By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Nov 28, 2003 at 5:16 AM

It's been 25 years since I lost faith in the chubby chimney slider, but there's something believable about this guy -- who may or may not actually be Jim Hutton, a 50-year-old machinist from the West Side. And it's not just the beard, which for the record, is real.

"Do you believe in miracles?" he asks later in the conversation, and when I say that I do, he continues with, "So then you believe in Santa."

I'm not sure my college logic professor would see this as a true statement, but it works for me. Like Fox Moulder in "The X-Files," I decide to believe because I want to believe. Why not? There could be something pretty in it for me. I've been a relatively good girl this year.

OMC: So, Mr. Claus, has a kid ever peed on you? Thrown up?

Santa: No. No one's ever had an accident on Santa. I've given away a few samples of my beard, though. You know, kids grab at it, but that's about it."

OMC: How did you become Santa?

Santa: Due to my size and nature, it was something I always wanted to do.

OMC: So, are you admitting you're not really Santa Claus?

Santa: No...

OMC: What is the most rewarding thing about being Santa?

Santa: Working with kids, of course.

OMC: What's the strangest or saddest thing a kid has asked you for?

Santa: For dad to stop smoking or for parents to get back together ... The first little girl that ever sat on my lap was from South America and didn't understand English, and then the second little girl sat down and asked me for a blanket for Christmas.

OMC: Do you ever tell the parents what the kids say?

Santa: Yes. I try to get the parents involved as much as possible. I always tell them they can call me any time during the year at 1-800-SANTA. Or (if the child says something serious) I might take them aside to talk.

OMC: Do kids ask you if you're real?

Santa: Yes. I always say, "Well, I'm sitting here, right? I'm real. I'm not a fake person."

OMC: At what age do kids stop visiting you?

Santa: It really depends on the kid. I've had 4-year-olds that can't stand me, and 12-year-olds that like me.

OMC: Do you change into your Santa gear at the gig, or do you drive around in your car wearing the costume?

Santa: Both. I change at the mall, but when I do private parties, or restaurant or bar appearances, I usually change at home.

OMC: Do you get a lot of honks on the road?

Santa: Always.

OMC: What kind of small talk do you make with the kids? How does the conversation usually go?

Santa: I ask them their name, their age, if they have an brothers or sisters. Then I tell them that I know they haven't been cleaning their room or sharing as much as they should be. This really gets them, because for every kid, it's true.

OMC: So how's the money, Santa?

Santa: I only get paid for some of my appearances. At the mall, of course, (this Santa works at Bayshore Mall) but sometimes I don't get paid at all. I've also made a home visit to a little girl who couldn't make it to the mall, and tried to visit a sick child in the hospital once, but she had, luckily, already gone home by the time I got there.

OMC: So what does Santa want for Christmas?

Santa: Santa wants to get his Harley-Davidson built. Santa's bike was stolen back in '92, and I found one a few years ago and I've been rebuilding that.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.