So you thought you’d be a great Santa, didn’t you? Well, think again. It’s actually pretty tough work. You have to know how to squint your eyes into a Santa twinkle, how to talk to kids and even how to put on a little act.
Such was the fate of those who, for years, chose to take instruction at Charles Howard’s Santa Claus School in the upstate New York town of Albion, not far from Rochester. In fact, the school still exists today, it was founded by Howard in 1937; since the mid-1960s, it has operated out of Midland, Mich., and remains the world’s oldest Santa school.
In 1961, LIFE’s Alfred Eisenstaedt visited Howard’s school for would-be Santas, and made a series of photos chronicling the evidently quite fun process of learning to be all the Santa Claus one can be.
(Photos: Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)