Dec. 11—When children ask Ruth Miller if she is the real Mrs. Claus, the Mrs. Kris Kringle impersonator doesn’t ruin the magic.
“I tell them that I am married to this Santa that is helping out our kids here and that the other Santa is up in the North Pole,” Miller said. “We send him all your names and help out with everything that the big Santa has to do. Santa has to have help. It takes more than one Santa to get to everybody.”
For the past three years, Richard Schaupp and Miller have played Santa and Mrs. Claus Yardbirds. The pair currently runs their own shop in Yard Birds.
Nancy Mitchell, another store owner in Yard Birds, described the two as “the spirit of Christmas year round.”
“The first year, they didn’t have anybody to do it,” Miller said. “They had done it before, but nobody wanted to step up and do it.”
The manager asked Schaupp if he was interested in playing Santa Claus. In the last three years, the pair has moved to various locations in Yardbirds. This year, the two are inside their own shop. Each year, though, they have built Santa’s living room and Mrs. Claus’ kitchen for people to visit.
Some of the more decorative pieces in the display, such as the Santa sign and the gate, Schaupp has made himself. The gate from Santa’s area that blocks off the rest of the shop is a repurposed table top that Schaupp decorated with a snowman and an elf.
When kids come into the booth, they get a picture with Santa and a candy cane or some piece of candy. Then Santa tells them they can take an ornament from his tree to put on their own tree at home. When the kids are too little to take an ornament, Santa and Mrs. Claus pull out a bag of stuffed animals that the babies or toddlers can choose from.
“Everything we do is (by) donation or absolutely free,” Miller said. “We don’t ask the parents or anybody for anything. A lot of the people here in Yard Birds pitch in and help us get all the ornaments and the stuffed animals. People will make cookies and bring them. It’s all basically free.”
Even before she was Mrs. Claus, Miller always tried to make children smile. Before she retired, she worked at Pope’s Kids Place. Some of the children she knew from her time there still recognize her.
“I see them come in now and some of the kids that were in daycare are now in first and second grade,” Miller said. “It’s really awesome to see them grow up and still be in the neighborhood. (They) remember me as ‘cooker Ruth’ when I worked at the daycare, because I was the cook. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Additionally, Miller ran a foster home in Ellensburg for 15 years. During that time, she raised 22 children.
“I just enjoyed it,” Miller said. “It’s all about the kids. There are a lot of children, especially here in Lewis County, that you know aren’t high-society or (in families with) high-earning incomes, so we just like to help them out and see the smile on their faces. That’s the amazing part.”
Schaupp and Miller said that they remember many of the children who come visit them and the display they have created. Each one mentioned several stories of children they met who touched their hearts.
“That first year, we got a little boy (and) both his legs were in casts,” Schaupp said. “He had cerebral palsy — his mom and dad brought him in. He was fussing real bad and I’m like, ‘You know, if you’ll have a picture taken for your mom and dad, I have a special treat for you.’ He straightened right up, so I gave him this little Milky Way bar. And that’s all it took. We saw him a year later and he’s walking and had the cast off and — (it’s) just special little things.”
Schaupp and Miller set up shop at the beginning of December and will be in Yard Birds on weekends, until Christmas. Families can visit Santa and Mrs. Claus in Yard Birds from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays until Dec. 23.
“We love it,” Miller said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”