‘Santa’ spurns sleigh for bus
It looked like Santa had traded in his reindeer and sleigh for the No. 19 school bus on Monday afternoon in Lansing.
But it wasn't really Saint Nick driving around Rock Creek neighborhood, dropping off 60 students in kindergarten through high school. The driver was Dave Moppin, a white-bearded, 60-year-old bus driver for Durham School Services who dressed up in red and white garb to surprise his students.
"They get a good kick out of it," he said.
Moppin, who lives in Lansing, has been driving buses here for seven years, since he retired from a civil service job at Fort Leavenworth. He said this year is the third that he's dressed up on his job. The idea for him to portray Santa belonged to his wife, Judy.
Before Moppin started wearing his Santa outfit on the bus route, he said he had portrayed Santa at his church.
"I wore the fake thing for a while," he said, referring to the white costume beard.
Moppin said his real beard started turning white four or five years ago. Though he usually wears the beard short, Judy convinced him to grow it out for the Christmas season. This year, he began growing his beard in July, he said.
Having the beard for almost half the year draws some attention, Moppin said.
At a restaurant, a boy approached him to ask if he was Santa Claus. "Sure!" Moppin told the boy, adding that he doesn't wear the suit when he goes to dinner.
He also gets comments from adults, he said, who sometimes call him "Mr. Claus" when he's out and about.
"It's kinda fun, the reaction you get," he said.
Moppin said he gave the students on his route a hint of Monday's surprise last week, when he wore a red sweater and Santa hat.
The students recognize him as their bus driver, but "some of the young ones really wonder," he said.
Though he has older students on his bus with the younger ones, Moppin said they don't spoil anything for the children.
"They just go along with everything," he said. "I think a lot of kids get a kick out of it, no matter how old you are."