Mary Margaret Kuhn, November 12, 2014

Title

Mary Margaret Kuhn, November 12, 2014

Subject

Mrs. Claus
The Farmer's Museum
Carousel

Description

Mary Margaret Kuhn is one of Cooperstown's best loved and most well-known residents. She is originally from Philadelphia and today she can be seen at the Farmers' Museum running the carousel. At Christmastime she plays Mrs. Claus in downtown Cooperstown.

Creator

Sarah DaCorta

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2014-11-12

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.5 mB
audio/mpeg
26.9 mB
image/jpeg
3264x2448 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

14-026

Coverage

Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
1960-2014

Interviewer

Sarah DaCorta

Interviewee

Mary Margaret Kuhn

Location

51 Chestnut Street
Cooperstown, N. Y.

Transcription

MMK=Mary Margaret Kuhn
SD=Sarah DaCorta

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

SD:
This is the November 12, 2014 interview of Mary Margaret Kuhn by Sarah DaCorta for the CGP Community Stories website at 51 Chestnut St. Hi, Mary.

MMK:
Hi, Sarah.

SD:
Let’s get started. Where and when were you born?

MMK:
Well, I was born March 1, 1960, and I was born at the Valley Forge Military Hospital in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

SD:
Ok, and did you grow up in Pennsylvania?

MMK:
I did, in a little town called Wayne that’s about 15 miles outside the city of Philadelphia.

SD:
Did you go to Philadelphia very often?

MMK:
Yes, we were very lucky. There was a train that came through our town that would get you into center city in about an hour and when my parents didn’t drive us into the city, very often I would take the train with my brothers.

SD:
Oh wow. What things did you do there?

MMK:
Well, we had quite a few relatives in the city. My Grandmom and lots of aunts and uncles. So, very often we would meet them and go and see a movie or go shopping and have lunch and then take the train home. You know, if we had a day off from school or something like that.

SD:
How was your school experience in elementary school?

MMK:
Oh, I loved school, you know I went to my parish’s Catholic school for elementary school and we had small classes and, you know, there were all the youngsters that you’d known from the time you were little. There wasn’t a lot of families that moved in or moved out of our community until my later elementary school years when General Electric opened a big plant in Valley Forge and then we had a lot of new families start moving into the area. But for most of my primary school years it was the same 25 kids.

SD:
So, what were your parents like?

MMK:
Well, my mother had grown up in Philadelphia. And then during WWII became a secretary for the army and that was how she met my dad, who was in the Army Air Corps. He had grown up on a dairy farm outside of Scranton, PA and he retired from the military when I was in elementary school. He was teaching at the Valley Forge Military Academy.

SD:
Oh wow, were they easygoing parents, were they strict?

MMK:
I would say my mother had a wonderful way of balancing being strict and letting you learn yourself. She had a great saying, “The first time you make a mistake and you hang yourself, I will come and cut you down, but if you’re silly enough to do it again, you are going to swing in the wind for a while.” And that was true.

SD:
Did you have any memorable childhood friends?

MMK:
Yes, as I said, we all knew each other growing up and not only spent our school days together but our after school time and our summers together. Basketball in Philadelphia in the suburbs was the thing, the sport, and in fact my best childhood friend, June Carol Craft, her dad coached the Villanova college basketball team so that’s where we spent all of our time, was dribbling and shooting.

SD:
Did they have different costumes back then? Different sneakers?

MMK:
Yes. Converse high tops were the thing. Of course, in the 1960’s, you had your choice of white or black, low cuts or high tops, but a young lady would never play basketball in a pair of shorts. We wore a jumper with a man’s style button down collar shirt under it to play basketball in. And it wasn’t until I was in college that I saw young ladies wearing shorts and a tank top style top on the basketball courts.

SD:
Did you make a lot of baskets?

MMK:
I was an exceptional free throw shooter and would do very well when I drove to the basket to make a lay up. I wasn’t great shooting from the top of the key or the corners and learned early on to feed it to one of my teammates who could make the shot.

SD:
Did you go to college?

MMK:
Yes, I went to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and lived at school and did my undergraduate and graduate work there.

SD:
You got your graduate degree?

MMK:
Yes.

SD:
And what is it in?

MMK:
I have my MA and my field was in history and sociology of science and then I went on and got a master’s of education from Temple University.

SD:
How was your experience at Temple?

MMK:
Temple’s a very different school, at University of Pennsylvania, even though we’re in west Philadelphia, there was very much of a college campus that was separate from the neighborhoods around it. At Temple, you’re right in North Philadelphia and the life of the neighborhoods is very much a part of the campus. You’re walking through the neighborhoods you’re not walking through a campus. So that was very different.

SD:
City life. Do you have any memorable friends from your college years?

MMK:
Yes, not that I see very often. We tend to correspond a great deal on Facebook and but as far as getting together, we’re pretty much scattered all over the world now.

SD:
What experience did you have with museums before you were at The Farmers’ Museum.

MMK:
Well, as I said, where I grew up we had very easy access to the city and when you would exit the train at Pennsylvania Station you were right on the Philadelphia Parkway, which was just one museum after the other. The Museum of Natural History and the Franklin Institute and, finally, the Rodin and the Philadelphia Art Museum. All of which were open free of charge on Sundays. And so I was a regular visitor at all of them and really enjoyed them. And of course University of Pennsylvania has our university museum, which is primarily anthropology but really intersected well with my major of history and sociology of science.

SD:
You did research there?

MMK:
Yes, I did, particularly on excavations of Vesuvius, mummified remains that are a part of the museum’s collection.

SD:
Oh wow. That’s really interesting. Have you been to Italy?

MMK:
Yeah

SD:
Did you enjoy it?

MMK:
Oh yeah.

SD:
Do you speak Italian?

MMK:
Enough to get by but we studied Latin in school and they’re so similar. You can kind of fake it when you have to.

SD:
Did you do a thesis?

MMK:
Yes, I did.

SD:
What was it on?

MMK:
My thesis was on the role of Catholic hospitals in Philadelphia in treating the Civil War wounded, many of whom were brought by hospital train into the city. It was kind of a lost chapter of Civil War history.

SD:
Interesting. How did you meet your husband?

MMK:
We were both working in Philadelphia about a block apart. One evening his secretary introduced the two of us at a local restaurant and we started dating shortly after that.

SD:
What year was this?

MMK:
1984

SD:
Was he your first boyfriend?

MMK:
No, golly, no. No, I had lots of older brothers so I started having crushes on older guys from very early on. And as I said my best friend’s dad coached the Villanova basketball team and I can’t think of a basketball player I didn’t have a crush on.

SD:
So you said you have mostly older brothers, do you have any sisters?

MMK:
No, I’m the only girl in the family.

SD:
How many older brothers do you have?

MMK:
Five.

SD:
Wow

MMK:
Yes

SD:
How are your brothers doing these days?

MMK:
Well, you know, we’re all getting older. My brothers are professors and while they still enjoy teaching I think it’s getting harder keeping up with the students as the years go by.

SD:
What led you to The Farmers’ Museum?

MMK:
Well, my husband and I moved here 18 years ago and prior to moving to Cooperstown I was director of an afterschool program for kindergarten through eighth grade. That was located in the barrio in Philadelphia and I found there that I really loved hands-on teaching with kids in a non-traditional classroom setting. And through funding through a lot of different local organizations we were able to take them on many field trips to Philadelphia museums and do a lot of hands-on workshops, so when we moved here and I found that The Farmers’ Museum had a very active school program I first started volunteering and shortly after that I was hired to teach the school workshops and have been working with the school programs there ever since.
SD:
What kind of a lasting impact do you hope to have at The Farmers’ Museum?

MMK:
If anything I always hope that I leave the young people who come to see us with such great memories that they’ll bring their kids back. In working through the summer season, especially in staffing the school house, we get so many visitors who come with their children or sometimes grandchildren, and the first thing they’ll say is the last time I was here was on my fourth grade trip. And we were trying to think of something fun to do and I said, “I’ve got to bring you kids to The Farmers’ Museum,” and I think if we continue that, we’ll continue to have an audience into the future. So yeah, just make it something that those young people will never forget.

SD:
What’s your favorite memory of The Farmers’ Museum?

MMK:
Well, that’s a hard one. I guess my very favorite memory was we used to have the college students from SUNY Oneonta come up and volunteer to do projects at the museum one day in the spring and it happened to be that day and this was probably about 10 years ago and one of our heritage cows had just had a calf and she was cleaning the calf off and our museum horse Zeb, the Percheron, was standing very close to her and resting her head on the calf’s side, and I was there with about 10 of the young ladies from SUNY Oneonta and I realized that Zeb was doing that because Ruby the cow was still in labor and presented us with a twin calf and those young ladies had never seen anything like the birth of a calf so not only did they get to see the one calf get cleaned off and stand up wobbling next to its mom, but they saw the second one born, and quite a few of those young ladies had never seen anything like that and it was pretty special. And they got to see the bond between barn mates. The horse definitely knew that she was still in labor and we dumb humans didn’t have a clue. So that was really interesting.

SD:
Where does you love of animals come from?

MMK:
Well, I think I grew up in farm country at a time when Wayne, Pennsylvania was still mostly farms, and I grew up around horses. One of the things my father taught was polo at the military academy, so I grew up around those incredible horses, and I think that’s a big part of it.

SD:
What’s your schedule like at The Farmers’ Museum?

MMK:
It changes very much from season to season. This time of year we’re in winter workshop seasons so my days revolve around either teaching a carousel workshop or making sure that the carousel is available for the other school students to ride as part of their visit as well as doing all of the clean-up work from the season and preparations for upcoming events like Thanksgiving weekend and Candlelight [Evening]. In the summertime it’s very much being on grounds with either the rest of the carousel staff or staffing the school house, driving the museum’s tractor for tractor wagon rides. Visiting other sites and doing some outreach or training if they invite me to do training for their staff. So that’s a lot of fun. You’re not doing the same old same old every day.

SD:
So, you’ve been Mrs. Claus for ten years. How did that come to be?

MMK:
My husband became St. Nicholas at The Farmers’ Museum fifteen years ago. And the following year the gentleman who was Santa Claus here in the village of Cooperstown passed away very suddenly and he was asked by the Christmas Committee to be Santa Claus on Main Street in the cottage as well. And at that time Mrs. Claus was always with Santa, and I knew that working with the school groups at the museum right up until Christmas vacation that that wasn’t going to be possible, so he became Santa first and then Elizabeth Maloney was Mrs. Claus and she did that for a number of years and she had made the decision with the committee that it wasn’t necessary for Mrs. Claus to be there whenever Santa was there. So, when Elizabeth decided to retire, because she had grandchildren living here and she didn’t want them to recognize her, I said to the committee, you know under the current circumstances I would be delighted to be Mrs. Claus and they were very happy to have me and I’ve been Mrs. Claus ever since.

SD:
What’s your favorite Christmas memory and favorite Christmas memory of being Mrs. Claus? Favorite Christmas memory from childhood or anytime.

MMK:
Ok. My favorite Christmas memory as a child was the year that I was coming downstairs with my brothers and we could see right in front of the tree a small portable black and white television and that was so exciting because up until that point we had one television in our home, and I wasn’t real fond of watching baseball and football and would have much rather have been watching the Flintstones and this meant that maybe I would have a chance to do that. That was really exciting. It was exciting for all of us. My favorite memory being here as Mrs. Claus, we do, besides just being on Main Street, we do a lot of visits to area schools and libraries and the town of Hartwick which is just over the hill has a really nice little Christmas party every year for the children. They invite Santa and Mrs. Claus to come. We each read the children a story. The librarian actually prepares little bags for each of the children coming with things she knows that they would like or that they need for school whether it be multiplication flashcards or a new dictionary and usually a little toy that they’ve been wanting, like a Hello Kitty or Pokemon, something along those lines, and that’s always very special because after we’re done reading they each come up and sit with Santa and I and get their present and have their picture taken and it’s just really neat.

SD:
Do you two visit Bassett Hospital?

MMK:
Yes, it is our tradition, first thing on Christmas Eve usually about nine o’ clock in the morning, we’ll head over to Bassett and start visiting every patient who is there in the hospital. And we have to be on Main Street at noontime so we’ll see as many as we can and then go down to Main Street and see the children and we’re supposed to leave at four but we always stay until we see the last child because that’s it for them, you know it’s Christmas Eve, so then we go back to Bassett and see any patients we haven’t seen in the morning. And at six o’ clock we go to the six o’ clock vigil mass at St. Mary’s and Santa and I as part of the entrance procession carry baby Jesus and kneel and place him in the manger right in front of the altar which is always special for the little kids. It’s become the family mass and they know right after that Santa’s taking off in the sleigh and that’s the point at which we can take a deep breath and come home and take the big black boots off for the last time.

SD:
Where do you get your costumes?

MMK:
Well, the costumes were made for us. When Paul became Santa he wanted a very Victorian look to go with the Victorian Christmas cottage the children visit us in down on Main Street. [Brief discussion with Paul Kuhn, her husband] And so he spent a lot of time looking at books over in the research library and copying a lot of the illustrations that Nash did during the Victorian Period and then the costumes were made by a seamstress in Oneonta [named] Mrs. Tannenbaum. I thought it was the perfect name for someone to make Santa’s costumes. We’ve made repairs, Janet Rigby has made us each new vests since then, the vests tend to get really worn with the children clinging to you because they do. That’s where they come from.

SD:
How do you stay warm on Main Street?

MMK:
Well, the house does have a little electric heater and an electric mat under the rug that keeps your feet warm so inside you’re warm or warm enough.

SD:
And people can come inside the cottage?

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

MMK:
Ok, Sarah if you turn around that top photo is Santa’s Cottage. It was built over 30 years ago by a committee here in Cooperstown who didn’t want the kids to have to go all the way to the mall to see Santa. They wanted him here on Main Street. And up until that point there had been a Men’s Store on Main street called Clark’s and Santa was always there in the store so when they closed Clark’s the decision was made to build Santa a cottage. It’s on a trailer and the village stores it in their barn and early in November, probably next weekend they’ll drag it down to Main Street and set it up.

SD:
So what do you usually do for Thanksgiving?

MMK:
That’s the one drawback about being Santa and Mrs. Claus is, we don’t dare travel. And our families all live outside the area, so a number of years they have come here to Cooperstown but as the grandsons have gotten older, and they’re involved in high school and college sports, a lot of the tournaments take place during Thanksgiving, and it’s just really hard for them to get here so we have Thanksgiving here in Cooperstown and that’s the hard part, I’d love to be with the grandsons.

SD:
So, you have grandsons?

MMK:
Yes. That’s Jimmy, he is at Virginia Tech studying electrical engineering and this is Patrick, that was taken when he was younger. He is now a sophomore in high school. He’s a great basketball player. Awesome. Absolutely awesome. But he lives in Issiqua, Washington State.

SD:
Oh wow, that’s very far to travel for Thanksgiving.

MMK:
It is, it is, especially when you have a lot of Thanksgiving basketball tournaments to play, so that makes it tough.

SD:
So how many people do you typically have at Thanksgiving?

MMK:
It can vary. We can have as many as 12 and other years it’s just Santa and I because that’s just how it works out.

SD:
Do you have any special recipes that you make every year?

MMK:
Yes, and I’ve had to teach my brother’s daughters how to make them all, so they can have them at their family Thanksgivings. Stuffed celery and stuffed eggs, and a particular way of making turkey stuffing that’s just kind of family traditions.

SD:
When do you typically put up your tree?

MMK:
I try to get it done as soon after Thanksgiving as I can and the same with the outdoor decorations because Santa and Mrs. Claus are kind of on a tight schedule between the arrival, which is the day after Thanksgiving. There’s a parade on that Friday here in Cooperstown and the mayor welcomes Santa and Mrs. Claus to the village and opens the Christmas season right up until Christmas Eve, so I try to get it done as soon after Thanksgiving as I can.

SD:
And do you really enjoy putting up the tree?

MMK:
Yes.

SD:
Do you use a real tree or a fake tree?

MMK:
I have a lot of very large hand blown glass ornaments, so I use an artificial tree because the last few years I had a live tree and they’ll pull the branch down and slide off and break.

SD:
Where do you get your ornaments?

MMK:
That’s my special tradition ever since before we were married whenever we were on vacation somewhere I would look for special Christmas ornaments from that place, and so now when I sit and look at the Christmas tree it’s like our whole life together. And Santa laughs at me because I can sit there and tell you exactly where every ornament came from and the year and he can’t but that’s ok. You know some of them are obvious like the alligator for Florida, but you know we have a lot of Santas and I can tell you where each one came from and when and where.

SD:
So you have a lot of Santa decorations in the house?

MMK:
Yes, we do. And of course there’s the portraits. The one large one was painted by Marjorie Landers, Sr. and that’s Paul as St. Nicholas at Candlelight Evening at The Farmers’ Museum. And the one on the plate was painted by Marge Landers, Jr. and that’s Victorian Santa in our cottage on Main Street.

SD:
Describe for me what happens when you really get hit with the Christmas spirit.

MMK:
Oh golly.

SD:
Does it creep up on you?

MMK:
No. On arrival day you just gotta be there, you’re Mrs Claus and you’ve gotta make all these little nervous kids comfortable about riding with Santa in the horse drawn wagon and the parade and so you’re kind of combination grandma and Mrs. Claus.

SD:
How do you get into character? Do you play Christmas music? Is it the costume that really gets you into character?

MMK:
I’m not sure that I ever really stop being Mrs. Claus. I’m just not in costume but it’s at this point so much a part of who I am and living in a village like this the children know that you’re Mrs. Claus so if it’s the Fourth of July and you’re watching fireworks, you’re still Mrs. Claus to them. And it’s interesting because to the kids it seems very natural but sometimes if they call me Mrs. Claus in May, it makes the parents very nervous and that’s why Santa wrote his book, that came out this year, “Santa’s second home” to make the parents feel at ease.

SD:
Is it a children’s book?

MMK:
It’s a children’s book. It’s all about how Santa came to have a second home in Cooperstown, and why you might see him here anytime of year.

SD:
Does the carousel get decorated for Christmas?

MMK:
No, the carousel really only gets decorated for Halloween, which is the last day that the museum’s open to the public so we have a preschool Halloween carousel party and it’s a chance for the preschoolers to say goodbye to their carousel animals for the season and a lot of the animals wear costumes or masks and we [decorate with] cobwebs and it’s a lot of fun. They come in costume and ride and we have all these little princesses and pirates and firemen riding the carousel.

SD:
So you know a lot of the local children by name?

MMK:
I do. It’s very interesting in Santa’s house because they’ll walk in and I’ll say “Look, Santa, Beckett’s here with his mom and dad.”

SD:
Do you plan on staying at The Farmers’ Museum until retirement?

MMK:
That’s something I’ve never really thought about much. It continues to be fun; there continue to be new opportunities. I can’t imagine being anywhere else right now but that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.

SD:
Do you currently have a favorite animal living at the farm?

MMK:
Live or carousel?

SD:
Live.

MMK:
My favorite live animal is Zeb. We started working there the same week. He came as a two year old and Zeb’s probably approaching his retirement at the museum but, yeah, he’s my buddy.

SD:
Do you visit Philadelphia very often?

MMK:
We probably get down to Philadelphia and the general area because two of my brothers live in the area, outside the city. A lot of my aunts and uncles have moved out of the area. We probably get down there three to four times a year.

SD:
Does your family come to visit you as Mr. and Mrs. Claus?

MMK:
They have, they much prefer coming to Cooperstown in the summer and I can’t blame them. Driving through the Pennsylvania Poconos in the wintertime can be really hairy and I don’t wish that on anybody.

SD:
What do you hope will happen with Santa’s Cottage in the future?

MMK:
I think it has become an iconic part of Cooperstown and you know many Santas have been Santa in the house and I’m sure there’ll continue to be many wonderful Santas making memories for future generations. That’s the neat thing. We get parents who come in who will bring their children and say, “I used to come in and see Beanie,” because Beanie Ainsley was Santa for many years or they’ll say, “I came and sat on Santa Perry’s knee,” because Perry Hotaling was Santa, and I’m sure as years go by we’ll get young parents who had visited Santa Jerry who was Santa just before Santa Paul started. I think it’s a part of the traditions of Cooperstown now.

SD:
Do you work with any other community groups besides The Farmers’ Museum and as Mrs. Claus?

MMK:
Let me make sure I understand what you’re asking. Do we visit other groups as Mr. and Mrs. Claus or do I volunteer with other organizations throughout the year?

SD:
Do you volunteer with other organizations during the year?

MMK:
Yes. Since we moved here, I’ve been very active in the Women’s Club of Cooperstown, and I’m currently its president. I’ve been very active in the Glimmerglass Opera Guild, and I’ve been on the board for the guild the last eight years. I’m also very active at St. Mary’s church and I teach kindergarten faith formation and I volunteer at Bassett hospital. So yeah, I get around.

SD:
Do you and Paul exchange gifts on Christmas morning?

MMK:
We do, it’s usually just our stockings, and they are small things that we think each other would like because for the last several years as a Christmas present we’ve given ourselves a nice trip sometime in January or February either to go out west and see the grandkids or get away someplace warm, but that’s kind of our big present to one another.

SD:
What’s your favorite warm-weather destination?

MMK:
I love them all. I love to travel, and some trips, like last year we went to Phoenix, Arizona because my niece is head of the costume shop at the Phoenix Theater and she and her husband had moved out there and we went to visit them and get away to someplace warm and I was just so surprised by how much fun I had in Phoenix. I didn’t really think I would like the desert but I loved it and it was beautiful and we saw a ton of great museums and just had a really nice time.

SD:
Are you planning a trip for this January?

MMK:
Yes, we are gonna take a Disney Cruise and for the very first time I’m going to get to visit Puerto Rico. I’ve always wanted to see it. I’ve taught a lot of Puerto Rican youngsters in Philadelphia and they would talk about how beautiful it was so I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

SD:
Do you get tired and what do you do to pamper yourself when you get tired of being Mrs. Claus during this time of year?

MMK:
It’s so cliché. I have a big mug of hot chocolate with lots of extra whipped cream and a giant cookie over at Stagecoach. That’s what I do.

SD:
What kind of cookie?

MMK:
They make different ones every day so you never know what they are going to have baked.

SD:
Do they make the hot chocolate with real chocolate?

MMK:
Mmhmm. It’s awesome, especially with extra whipped cream.

SD:
Do you see a lot of local people you know at Stagecoach?

MMK:
That’s the thing about going just about anywhere in Cooperstown. You see lots of people. I’ll tell you a very funny story. A number of years ago the Hall of Fame began having a parade before the Hall of Fame game, the Major League game that was played on Doubleday Field, and my grandsons and the boys had come to visit and we were all sitting on the side of the steps by the post office because the parade started in Cooper Park and turned on to Main Street so you had a great view of who was coming as they came on to Main Street. And as each group would come around the corner I was calling out everybody’s name because I knew everybody and my grandson Patrick looked at me and said, “Nana Mar, do you know everybody in this parade?” And I was like, “Patrick I’ve gotta be honest with you, I don’t think I’m gonna know half the baseball players.” But I think I’ll know just about everybody else, and they just couldn’t understand. If you’re a year-round resident there are very few people you won’t know by name.

SD:
Do you spend New Year’s in any particular way?

MMK:
No, that changes from year to year. For a number of years we always would go to the Bassett Hospital Gala, which is held on New Year’s Eve but the party got bigger and bigger and louder and louder and the bands changed. It wasn’t big band music anymore, it was more like Hootie and the Blowfish. We can’t dance to that. Since then we’ve been to first night in Oneonta, going to parties our friends throw.

SD:
Have you been to first night in Albany?

MMK:
No, I haven’t. I just never thought about driving up to Albany for that.

SD:
Are you looking forward to the upcoming week with school groups? Do you have many more coming up?

MMK:
This is a very full week. In fact on Friday we have morning workshops and then another school for afternoon workshops. That’s good, it’s fun.

SD:
Do you and Gwen Minor ever talk about strategically improving the museum in any way? Do you consider yourself as a staff member as a stakeholder? Do you consider yourself someone who implements theory and practice or just someone who runs the carousel?

MMK:
I would consider myself someone who implements theory and practice. As a team the educators at the museum I think we work very hard at changing and improving programs. Offering new things not just to the public but to our staff and that would include working closely with Gwen, Liz Congdon, who is head of school programs, Eric our blacksmith, Patrick our pharmacist, Ted the printer. We’re a pretty close-knit group that work together.

SD:
Do you dress in period costume when you work there?

MMK:
Yes, although since the country fair exhibit closed, which were two tents where we had country fair games and things that visitors could do that were related to the country fair experience like milking a fiberglass training cow that just put water in a bucket, now that it’s just the carousel standing alone, a lot of folks don’t recognize that our vests and shirts reflect a 1920 time period. When we staff the schoolhouse it’s very clear because we’re in our 1845 gowns and daycaps and bonnets that we’re in period dress.

SD:
So you move in to Santa’s cottage on the Friday after Thanksgiving. What do you do to make it comfortable?

MMK:
Well, the Sunday before is called decorating day here in Cooperstown and people can sign up to decorate the different light poles along Main Street and they get wrapped with wide velvet ribbon and garland and lights and Santa and I go around and thank people, and while they are decorating we are actually moving our things. We have a collection of a lot of storybooks for the children. We set up our little Christmas tree, which starts out pretty bare, and as the children make ornaments and bring them to us it gets decorated with them. You know the little things that we need for the season. The Kleenex, the Purell hand sanitizer, the dog biscuits. All the things – the Santa emergency kit.

SD:
Do you have a dog or cat?

MMK:
I do. I have a cat here her name’s Lydia Marie. She’s 15 and in the cottage Santa and Mrs. Claus have a stuffed golden retriever and her name is Bell because she wears Christmas bells around her neck and she’s a good icebreaker with the children.

SD:
So basically what you’re doing is listening to what they want for Christmas?

MMK:
That’s part of it. Probably because we’re not in a mall or a toystore, it’s a much smaller part. Talking to the kids about the year they’ve had and do they think they’ve been good, what could they do to be better. Yeah, this is a place where it’s not about the $19.95 photo package that most places are trying to sell to the parents. Here the parents bring their own cameras. They take as many pictures as they want and it’s really about the visit.

SD:
I wish you the best of luck this Christmas.

MMK:
Thank you, Sarah. I hope you come down and get a candy cane and ornament.

[Discussion on recording after interview ends]

Duration

30:00
29:22

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

IMG_4005.JPG

Citation

Sarah DaCorta, “Mary Margaret Kuhn, November 12, 2014,” CGP Community Stories, accessed September 29, 2022, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/180.