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Savvy Santa by the Sea

Allen Roy prepares for his role as Santa Claus all year-round. Staff Photo

The first time Allen Roy played Santa, he was about 18 years old and had to wear a fake beard and two pillows to get the right effect. Now, Roy's naturally white hair and beard — along with a delightful twinkle in his eyes — guarantees he will be recognized by children year-round as a representation of the jolly ol' elf. He doesn't even need his signature suit to draw attention.

"When my wife and I go somewhere, we'll dress up in red — I have a red Hawaiian shirt I like— and I'll put on my red golfing hat," Roy told Corpus Christi Business News. "I tell kids I'm there to make sure they are still being good."

Roy's wife plays the Mrs. to his Santa, whether casually strolling through H-E-B or at official holiday events. She comes free of charge when Roy has a paying gig, something he just started doing in the past few years. He volunteers his time with charity organizations such as the Burke Foundation Child Placing Agency.

"I just started last year advertising to do home visits or to work at stores," he said. "I do private gatherings, Christmas parties for individuals or companies."

He visits individual homes to deliver presents. Parents wake up the kids, and he pretends to catch them as they peek at him around a corner. Then, they have a laugh and eat cookies before he leaves. One happy customer from last Christmas called him Sept. 1 to book him for this year.

Wistfully, Roy mentioned he has yet to play Santa in a parade. His father was the Harbor Lights Santa for years.

A member of the Lone Star Santas, Roy often attends meetings of the fraternal organization of Christmas helpers. Last April in San Antonio, a group of Santas on a River Walk boat ride drew crowds of gawkers and startled children. The hotel had to tell youngsters that these were all Santa's helpers and encouraged them to look for the "real one" in the group.

What to tell children offseason and on can be difficult, Roy said. Kids often ask about what happens if they haven't been good.

"I tell them the important thing is to have a good heart, then doing good things will come more naturally," he said. "I say, as long as you've got a good heart, start now and you'll be OK. We always get the chance to start over again."

When not counseling kids or stirring up some holiday happiness, Roy runs Allen's Auto Trim and Upholstery, a business he's owned for 13 years. He has 23 years’ experience restoring seats in boats and cars and on motorcycles. He does a lot of work on older cars, restoring them to their original look and feel.

His work includes custom upholstery for wheelchairs and beds, something he was doing for the Burke Foundation when he was asked to play Santa for them. It was a request that got him back in the Santa business after years on hiatus.Where the two jobs merge is in his costume.

"I can make my own Santa belts," he said with a laugh. Both jobs are enjoyable. "One is more hands on," he continued. "I like working with my hands, doing a craft. That's satisfying. The other is mostly fun."

The fun might eventually pay off, he said, as he takes on more paying jobs as Santa. Whether for grownups or kids, he always enjoys playing the part.

"If the grownups are kids at heart, that's even better," he said. "I like the children best. I always enjoying seeing the kids get a kick out of everything."

A kid at heart himself, Roy, too, gets a kick out of the magic of the holidays.

"The spirit of Christmas for me is the laughter of children, seeing them brighten up when they see Santa and all the beautiful decorations," he said. "They are innocent and don't understand the stress of life. Children should stay children as long as they can."

Roy helps make that happen, one jolly ol' "ho, ho, ho" at a time.

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