Kelly Pond remembers being a child, standing outside in the crisp winter air in curly-toed shoes, holding a large bell and knocking on front doors. From the other side of those doors, he could hear the excited sounds of children yelling. On those winter nights, he wasn't Kelly Pond - he was Santa's elf. And next to him was old Kris Kringle, though Kelly knew him simply as "Dad."
From the early 1970s until the mid-1990s, since the real Santa Claus couldn’t personally visit every child during the busy lead-up to Christmas, Ron Pond played the part of St. Nick in St. John’s. His son often acted as his trusty elf. Decades later, Kelly recalls the faces of the kids they met.
“They were flabbergasted,” he says. They couldn’t believe that on the busiest night of the year, Santa had dropped by just for them. “They would be over the moon, they just couldn’t believe it.”
Once invited inside, Santa would have a little chat with the children and then the magic would happen: he’d break open a bag of cheesies and share them among the youngsters. Then, without hesitation, off they would go to brush their teeth and jump into bed. The cheesies were enchanted, according to Santa, and would help lull the little ones to sleep. Sure enough, the kids would claim they were getting sleepy soon after eating the small snack.
“And they were just like those little hard cheesies. I mean, talk about suspending your disbelief, right?” Kelly says. “But, you know, when the most important man in the world is telling you something, you’re gonna believe him, outright.”
And, of course, the parents loved the promise of a quiet Christmas Eve.
Filling the role of Santa Claus was a tradition Ron began when his son was a young child. It then expanded to include his coworkers’ families and visits to local charity groups, like the Candlelighters Association, where he lifted the spirits of sick children. When Kelly got older, he joined Ron on his travels as his trustworthy elf. Every year, they would start making their house visits around the middle of November and continue right up until Christmas Eve, dedicating their weekends and some weeknights as well.
As designated elf, Kelly’s job was to announce the eminent arrival of jolly old St. Nick at events, help distribute gifts and make sure Santa knew the names of the children.
Kelly continued performing as Santa’s elf until he outgrew the role. “It just didn’t look right when the elf was coming in and he was almost the size of Santa!” says Kelly. A friend’s child was then recruited to don the mantle. Ron says there were as many as six elves during his tenure as Father Christmas.
After all these years there’s one instance that really stands out in Ron’s memory. A girl around the age of 10 had told her mother that she was going to de-beard Santa at the party, proving he wasn’t the real deal. But Ron was prepared. When the little girl approached him, he gave her permission to give a tug on his fake facial hair, and Ron has never forgotten her priceless reaction. “Of course it didn’t come off, and she screamed out to her mom, ‘Mom, he’s the real one! He’s the real one! It’s a real beard!’” Ron laughs.
“Of course, my beard could never be pulled off because it was glued on. I always used theatrical glue to keep it in place because I had a full beard under it,” he chuckles, “and it wasn’t white.”
Over the years, Ron went through a few red suits. With age, a suit would become worn and his wife would either mend it or make another, keeping Santa looking respectable. Eventually, the couple moved to Glovertown, where they still live, and Ron passed the suit down to his son. Kelly used it a few times, until the practice fell by the wayside in favour of new family traditions.
Though Ron hung up his red suit years ago, Christmastime still makes him long for the magic of being Santa Claus. “I really enjoyed it,” says Ron. - By Elizabeth Whitten