The elf of Dedham
December 26, 2013
Mary Schoeppner, the postmaster in Dedham, answers area children’s letters to Santa each Christmas season. She gets as many as 18 in a day and responds with handwritten notes each morning.
Christmas Wishes, then and now
The genealogy website MyHeritage compared Christmas requests this year to those in newspapers from 100 years ago a compiled two lists of the top 10 wishes:
3. Rocking horse
6. Toy train
1. Furby Boom
2. Teksta Robotic puppy
3. LeapPad Ultra
4. Flying Fairy
5. Bug Hugs Elmo
6. Barbie Dream house
7. Giggly Monkey
8. Nerf Gun
9. Ninja Turtles
Ever wonder where all those letters addressed to Santa go once the children of Carroll drop them in a mailbox, postage or not?
The answer: Mary Schoeppner.
She's the postmaster in Dedham, and she handles all of Santa's letter-writing duties for the "514" - as the area postal workers refer to the ZIP codes that encompass Carroll and Denison and others.
"One kid said he'd been bad," Schoeppner said of a letter-writer this year, "but he still wanted a present."
Most mornings since Thanksgiving, Schoeppner has opened envelopes with the wish lists of children young and younger. The most in one day was 18 this past week.
They want Barbie dolls and clothes, bikes and earrings.
Video games and iPads, farm combines and socks.
A 65-pack of crayons.
A mannequin head for learning to style hair.
Some of the letters are handwritten and short - maybe three or four requests.
Some are long and typed with pictures.
Some have extra reminders at the end:
P.P.S - Can you come early because we will be at Grandma's? Thanks!
And Schoeppner replies with a small handwritten note appended to a postcard with a silhouette of Santa and his reindeer that concludes:
Ho Ho Ho
Schoeppner volunteered for the gig at an area postmasters' meeting about seven years ago and has handled the Santa replies since. It helped rekindle some of that Christmas magic that faded as her two daughters grew and left their rural farmstead near Templeton. They both now live in Ankeny with Schoeppner's two grandsons.
"It's fun to do it, especially when I know the parents or kids," she said.
Schoeppner loves the cards from children she's met. She knows details of their lives that only the real Santa could know, which makes her replies more convincing. But she has one request of future letters:
"Make sure you put a return address on the letter - that way Santa doesn't get confused," she laughed.
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