santa should address their letters to: Santa Claus, P.O. Box 1, Santa Claus, IN 47579. Koch urges parents to ensure that a legible return address is included. Donations to help pay postage costs are welcome, and may be sent to the same address.
In addition, families wishing to bring their children to the town of Santa Claus to write their letters may stop by the newly restored 1856 Post Office, located next to the Santa Claus Museum, on State Road 245 southeast of Holiday World. For more information, including hours of operation, visit the Santa Claus Museum and Village’s website: http://SantaClausMuseum.org or call (812) 544-2434.