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December 5, 2011

Museum room added to Santa's Workshop

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Some of the most wonderful things were found in the attic over the executive office. These include a wooden Santa riding a bright yellow rocket ship with the numbers 35 MI. " I painted those," exclaimed Dan Christoffel of Long Island and Upper Jay. "When I was the elf artist there in the late 1950s, it was around the time of Sputnik. Harold Fortune (one of the park founders) had this idea of having Santa riding on a rocket ship. We put them up all along the highways so people could see how many more miles it would be until they got to the North Pole."

Christoffel, who was affectionately known as "Chris," apprenticed under Monaco. In 1958 when Santa's Operation Toylift airplanes needed to be repainted, Christoffel worked side by side with Monaco. A section of the exhibit is dedicated to Operation Toylift, through which thousands of underprivileged and orphaned children across America and Canada received toys.

Another exhibits focuses on the North Pole, N.Y., post office, which was instituted on Dec. 16, 1953, and the many letters that Santa receives from good little boys and girls. The tradition of sending and receiving letters from Santa's post office on Whiteface Mountain remains strong today.

Walking through the exhibit room is like a trip down memory lane. One case is filled with souvenirs featuring the famous 1950s image of Santa at the North Pole with Donder, his favorite reindeer. Ranging from china and drinking glasses to cigarette lighters, candles, postcards, puzzles and more, this image is the most famous and is still being used today.

Another case features the pages of the 1956-1957 gift catalog and the items that were offered for sale that season. It includes a 45 rpm record of "North Pole Town" by the Lake Placid Orchestra that originally sold for 98 cents. The 78 rpm sold for $1.39 and sheet music was also available. An interactive display features several Sawyer's View Master viewers with Santa's Workshop reels from 1951 and 1956.

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