of dressing up and playing the role of Santa Claus probably came naturally to Donald Kramer. He was a stocky, elderly man
with white hair, a big family and a good heart when I knew him. One year I was surprised when I took our young daughter Jennifer
to visit Santa in an open booth set up in downtown Sandusky and recognized that it was Don hiding under the false beard and
the role perfectly and the children loved Don. He had a way about him that did not frighten children. I think it was because
Don had children of his own and really liked them. Children always know.
apparently liked that gig and returned the following year to play Santa again. That year he said he was invited to various
private homes and parties to play Santa and discovered it was not only a way to pick up some extra money for the holidays,
but he really liked being Santa.
next year, Don had his costume perfected. He had grown a real beard that was white and flowing, and found a set of old-fashioned
steel rimmed glasses that made him look so authentic you would think he was really Santa Claus. I took his picture, did an
interview and featured Don in a Christmas story for our newspaper.
it was my story that helped catapult Kramer to the fame that quickly came his way. After it appeared, he began getting invitations
to make appearances at stores, parades and private parties throughout Southeast Michigan. His appearances extended beyond
the Christmas season and we began seeing Don appearing in parades held in various towns all summer long. I think he even made
a few Detroit television appearances.
Kramer seemed to have transformed himself from the hard-working unknown guy struggling to provide for his family in the small
town of Peck, Michigan, to Santa Claus. He kept his beard and glasses and even when he wasn’t in costume, he wore bright
clothes and looked so much like Santa all of the time that he was recognized where ever he went. He even had the name Santa
Claus painted on the side of his car.
track of Don after I left the area. Unlike the mythical Santa Claus who lives on forever in the hears of children, he was
getting up in years when he was enjoying his moments of fame and I am sure that eventually age or illness eventually got the
best of him.
brief time, however, I was happy to know that one of my news stories helped springboard this man to a few years of popularity
as what many children believed was the real Santa Claus.