John Hicks is a postal worker and a tropical fish hobbyist, but at Christmas, he becomes Santa's helper and dresses up in a red velevet suit to make appearences when Santa himself is too busy at his workshop to make special appearances. ( I let that slide)
Hicks just recently appeared at the Blood Bank in Chattanooga ( actually ZLB Plasma Services in Ringgold, GA), where a couple of his friends work( Butterfly and Tennhound), and attend their Christmas party. He is also set to appear at The Beanery in Downtown Athens on Friday Dec. 23, from 7-9 p.m.
"Families bring their kids to these events and I have prepackaged candy when I do stockings (?) My family helps me collect toys during the year which we assemble at Christmas. ( I help my family, not the other way around) I even have cousins who help put the stockings together," Hicks said.
The only child of Wayne and Sue Hicks, John moved around as a child during his father's military career, but the family settled in Tennessee when he was 12.
After graduating from McMinn Central, hicks earned a degree in Biology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga but never worked in that field.
For 25 years, Hicks satisfied his interest in natural science by collecting and selling tropical fish. He now sells fish and aquarium plants online. he serves as president of the Smoky Mountain Aquarium Society and is on the board of directors for the Atlanta area Aquarium Society ( Association).
" Right now I am running 5,000 gallons of water in cattle troughs, mostly inside, ( no outside) and I am in the process of building a 1,000 square foot building, 50 by 20," he said.
Hicks remains unmarried and has no children of his own but a sequence of events has led him to enjoy putting smiles on the faces of other peoples children.
" I took a temporary job with the Post Office that became permanent 14 (11) years ago, " Hicks said. "Then 6 years ago, I got started doing Santa when my uncle was working at a local industry where they were doing stocking give aways for underprivileged children. I was chosen to be Santa."
Then, as a postal worker, I started delivering item as Expess Mail. I'd begin wearing red around November and people would see me in the red outfit and run and get their cameras and take my photo," Hicks said.
( No photos until I was delivering wearing the suit, that was unclear)
"Mainly, I just do Santa impersonations ( I NEVER call it that) for charities, local banks, ( No, I never get to do banks, as I cannot get away from the post office, though several banks have asked) or for people I know (90% of my Santaing), and I don't charge anything. MY work at the post office limits the amount of time I have to be Santa," he added.
"I started out wearing a $30 Wal-Mart suit until Carolyn Dodd hand sewed the Suit for me. I've had it four years now", he said.
Hicks has grown a real beard and mustache ( clean shaven once in the last 19 years) and dyes all his hair white from its normal brown just to make sure he apprears authentic.
"My normal ( NOT my word)hair is dark, so I start around September or October, I have to dye my hair every three weeks ( no, I dye year round). Then around November and December, I start to dye it every two weeks. It seems I'm the only guy around who isn't going gray fast enough, "he said. ( Exact quote, I am the only man in America not going gray fast enough)
"It's one of my pet peeves to see a fake bearded Santa. After all, if your going to do it, be serious about it," he added.
Hicks has no intention of stopping his annual appearences as Santa because he enjoys it as much as the children.
"My aunt's daughter aurned four this month and I have a treasured photo of her when she was three days old lying on my chest. Her son has also come to think all things Santa are based on me ( they are) ", he says.
And as far as any final message before Christmas, Hicks advises to "tell everyone to be good, Santa's watching ( bwhahahahaha, if they only knew)