Real white whiskers help Old St. Nick come to life for children

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

When he was born, his parents named him Floyd Burlison. Now he is known as “Daddy,” “Poppa” or just “Pete.” But to many of the parents and children in Natchez, he is known as “The Real Santa Claus.”

And why is that? He says the secret is in his real beard and his attitude.

“They (children) pull on my beard, and say, ‘Well, you’re the real Santa Claus.'”

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But along with the beard is the attitude. “You have to have the heart and attitude to go with it,” he said.

He made his first appearance at the Woolco department store at the Magnolia Mall in 1970. Since then, he has shown up at various places and times.

Beginning in 1998, he began to steadily appear at the Natchez Mall and spent this year visiting Wal-Mart and other places arouund Natchez.

His wife, “Mrs. Claus,” also known as Louise Burlison, keeps track of his many appearances. Mrs. Claus said she is repaid by watching the children that talk to him.

“I love the kids’ faces,” she said. “It’s the expression on their face when they see him.”

And the reward for him is along the same lines. “The most rewarding thing is the expressions of the children when they come to hug you,” he said

But being “The Real Santa Claus” is not the most important thing during the holidays.

“It’s not about Santa Claus,” he said. “It’s about the One who sent Santa Claus. It’s about Jesus.”