SUBSCRIBE MY PROFILE
HOME | BREAKING NEWS | POLICE & FIRE | IN MEMORIAM | PEOPLE | OPINION | SPORTS
 JOBS  
 DINING & ENTERTAINMENT  
 HOMES  
 CARS  
 FUNERAL HOMES  
 GOODS & SERVICES

News of Otsego County

Oneonta History Center

Bresee’s Santa Lives

Bresee’s Santa Lives

Restored Five Years Ago, Jolly Elf
Reclaims His Stature In Downtown

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Elaine Bresee adjusts Santa’s hat at the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, where he is on display, much like he used to be in the windows of Bresee’s and, later, in front of Marc and Elaine’s Milford Center home. (Ian/AllOTSEGO.com)

Even Santa Claus sometimes needs a little work done.

For the past five years, he’s been a Christmas Time treat at the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, but for many years after Bresee’s Department Store closed down in the 1990s, he was out of the public eye.

“He had been in our warehouse, and we rescued him,” said Elaine Bresee, Milford Center, whose husband Marc was one of the last family members to manage the namesake downtown Oneonta department store.

Elaine shows off the pants from the store’s original Santa costume. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

“We had him outside in our sleigh every year,” said Elaine, but as the years went by, the wintry weather took its toll on the 1930s fixture, which was a centerpiece of the department store’s holiday decorations for decades.

“He was starting to get pretty trashed,” she said. “His fingers had broken off, and he was starting to fade.”

So in 2013, the couple had him repaired, and in 2015 donated the figure to the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, where it has once again become part of downtown shoppers’ Christmas expectations.

The restoration was done by Marjean McCaslin-Doyle, the costume shop manager in SUNY Oneonta’s Theatre Department, and it was a challenge.

“Someone had tried to curl his beard at one point,” she said. “But it’s synthetic hair, so it had gotten singed.”

She bought him a new mustache and gently cleaned and restored the original beard.

His hand-tied wig also needed restoration, and worse, no longer hid the holes in his head. “I had to fill, paint and seal the scalp,” she said.

His lips were similarly deteriorated, with holes between the beard and mustache.

“The face was in the worst condition,” she said. “The rose in his cheeks had been rubbed off, and there was a lot of effort in trying to match the original colors.”

She ordered a set of plaster mannequin hands, but also made a cast of one hand. It came out so well, she doesn’t remember which hand is bought and which one she made.

“It took two years, but she restored him,” said Elaine. “She was so careful in ordering just the right hands so that they matched the rest of him.”

His costume – one of the two original Bresee’s Santa suits – was restored by Kathleen Moore, one of Marjean’s colleagues in SUNY’s costume department.

“The collar and the cuffs are real rabbit fur,” she said. “And the suit is very heavy wool, not like the material they use now. It’s amazingly made – it wouldn’t have lasted this long otherwise.”

Once restored, the Bresees donated the plaster Santa – as well as the Santa Chair and the mailbox – to GOHS in 2015.

“Letters in the mailbox were always answered for the longest time,” said Marc Bresee. “There would be about 75-100 of them, but then when people started really coming, we couldn’t answer them all.”

Instead, Marc said, each visiting child was given a candy cane and a coloring book, with a promise that Santa would read the letter.

Even now, a letter still shows up on occasion. “This one says, ‘I would like robots, please!’” said Bob Brzozowski, GOHS executive director. “But I don’t know who sent it!”

And Santa can’t sit in an ordinary chair, but instead, sits on the Bresee’s Santa Chair, which was made by the store’s in-house carpenters for the Jolly Old Elf to meet with visitors.

“We toyed with donating these for about five years,” she said. “I always have trouble parting with things from the store.”

But they haven’t parted with all of the store’s Santa ephemera yet.

Bresee’s kept two suits, as well as a wig and beard on hand, so that one could be sent for cleaning while the other was being worn – including by Bresee’s most famous Santa, Clark Chaplin.

“Of course, Clark always had his own beard,” she said.

Marc wore the suit to dress up for his children when they were kids, and for his father, Phillip, when he was at the Thanksgiving Home.

“They were having cocktail hour one Thursday, and in he came in the full suit!” he said. “They were all very happy to see me.

In 2019, the Bresee’s loaned the second suit for Orpheus Theatre’s production of “Elf.”

Santa’s sleigh – also a decoration from Bresee’s – has returned to the couple’s porch, with two former store mannequins, a boy and a girl, dressed in cozy red pajamas as they wave to passerbys.

And a new Santa is there too. “He’s not as beautiful as the other one,” said Elaine. “But another one will come along.”

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: ‘Small Works’ Annual Art Exhibit 11-21-20
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 21

‘Small Works’ Annual Art Exhibit

14-19eventspage

OPENING RECEPTION – 3 or 4:15 p.m. Find beautiful works by local artists throughout ‘Small Works’ annual celebratory exhibit. Find works for sale to take home the same day for wonderful Christmas presents. Register for one of the free showings, only 50 guests allowed at a time. Roxbury Arts Group, 5025 Vega Mountain Rd., Roxbury. 607-326-7908 or visit roxburyartsgroup.org

ANGEL TREE PROGRAM – Give the Gift of Christmas this holiday season. Adopt a family in need. Visit www.allotsego.com/angel-tree-program/ to learn how.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Benefit Auction For Oneonta History Center 11-15-20
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15

Benefit Auction For

Oneonta History Center

14-19eventspage

GOHS BENEFIT AUCTION – Noon. The Greater Oneonta 14th annual auction goes online at www.32auctions.com/GOHSBenefitAuctionand continues to 5 p.m. 11/21. Find art, antiques, furniture, gift cards, more available. Many items on view at the Oneonta History Center, 183 Main St., Oneonta. 607-432-0960 for info or visit www.instagram.com/oneontahistoricalsociety/ to view items.

ANGEL TREE PROGRAM – Give the Gift of Christmas this holiday season. Adopt a family in need. Visit www.allotsego.com/angel-tree-program/ to learn how.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Oneonta History Exhibit 08-01-20
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, AUGUST 1

Oneonta History Exhibit

14-19eventspage

ARCHITECTURE EXHIBIT – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. New exhibit ‘Building Blocks of a City: 100 Years of Architecture in Oneonta’ opens to public highlighting significant buildings, structures that represent the development, transformation of the city. Greater Oneonta Historical Society, 183 Main St., Oneonta. Visit www.oneontahistory.org/index.htm for info.

History Center Reopens Friday

History Center

Reopens Friday

The Oneonta History Center at Dietz and Main is opening Friday.

ONEONTA – The Oneonta History Center reopens at noon Friday, Executive Director Bob Brzozowski announced a few minutes ago.  COVID-19 closed the center at 183 Main St. almost four months ago.

The GOHS has developed a Safety Plan to help ensure everyone’s health upon reopening. Attendance will be limited to 15 persons at a time. Masks and social distancing will be required. There will be regular cleaning and disinfecting of high-contact surfaces.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Architectural Scavenger Hunt 07-01-20
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for  WEDNESDAY, JULY 1

Architectural Scavenger Hunt

14-19eventspage

SCAVENGER HUNT – July 1 – August 31. Youths and families are invited to participate in 2020 Historic Oneonta’s Main Street Architectural Detail Scavenger Hunt. Search for architectural details on Main Street Oneonta and tell the Oneonta History Center about them. A great lead in to upcoming exhibit ‘Building Blocks Of A City: 100 Years og Architecture In Oneonta.’ Visit www.oneontahistory.org/upcomingevents.htm for info.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2020
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21

Fun Programs For Kids Winter Break

14-19eventspage

WINTER PROGRAMS – 1 – 3 p.m. Bring the kids for some learning fun over February break. Choose from programs ‘Forest as a Habitat’ featuring interactive games on how action of animal & humans affect the forest, or ‘New York State Breakout Box’ families try to open the Breakout Box with their knowledge of NYS social studies. Free, open to public. Oneonta History Center, 183 Main St., Oneonta. 607-432-0960 or visit www.oneontahistory.org/index.htm

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, JANUARY 23, 2020
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, JANUARY 23

Auction To Benefit Wigs & Wishes

14-19eventspage

FUNDRAISER – 5:30 – 8 p.m. Support Tracy Abrams to provide wigs to local community members who have lost their hair to chemotherapy. Enjoy Quarter Auction, food, drink, preview items. Partnered with 501c organization Wigs & Wishes. Oneonta Vets Club, 279 Chestnut St., Oneonta. 607-287-4294 or visit www.facebook.com/OneontaVetsClub

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2019
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, DECEMBER 14

Fun Ugly Sweater Holiday Run

14-19eventspage

HOLIDAY RUN – 10 a.m. Race through Cooperstown in your ugliest holiday sweater. Runners receive free coffee/hot chocolate upon completion. Registration 8:30 – 9:30. Cost, $25/individual. Start at Santa’s house, Pioneer Park, Main St., Cooperstown. 607-547-2800 or visit www.clarksportscenter.com/events/2019-rockin-around-cooperstown-ugly-sweater-runwalk/

Posts navigation

21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103