Every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you’ll find Santa at McMenamins
PORTLAND FAMILY MAGAZINE — I’ll let you in on a little secret: Santa has a hideaway in Astoria. It’s true. He called me from his coastal home, taking a break from polishing his boots and petting his reindeer to preview his upcoming Christmas season activities — notably his upcoming appearances at the popular McMenamins’ Breakfast with Santa events, November 29–December 21.
Phil Morgan has been channeling Santa since 1958. “I was working in the stockroom at J.C. Penny’s when Santa didn’t show up one day,” he said. “They just looked at me and said, ‘YOU!’”
Since then, Morgan has donned the gear and brought cheer to Meier & Frank and Nordstrom shoppers, hospital patients, parade goers, hotel guests and television audiences.
“The tradition of coming to visit Santa in Portland is a little deeper than other parts of the country,” Morgan said. “Meier & Frank did an incredible job developing that. I have parents come see me at Meier & Frank whose parents brought them. Now I’m seeing a third generation of kids.”
Plus, Morgan observed, Portland is a shopping magnate during Christmastime, drawing visitors from Eastern and Central Oregon, and the Oregon Coast to come shop and see Santa.
“I love seeing the families from Eastern Oregon wearing cowboy boots, hats and having a smell of hay and horses,” he said.
“If there’s a downside, it’s the sticky hands. At the breakfast are pancakes, syrup and bacon. If Mom or Dad don’t have chance to wipe off the kids’ hands, I end up with a smelly, greasy suit by the end of the day.”
To prepare for his starring role, Morgan has a set routine:
“The first thing I get ready is my arm,” Santa said. “Every year, Santa gets a flu shot. I don’t want to make kids sick or for them to get me sick.”
After that, he gets his suit out, polishes his boots, gets a haircut and beard trim … all the little things that help get him into the feeling of the season.
Santa does offer a few tips for parents to help everyone have a great time:
- Get them used to Santa. “Watch GOOD Santa movies and take a look at pictures. Elf on the Shelf has a good Christmas website.”
- Prepare your child to talk about what they want. “Some kids hop up on my knee equipped with an entire catalog. Other kids freeze and don’t know what to say. But whenever I get a kid asking for a BB gun, I say the same thing as in ‘Christmas Story’: ‘You’ll shoot yer eye out, kid.’”
- Tell kids what to expect. This includes lines, other kids, going to sit on his lap, and getting a photo with Santa. Santa also is 6’3”. “It helps that I’m sitting down, so my height isn’t as scary.”
- Check their diapers. “I’ve had some drippers,” he said.
- Be patient and don’t threaten the kids. “I don’t like to be the bad guy, so I don’t threaten the child by saying I won’t bring him or her anything if they don’t sit still and smile.”
- Parents really need to be patient. “Sometimes parents start telling the photographer what to do, and telling the kids what to ask for. Just relax. Keep it fun.”
What does he do Christmas Day? Santa takes some private time, away from cameras and publicity, handing out presents at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital on Christmas morning.