Santa has an able helper right in Placer

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
-A +A
There are a few indications that local Realtor Dave Johnson has a secret moonlighting job. One is his vast collection of Santa Claus ties, which he sports at work each day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Another is his car license plate reading “SNTA SLD.” Or maybe you notice his mood just seems a little lighter and his eyes have a little more twinkle this time of year. Johnson impersonates Santa Claus, entertaining youngsters and doing his best to make sure that each child’s Christmas list is relayed to the real Santa and his helpers up at the North Pole. It all started for Johnson in 1963, when he was just 16 years old and was working at a library in Southern California. He volunteered to be the library’s Santa that holiday season. From the very first time he slipped into the Santa suit, Johnson has really enjoyed making boys and girls happy. For more than 46 years Johnson has played Santa’s helper, 33 of them right here in Auburn. “I get a kick out of seeing the kids, and if I can really get them going by telling a youngster something only Santa could know and watch their eyes light up, it really makes believers out of them,” he said. In 1976, Johnson co-owned Dave & Dana’s Donut Hole with his wife in Meadow Vista. “Four guys came in the doughnut shop, I heard them debating who would ask, back and forth, lots of discussion,” Johnson said. “One of the guys finally said they were from the Meadow Vista Lions Club and they needed a Santa that night and would I do it.” A Santa suit was obtained, and on the same-day notice, Johnson became not only the Meadow Vista Lions Club Santa but also a Lions Club member, and he still is today. This year he will again don the suit, put on the beard and red hat and make kids happy at several venues through Christmas Eve. Every year Johnson is the Santa for several Lions Clubs, the Meadow Vista Fire Department (for 10 years), and this year at the Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, not to mention daycare centers. “It’s a volunteer thing for me, and I’m just thrilled doing it,” he said. “It makes my Christmas season, if any donations are available it all goes to the Lions Club,” he said. Most times it’s a happy affair, though some youngsters are afraid to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they want. “I don’t promise the kids they’ll get what’s on their list. I’ll say, ‘I’ll do the best I can, and if I can’t can I get you something else?’ I don’t want to break their hearts,” Johnson said. “Sometimes it’s heartbreaking for me when a kid’s Christmas wish includes something like asking me if I can get his parents back together. “Probably the most fun recently is my granddaughter sitting on my lap as Santa and she didn’t even know it was me,” he said. Johnson lives in Weimar with his wife, Dana, and is also the voice of the Colfax Falcons football team, announcing their home games. Both of his children attended and graduated from Colfax High.