For many Richmonders, the downtown Miller & Rhoads was home for the real Santa. And Donna Strother Deekens appeared alongside him from 1971 to 1991 as one of the women who portrayed the Snow Queen consort.
Known today as director of the traveling tea-party company Teapots, Treats and Traditions, Deekens is revisiting her old role in a new book, Christmas at Miller & Rhoads: Memoirs of a Snow Queen.
Deekens, who's from Portsmouth, visited Santaland in Miller & Rhoads as a girl. Later, while studying theater at Westhampton College, she learned that there was an opening for the Snow Queen job.
In addition to keeping the line of supplicants in order and making sure Santa magically knew each child's name, Deekens also maintained a happy decorum if Santa needed to "go check the reindeer." This usually meant that one of the excited youngsters had wet on him, vomited or spilled something. This is why Santa kept three separate outfits.
On Dec. 12 and 18, Deekens will sign copies of her book at Legendary Santa's current home, the Children's Museum of Richmond, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 474-7000 or visit c-mor.org .