Welcome to a new SweetwaterNOW series, #WHYoming.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
This week I sat down with Ken Christoffersen. Ken has listened to hundreds, if not thousands, of children’s Christmas wishes over the years as they have sat on his knee.
Ken, tell us one thing that is unique about you?
I’ve played Santa for 50 years in Rock Springs. I’ve kinda viewed it as my responsibility to help bring Christmas cheer to the area.
What got you into playing Santa Claus?
Back in 1947 when I was a young kid, my youngest brother Bob and I went to visit Santa at Ludwigs store in Laramie. We were so excited to tell him what we wanted for Christmas. I sat on Santa’s knee and told him what I wanted and he gave me an orange and a candy cane. My brother did the same. We went home and told our mom about our excitement. It turns out that my dad was Santa Claus. He fooled us both.
Years later we moved to Rock Springs. My dad owned the Gamble Hardware store which is now the American Legion. Around Christmas time, my dad would have a drawing at the store for customers that had bought things. When I got out of the Navy in 1964, my oldest brother Don and I would play Santa to deliver the items to the winners’ homes. I was about 25 or 26.
In 1967 I got hired at Stauffer Chemical. One of the guys knew me and asked me if I could be a Santa for the company. At the time, the company hired several Santa’s to go to the employee’s houses and give their kids a nice present. Stauffer gave great gifts. I decided that by golly I wanted to be a part of this. I played Santa for Stauffer for 36 and half years. I went on to play Santa for several organizations and events in Rock Springs after that.
Do you have favorite memories as Santa?
Being in the lighted parades in Rock Springs, we have had some cold nights.
I have played Santa for three different generations in some families.
I’ve had several of my family members help me when I’ve played Santa. It has almost become a family affair.
One year I rode in a wagon to the train depot to be Santa when it was five below zero.
What is one of your favorite things to do in Wyoming?
One of my favorite things to do, since I could get a license, is hunt. I really look forward to hunting each year. I still hunt. Another is playing Santa around Christmas time.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
If you’re playing Santa Claus, you’ve got big shoes to fill and you better do it right. You’ve got to make the kids happy and interact with them. I have heard some sad stories from kids about Santa.
What is one thing you appreciate about our community?
I married a Rock Springs native and have been in Rock Springs since 1962. The town and the people have been the most friendly people in the world.
Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse, or drive a car?
That’s hard because I’ve done them all. It depends on what I’m doing I guess.
What would you sing at karaoke night?
I’m a jokester. I’d probably sing What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor, since I was in the Navy.
How would your friends describe you?
I’ve been told I’m a terrific guy for helping to bring Christmas cheer to the town.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
I would probably have Dan Blocker play me, specifically for his role as Hoss Cartwright.
I have played Santa for three different generations in some families.”
– Ken Christoffersen
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I’ve had a happy life. I’m proud I worked for a company for 36 and a half years and then 10 more years after that. I enjoyed working out there. We were like a family. We would do anything for anybody. It was just like we were brothers and sisters.
Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?
When I got out of the Navy, I started working at the Gamble Store with my dad and brother. Then I worked on the interstate with the highway department as a surveying crew. Then I worked at Halliburton and then I got on at Stauffer Chemical. I enjoyed my jobs because of all of the good people. I’ve just really enjoyed my life here in Wyoming.
If you’d like us to interview yourself or someone you know for #WHYoming, please send us suggestions to email@example.com