There is a certain art to being Santa. Not all of it can be taught, but it is. Even though there are still Santa schools around the country, we somehow doubt the job is taken as seriously as when these amazing photos were taken.
Established in 1937, the Charles Howard’s Santa Claus School was originally located in Albion, NY. It actually still exists today, but operates out of Michigan. It proudly hails itself as the world’s oldest Santa School.
All the photographs you see above are of Santa Candidates as photographed in 1961 by LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.
All these Santa hopefuls (and hundreds others) signed up for a 5-day, $75 course in the hopes of receiving a Santa certificate. The Santa degree nearly guaranteed that these men could get jobs at local department stores.
In the photos above, you’ll see Santa students learn how much of their faces to show, how to have the perfect round belly, how to dance and, perhaps most challenging, how to interact with children. Santa Clauses were given practice sessions with child volunteers, who we hope didn’t catch on to the fact that Santa may not be real.