During the past 33 years, St. John's businessman Bruce Templeton has devoted the month of December to visiting children and assisting Santa Claus. At school parties, country clubs, or in the critical-care unit of hospitals, young people ask him profound questions about Santa Claus and the true meaning of Christmas. Templeton has collected hundreds of stories and questions during more than 1000 visits – some of them curious, some happy, and some heartbreaking. In his memoir of three decades he shares some of the most unforgettable questions. Templeton always tries to bring hope and joy through his visits, but he often finds it is the children who change his life and the lives of those who assist him on these extraordinary journeys. For readers who enjoyed the bestselling Tuesdays With Morrie and Everything I Need To Know, I Learned from a Children's Book, Bruce Templeton's memoir will fill them with enough inspiration and joy to last an entire year.
The Man In The Red Suit: A Memoir
Bruce Templeton is an investment advisor, a Rotarian, a past chair of the St. John’s Board of Trade and former regional manager for the Bowring retail chain. For the past 33 years he has assisted Santa Claus during more than 1000 visits with children. He believes in the healing power of the Christmas season.
Santa Claus just might be the hardest working person on the planet. For all that, he loves his work, and Bruce Templeton knows exactly why.Financial advisor and author Bruce Templeton knows Santa better than any of us likely ever will - through the close friendship that’s bound them for 33 years. That’s a long time to know someone. And when that someone is also the world’s most popular and anticipated person, you gain a few insights; on life, and on the inner workings of Santa’s mind.In the new book ‘The Man in the Red Suit,’ Bruce Templeton shares what he’s learned; about Santa’s strong but gentle beliefs, the abiding magic of Christmas, and what it is to see the world through a child’s eyes. Because if there’s one population group in whom Santa takes a strong interest, it’s children.Children — from the well-to-do to the poor; the healthy and the sick; the happy ones and the sullen ones; the children fortunate enough to enjoy the love and security of a comfortable home, and those children in our midst who endure the stress of poverty and family troubles — all have been Santa’s profoundest influence. As Mr. Templeton’s book makes clear, all of these children, in their particular way, have taught Santa Claus important lessons. He’s the person he is because of them.‘The Man in the Red Suit’ is a beautiful and gracious book that honors children. Because, you see, it might look as though Santa is the one giving all the gifts — when all that gift-giving is actually Santa’s gesture of thanks for the privilege of knowing them.While reading Templeton’s accounts of working with Santa, accompanying him on his visits, there were times when I had to fight back tears: the little girl who asked Santa whether the spirit of her recently-deceased mother would be with him in his sleigh on Christmas Eve; the terminally ill six-year-old boy who couldn’t stay awake long enough to meet Santa, but whose grandmother took a photo of Santa laying his head down to share a space on the boy’s pillow — as proof to the boy that Santa himself had left him that new teddy bear.But there are happy moments, too. And Templeton’s candid book shares many moments when Santa was caught off-guard by a child’s particularly pointed question — such as “Do your feet smell when you take off your boots?” Or, “How do you pick up after your reindeer?” Yes, even Santa can get a little tongue-tied.Even with the help of his elves, Santa can’t do all the things he does without a lot of support, and Templeton’s book is also a tribute to all the people who help him during special visits at Christmastime and throughout the year. Santa has a lot of children to thank, and he is assisted in this monumental task by community groups and professional organizations of every kind.Read ‘The Man in the Red Suit’ during quiet moments this Christmas, or give it as a gift.Western Star Book ReviewDarrell SquiresAssistant manager of Public Information and Library Resources Board, West Newfoundland-Labrador division
Will my mommy’s spirit be with you?December 5thBack in 2006,some very creative people at the local Hits 99.1 FM radio station posed an interesting challenge for their listeners. If your child could fly directly to the North Pole, what question would your boy or girl ask Santa? The prize would involve making that dream come true for 18 children and 18 parents. (Thank goodness Santa has lots of elves!) The only requirement was that the child be between five and eight years old. And they had to live within driving distance of St. John’s. Nobody was really prepared for what happened next.Canada Post and the Internet got swamped. In fact, more than 6,000 families responded, which meant the station personnel had a great deal of reading to do. Over a period of weeks, the radio crew announced the names of one child each day until all 18 were named. The calls, live on the radio each morning to the winning child, were highly anticipated. (Santa got to pick a child as well, which I will explain shortly.) Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry about the actual transportation to the North Pole. Provincial Airlines Limited (PAL), a wonderful Newfoundland airline with a strong sense of corporate social responsibility, had volunteered the use of one of their planes and its crew. The excitement grew each day as we got closer to the big trip.There was probably a bit of chaos in some homes around the city at 5 a.m. as 18 children were shaken from their sleep, dressed, and taken out into the cold on a Saturday morning. They were driven to the airport by 6 a.m. so they could be met by the airline staff – all appropriately dressed as elves. The children (each with one parent) got their flight tickets, passed through security, and went on board the “Santa Flight” to the North Pole. The only alteration to the plane was that Christmas wrapping paper had been cut and taped on the inside of the windows. At 7 a.m., the plane was towed out on the runway, where it taxied and then took flight. After roughly 20 minutes, the pilot came on the P.A. system to announce that the North Pole was in his view. They would be landing shortly.Meanwhile, there was great activity inside the PAL aircraft hangar. Elves were making their lists. They had arranged a long table piled high with gifts all beautifully wrapped. Very carefully, those lists were checked to make sure the seating plan and children’s names were connected to the proper seat and row numbers. The clever elves had called the parents prior to the flight, so that Santa could have the gift of their dreams for them. If you are wondering how that is possible, this was the North Pole and everything is possible!When the plane touched down, it taxied to an enormous hangar. The big doors were opened, the aircraft was pulled inside, and blocks were placed on the floor to steady the wheels. Once the engines were shut down, the pilot announced, “Welcome to the North Pole!” The children were told that Santa was busy feeding Rudolph, but he would enter the plane in a minute. Outside, a wheeled ladder was placed near the side of the plane. A PAL employee then climbed to the top with a broom, which he swished back and forth on the top of the plane. The pilot came on the intercom again to ask the children if they could hear the reindeer on the roof.Meanwhile, the ground-handling staff picked up two large boxes of real snow which had been brought down from Labrador (there was no snow in St. John’s at this time). Santa knelt on the concrete floor with his arms outstretched and they dumped six inches of powdery snow on his head and arms. Then he stood up, jingled his bells, and with a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho” he walked up the steps and into the plane.The noise level dropped from high-pitched pandemonium to hushed disbelief as a snow-covered Santa stepped into the aisle of the plane. Children laughed, parents cried. Santa shook the snow off, much to the delight of everyone. Santa has lots of elves, of course, and so the night before this big event his workshop at the North Pole had been sent the seating plan for the airplane. Santa knew the names of all the 18 children, exactly where they were seated, as well as the questions they wanted Santa to answer.Billy in seat 1B asked, “Do your feet smell as bad as Uncle Billy’s when you take off your boots?” Annie in 3A asked, “Does Santa have a pooper-scooper to pick up after the reindeer just like I do for my dog when we walk in the park?”There was a six-year-old girl named Kaylee who was seated in seat 7A. Santa had thought long and hard about Kaylee’s question, because he knew it was going to be a tough one to answer. Kaylee’s mother had died in a tragic car accident eight weeks earlier. In his letter to the radio station, Kaylee’s father said his daughter was heartbroken. She missed her mother terribly, and she only wanted to know the one thing which – if true – would make her a happy child at Christmas. Kaylee had a tough question.With each child and each row, I knew that I was getting closer to Kaylee. Then I saw a man sitting next to a beautiful little girl who was crying. She stretched out her arms and I picked her up. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Okay, Santa, what is the answer to my question?” I gulped. The question was simple but heartfelt, and there was no room for error.This is what Kaylee wanted to know.“Santa, will my mommy’s spirit be with you in the sleigh on Christmas Eve when you deliver the presents?”I looked at Kaylee, swallowed hard, and said, “Kaylee, you don’t need to worry. Your mommy’s spirit will not only be with Santa on Christmas Eve; your mommy’s spirit will be with you for the rest of your life.”Kaylee slowly released her very tight grip around my neck.“Thank you, Santa. That is all I need for Christmas.” Her dad looked at me and bravely tried to smile.On each visit, I have teddy bears with a scarf that says “Santa’s Own Teddy.” Sometimes, I carry more, as I did on that special day. I gently put Kaylee back in her seat and I gave her Santa’s Own Teddy. I shook hands with her dad as a tear rolled down his cheek. I blinked myself, hoping the tears would flow into my beard. I knew I had to hold it together because there was one more challenge for me.I mentioned earlier that there were 18 children. The radio station had selected 17, but Santa got to pick one, too. That was Santa’s “fee” for his visit with the children. We had called the Janeway to ask that they select a child for whom this might sadly be the child’s last Christmas. That little girl was on the plane in row 9. She had an inoperable tumour, but no one else was told about her health, and even Santa only learned later about the seriousness of her condition. The encounter on the plane that day will stay with me forever.Soon the pilot was back on the intercom telling the kids that Santa had to finish feeding the reindeer. We also needed time for the elves to finish distributing gifts to some very surprised children. “Santa got my letter, mummy! Look what he gave me!”Santa waved goodbye, the door was closed, and the tractor pushed the plane out onto the tarmac for its flight back to St. John’s. As I watched it take off, I marveled at how we get opportunities every day to make special memories for a child. And this day, an incredible group of people had all come together to keep the dream alive for children. They will never forget their experience.As for Santa, I still have a photo taken with Kaylee in row 7. I will remember her question for a long, long time.