Santa Claus and PSA
As early as 1963, Santa Claus was seen on PSA.
SANTA AND FRIENDS - An affectionate Santa Claus (crooked mustache, et. al.) is greeted by PSA stewardess Vicky Haden (left) and Norma Birdsong as he made one of his many appearances on Pacific Southwest Airlines' Christmas Eve flights.It brought tears to the eyes of an old man. A small boy immediately began listing the toys he wanted for Christmas. And an elderly woman - half-skepically, half-believingly - commented, "That WAS a PSA employee, wasn't it?"
Such were the reactions of passengers aboard Pacific Southwest Airlines' flights Christmas Eve night as Santa Claus himself made appearances on most of PSA's evening flights between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Believed to be a first in airline travel, the Santa Claus flights resulted from a suggestion by a PSA employee, Steve Barinek of the fueling department, to President J. Floyd Andrews. It was suggested that Santa make a brief appearance on the flights with a simple "Merry Christmas." Andrews, however, felt that the new innovation be expanded to include a personal greeting and the passing of candy favors to every passenger.
PSA officials commented that they were amazed with the response of passengers on the special Santa Claus flights. Most natural response was a burst of applause as Santa walked into the main cabin.
Crews for the special flights followed a script in which a running commentary was given that a strange object had been spotted on the aircraft's radar screen. Minutes later, an announcement was made that a sleigh and eight reindeer were circling the plane. And more than one passenger - children and adults alike - promptly looked out the window half-expecting to see Santa in his annual trek around the world.
Reactions to Santa's appearance ran the gamut from tears from elderly people to squeals of joy from small children. One elderly gentleman in his sixties was seen wiping away a tear as he exchanged what must have been his first comments with Santa in nearly a half-century. One small boy couldn;t be contained by his parents as he began to rattle off a long list of wants to Santa - much to the delight of nearby passengers. And the elderly woman wasn't really sure if it was Santa or not as she saw him depart with a cheery "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night" farewell.
Andrews, meanwhile, admitted negotiations were already underway with the North Pole for a repeat performance by Santa during subsequent PSA Christmas Eve flights.
If the medium is the message, then Val Bronson has been able to deliver the message of Christmas good cheer by one of the most well-known symbols in the field - Santa Claus.
Bronson, 43-year old maintenance inspection supervisor at PSA's San Diego headquarters, said, "I began working with Santa Claus about five years ago when he made it known that Christmas was way too commercial for him." During the year, Bronson makes contact with various local institutions and families to pass on to Santa Claus. A 25-year veteran of PSA, Bronson makes his contacts through his church.
When the jolly gentleman in red visits this part of the country, he picks up Bronson's list. "My wife, Sandy, helps me prepare that list," Bronson said. "I get Santa to visit nursery schools and families who need some cheering up. We even got Santa to hand out candies aboard airplanes at the San Diego PSA terminal last year. It was his way of extending PSA's smiling, friendly service."
Bronson said Santa Claus doesn't distribute free gifts. "Santa points out that the spirit of giving is represented in the gift offered through the parents. He tells the youngsters that the parents enable him and his elves to keep busy all year until he makes his rounds at christmastime. He enjoys it," Bronson said.
Photos taken from January 1964, December 1967, and December 1981 Skylines. Articles taken from the same issues.