BARSTOW • For the past five years a Barstow man has made sure Saint Nick has a place to stop and listen to the wishes of local children before making his midnight run across the world.
On Thursday Herman Wagner was stringing lights and making the garage at his 1408 Sunset Street home a suitable place for kids to have a visit with Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
"There was a man who around here years ago who (hosted) Santa, and I used to drive by and see the kids — they were so happy," said Wagner, as he adorned his garage with decorations while a stereo played Motown Christmas tunes. "And then he disappeared; two years went by, he must have moved."
Seeing a gap to fill, Wagner set out to make a place for local kids to visit Santa in his own home. Wagner buys small toys and candy canes for Santa to give away, and sets up a chair in preparation for his visit. Speakers on the front lawn blare Christmas tunes and children come to sit on Santa's lap and tell him their Christmas wishes.
The 69-year-old Wagner came to settle in Barstow after retiring from the Army in 1984 and now works as a freelance teacher of food safety certification classes.
Wagner said he has been blessed in life, and the few hundred dollars he spends on toys "is nothing" compared to the expression he sees on children's faces come Christmas.
"Their eyes light up brighter than the north star," said Wagner.
If a child's parents don't have a camera with them Wagner has one ready and to take a picture, and makes sure to write down the address and send out the picture once he has it ready.
The first year 40 kids came to visit, and last year Wagner saw 72. He estimates 450 to 500 kids have visited Santa at his home over the years.
"I've been doing this for five years, pretty soon I'm going to have to find a sponsor," said Wagner, jokingly. "I thought I'm going to waste this money anyway, why not give to the kids? I feel better."
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