1. Life & Culture

We tracked down adults to follow up on letters they wrote to Santa as kids

We showed them Dear Santa letters from decades ago to see if they ever got their Christmas wish.
A child gives a Christmas letter to Santa Claus at the Santa's Flight Academy at International Plaza and Bay Street in 2017 in Tampa.
A child gives a Christmas letter to Santa Claus at the Santa's Flight Academy at International Plaza and Bay Street in 2017 in Tampa. [ Tampa Bay Times (2017) ]
Published Dec. 18, 2019
Updated Dec. 18, 2019

Few things can pull a person into the past as vividly as reading your own written words from years ago.

While combing through the archives in search of children’s letters to Santa Claus from the past 100-plus years, we set aside a few of our favorites and followed up with their now-adult authors to see if their Christmas wishes from the past ever came true.

Here’s a sampling of the letter writers we were able to get in touch with.

So many animals, 1988

A letter to Santa published in the Tampa Tribune in 1988.
A letter to Santa published in the Tampa Tribune in 1988. [ Tampa Tribune archive ]

“It’s crazy, because being country, I wanted a horse and now I have a horse, four horses actually, and we have seven cows. We have a little bit of a farm, cows and horses and dogs on five acres. My sister has a potbelly pig. ... My two boys — I’m a single mom to two kids — they show steers at the Citrus County Fair. ... I’m still trying to have them believe in Santa. I think they say they believe to make me happy so they don’t bust my bubble. ... I’m getting my degree for (exceptional student education) teaching right now.”

Mandy Concidine, 37, Floral City, exceptional student education assistant

Please make him a coach, 1991

A letter from the St. Petersburg Times in 1991.
A letter from the St. Petersburg Times in 1991. [ Tampa Bay Times archive ]

“It was really funny for me to read it. Every detail was from my childhood. ... The thing about Vermont — no I didn’t have family there or anything — what’s weird is I used to watch the show Newhart, and I saw that Bob Newhart owned a bed and breakfast in Vermont and it looked really nice, so I thought, “I want to move to Vermont.” And my mom always said she wanted to move to Vermont, so I repeated what she wanted to do. ... My dad wasn’t a football coach, but he’d kind of play football with the kids in the neighborhood. And he was a Hurricanes fan. ... What’s crazy about reading this is that my parents got divorced a couple years later, and there’s been like zero contact with him since then. ... I definitely got the Game Boy. The best game was Tetris. My mom played it more than me.”

Jorge Larzabal, 36, Tampa, City of Tampa neighborhood empowerment department

Say No To Drugs, 1989

A letter from the Tampa Tribune in 1989 references the Berlin Wall.
A letter from the Tampa Tribune in 1989 references the Berlin Wall. [ Tampa Bay Times archive ]

“I definitely remember Super Mario 2. Me and my sister used to fight over that one a whole lot. It was weird to be reminded of a time as kids when we hated each other, which is not the case now. ... As far as (the drugs), do you remember the D.A.R.E. program? I had three D.A.R.E. T-shirts, and so did everyone I knew. We talked about drugs all the time in school, and I think it must have really been working on me then, because they were like, “this is very important, kids.” ... There was the cracking eggs PSA on TV. “This is your brain on drugs.” ... (The Berlin Wall) I’m going to blame on my grandparents. I went to their house every weekend, and they always watched either golf or the news, and both were extremely boring."

Kevin Gibbard, 38, Pittsburgh, engineer

Rad taste in movies, 1989

A letter from 1989.
A letter from 1989. [ Tampa Bay Times archive ]

“I actually reached out to my mom in Tennessee to ask her about this. The whole reason we wrote the letter and sent it to the newspaper was that she brought me to the mall to see Santa, and as soon as I saw him I was like “nope,” and headed in the other direction. So she said, okay, let’s write him a letter. ... Those movies, I remember them on VHS back in the day. ... I watched all the Police Academy movies. Even in college at Florida State, me and my roommate would watch Revenge of the Nerds. That’s such a great movie, and I’m not just saying that because I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. These new movies try so hard to be funny. Those older movies, well, it’s like me. People tell me, you don’t try to be funny but you are. ... My girlfriend is 12 weeks pregnant. Its my first child. And she has a 2-year-old that we’re raising. ... Yeah, I’ll definitely show them (Police Academy) someday.”

Nick Chepren, 37, Port Charlotte, restaurant general manager

Santa, stop the poachers, 2000

A letter from 2000.
A letter from 2000. [ Tampa Tribune archive ]

“When you sent me the letter, I sent it to my parents and we all started dying laughing. It definitely reads kind of, dark? My parents still live on the same property, for the last 30 years. It’s 40 acres, and it backs up to a preserve of thousands of more acres. ... The poaching, that really was something we had to be cautious of. Our driveway was half a mile in the woods, and even now driving down the driveway, you’ll run into someone’s hunting dog, and you know there’s a poacher illegally hunting. ... I remember we would call the police, or we would have to go outside ourselves and fire off a couple rounds so they’d leave our property. Sadly, yes, it’s still a present day problem. ... I think as a kid though, you feel everything more intensely, and at the time it had just happened, so it sounds pretty intense. ... It was very happy growing up, for me and my two older sisters. We grew up on a farm, hiked deer trails, built forts. ... I wanted to be a vet, but I ended up in staffing. ... Am I still country? My husband and I live in South Tampa now, so yes and no. I still don’t mind walking around barefoot with a ponytail and being a tomboy, but now that I’m in sales I can say I’ve been groomed a little more.”

Amanda Keim, 28, Tampa, national account manager at a staffing firm

Related: RELATED: Read children’s letters to Santa, from 1899 to 2006