Profitt Report: Look inside this 81-year-old Santa School in Midland

Photo credit: MGN

This is a busy time of year for Santa Claus and he often needs help making public appearances. That’s where the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Midland steps in. The school has been training Mr. and Mrs. Clauses for 81 years.

It takes more than a belly and a beard to portray the big guy in the red suit. The CWH Santa Claus School does their best to share the very real spirit of Saint Nick.

“That one minute with each child could mean a life time of Christmas magic,” said Holly Valent, addressing a group of Santas in training. She and her husband run the school in downtown Midland.

They’ll tell you, it takes a lot of Santa spirit to fill up this room. This year, they held two training sessions to accommodate the demand. In the smaller, second session, Santas and one Mrs. Claus traveled from near and far including Chicago, Minnesota, Georgia, Hawaii and Australia. This was probably their biggest year yet: about 250 people total traveled to Midland.

“I just want to be a better Santa,” said Jim Toomey from Minnesota. This is his second year at the school.

“If a child leaves your lap with a frown, you failed. You must be able to make a child smile,” said Chet Bohannon from Indiana. Bohannon said he’s been playing Santa on and off since he was 19 or 20-years-old.

In class, Tom and Holly lead Santas through the history of Saint Nick, how to interact with children, dancing and even the classic Santa laugh.

Tom said it all started because Charles Howard, the founder, saw a need for better Santa Clauses in the 1930s.

“He was the Macy’s Day Parade Santa back then,” Tom said.

The school started in New York, moved to Bay City and eventually found its home in downtown Midland.

“It’s our passion. It's more of a spiritual thing for us rather than be a priest or a rabbi… we're Santas and we bring the spirit,” said Toomey, “somebody has to do it, this is our calling, each one of us.”

The secret to their 81 years of success? Tom said it’s not something you see or touch, but it’s the magic of Christmas, simple enough.

“It’s about making children smile,” said Bohannon.

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