A Christmas Full of Santas

Tim’s collection totals nearly 200 figures, with about 160 on display during the holidays.

Story and photos by Craig Reed

Santa Claus is a welcomed guest in Tim and Sandie Shepherd’s home. In fact, the house is practically a stage for the Christmas holiday icon.

The jolly fellow can be found upon entering the living room, kitchen, bathroom and around every other corner of the Kellogg-area house.

Placed on the floor, couches, chairs, shelves and tables, Tim’s collection of about 200 Santa Clauses is displayed throughout the house during the Christmas season.

“I have an addiction with Santas,” says Tim, a 1978 Elkton High School graduate. “I’ve always liked Christmas. I always liked Santa when I was a kid. Sometimes I wish a guy could go back to being a kid.”

Though recently retired after 24 years as a school custodian—he worked as a timber faller for 20 before—Tim is inspired by memories of his youth this time of year.

He remembers his grandmother decorating her house at Christmas. The decorations included two or three old Santas.

He also remembers going down the steps to the basement of the former JCPenney store in downtown Roseburg to meet Santa.

“Going down the steps, the walls were white, and it was cold, kind of like going to the North Pole,” Tim says. “Santa was sitting there in a great big chair, and there were elves. I never forgot that. Those were fun times seeing Santa.”

About 25 years ago, Tim connected with those memories when he began to collect Santa Clauses.

“I have about 200, for sure,” he says. “I put out about 160 of them last year. I just don’t have room to put them all out.”

With every glance and turn in the house, visitors are greeted by a Santa Claus.

“He has a lot of them,” says Landon Firestone, Tim’s 10-year-old grandson. “They’re old, they’re antiques and they’re
cool to look at.”

Precious Firestone, Tim’s daughter, says the Santas bring a huge smile to her father’s face.

“It’s neat to see his excitement,” she says. “He really enjoys his Santas. Collecting them has definitely become a hobby for him.”

Among Tim Shepherd’s Santa collection is a rarity: the jolly old man in a green suit.

Most of Tim’s Santas were made from the 1930s to the 1950s by the Rushton Co., a business founded in 1917 in Atlanta. The company specialized in vintage stuffed dolls and animals with rubber faces. It closed in 1983.

“I think I have every Santa that Rushton made,” Tim says. “Every time I see a Santa I don’t have, I buy it.”

The collection includes a few Santas displayed in a candy store on the East Coast and several Santas made in the 1800s in Germany. Tim found these online.

Closer to home, Tim has an 8-foot tall Santa Claus previously displayed in the former PayLess store in Roseburg, and a 4-foot Santa and Mrs. Claus from the former Western Auto store in Roseburg.

Tim says the purchase price for the Santas has ranged from $100 to $1,000. Their standing heights range from 12 inches up to 8 feet.

“I’ve probably been to every antique store in Oregon looking for Santas,” Tim says. “They know me as the person who collects Santas. There are not very many Santas in the stores anymore, so I’m looking to buy them online.”

Landon joined his grandfather on one of his trips to visit antique stores. The two found a Santa dressed in a green outfit
rather than the traditional red. “The green suit Santa is different from all the other ones,” Landon says. “It’s one of our favorites.”

While searching for Santas, Tim started smaller collections of nutcrackers and Christmas books with popup pages.

“I do this now for myself and the grandkids,” Tim says. “The grandkids love Christmas at the house. They get to see Santas most people never get to see.

“It’s getting harder to find a Santa I don’t have, but I’ll keep looking.”