SELMA — If you’re looking for Santa Claus in Selma and give Roy Boyd a call, you’ll know you’ve got the right number even if a woman answers. His wife calls herself Mrs. Santa.
Boyd, 77, started playing Santa Claus for the Selma Chamber of Commerce four years ago. Before he became a Santa, Boyd was a welder for 47 years.
His wife, Irene Boyd, had been on the chamber board for 20 years. When Chamber Executive Director Bob Allen was looking for someone to play the man in the red suit four years ago, he did not have to go far.
“I’ve known Mr. Boyd since he first came from the North Pole,” Allen said jokingly in a phone interview. “He was the kind of personality you would want, who represents the city well. And he’s great with kids.”
Dec. 2 starts the busy holiday season for Boyd. The city of Selma holds a festival that marks when Santa officially comes to town, Allen said.
Boyd will sit in the Santa house in downtown Selma almost every week day from the time schools let out until sundown to take pictures with kids. He will also have a full weekend schedule. The holiday regimen keeps Santa Claus and Mrs. Santa busy. Irene Boyd says she likes to stay at the Santa house with her husband to keep him company during slow spells so he doesn’t have to be alone.
Christmas is definitely a family affair for the Boyds. Irene Boyd proudly pulled out a picture of her husband’s curio cabinet full of Yuletide figurines and Santa statues. She said the “Santa Claus collection” is kept up in their home year-round.
Roy Boyd keeps a big, yellow, manila envelope filled with thank you notes, letters to Santa, and pictures with kids from over the years. One girl wrote at the top of her wish list that she wanted an American Girl doll and a gourmet kitchen.
The couple’s Christmas spirit does not stop with Santa Claus. They both are on the board of directors for Selma Cares. Each year volunteers pack 550 boxes of food for the needy and a new toy for each child. Boyd is there all day on Dec. 16 taking pictures with Santa.
When Boyd first started out as Santa Claus he used a fake beard, but now his beard grows white and full. “He wasn’t sure he was going to do it this year, so his beard is not far enough along,” Irene Boyd said. “I got a late start,” Boyd admitted.
At 77 years old, Boyd is comfortable playing the man in the red suit. “I just enjoy doing it,” Boyd said. “I like little kids. Anywhere from 6-month-olds. Then they have a time in there where they don’t like Santa too much, the 2- and 3-year-olds that don’t want to sit on my lap.”
“They cry,” Irene Boyd said. “But by 4 or 5 they like Santa Claus again.”
Boyd told his favorite story of a special needs boy who came back to see Santa two years in a row. “The first year he asked me for a DVD player, he called it,” Boyd said.
“And I said, ‘Well, I’ll see what I can do about getting you one.’ His father looked over at me and shook his head. I said, ‘Is that all you want?’ And he said, ‘No, I want two of them.’ So this last year when he came back I asked him if he got his DVD players and he said, ‘Yes, I did.’ That’s the one that stands out to me.”
Santa Claus does not turn any visitor away, human or otherwise. “He’s had people bring their dogs, their ducks, their rabbits to take pictures with Santa,” Irene Boyd said.
Santa reserves the right to impose special rules for non-human visitors.
“I had two German Shepherds last year,” Boyd said. “But they didn’t all get to sit on my lap.”
But generally flexibility is Santa’s middle name.
“One guy brought his red Volkswagen down and wanted me to get in it and take a picture.” Even though Santa is more comfortable behind the reins of his sleigh, he got behind the wheel and did what it took to make yet another child at heart happy.