Dear Santa

Here’s a fun story about Christmas, Santa, a little boy, his grown son, and sixty-three years in between them. It was written by Mary Devine of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.


David Wulff, of Minneapolis, found his father's 1948 letter to Santa in a Richfield thrift store. "I called my dad from the store, and I said, 'You're not going to believe what I just found,' " he said. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Christmas miracles can happen anywhere this time of year.

David Wulff was shopping last week at Arc’s Value Village thrift store in Richfield when a letter to Santa caught his eye.

“Dear Santa Claus,” the letter read. “Please bring me a gas station.”

The letter, Wulff said, was printed on wide-lined paper and on display in a glass case at the front of the store. It was addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole” and dated December 1948.

What caught the Minneapolis man’s eye was the letter’s signature: “Harland Wulff, 33377 Belding Court, Wayne, Mich.”

Wulff’s father is named Harland and was living with his family in the Detroit suburb in 1948.

“I called my dad from the store, and I said, ‘You’re not going to believe what I just found—a letter you wrote to Santa when you were 6 years old!’ ” he said.

The letter, which had fallen apart where it had been folded, was for sale for $3.99.

Wulff, 47, said he was sure the letter was his father’s.

“My last name is not a common last name, and my dad’s first name is not a common first name. So I spotted that right away, and I thought, ‘What the heck?’ ” he said. “There was a woman there standing next to me, and she’s like, ‘It’s a sign!’ ”

Wulff said he was surprised an Arc employee saved the letter.

“It was in three strips,” he said. “The fact that they even saved it, and just didn’t toss it, was amazing to me. And then for me to be there before anyone else bought it.”

Wulff is the business-continuity coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Health in St. Paul. He owns a two-bedroom bungalow in South Minneapolis and said he regularly stops by the Arc thrift store to shop for Mission-style furniture and Arts-and-Crafts-style accessories.

He donates items to Arc once or twice a year and said the letter might have been stuck in a book or a box he dropped off.

When he found it, Wulff said, he thought it was a “major miracle.” But he said he later realized “the probability of this getting here without some connection to me is probably unlikely.”

“I don’t know whether my grandmother had stuck it inside something that I had donated—or if I had sold something at a yard sale and someone had donated that item,” Wulff said. “There was stuff stuck in our family Bibles, but I didn’t know there was stuff stuck anywhere else.”

Wulff, who serves as his family’s historian and genealogist, said he never would have knowingly parted with such a family heirloom.

“I went back to Arc to make sure there was nothing else (of my family’s) for sale,” he said.

Wulff mailed the letter to his father last week at the family home in Edmore, Mich. His mother, Shirley, said she plans to frame it and hang it on the Christmas tree. She was looking for a photo of the metal gas station young Harland received to include in the display.

News of the letter has spread throughout Edmore, Wulff said.

“My hometown is 900 people,” he said, “and everybody knows already—and they know in the neighboring towns.”

Harland Wulff, 69, said he remembers getting the gas station for Christmas.

“Back then, we only asked for one thing, and that’s usually all we got—that was right after the war,” he said. “It was a square metal gas station, and it had some plastic cars and, if I remember right, it had a tow truck and some cars with it. It might have had some little people, too. I think the gas pump was painted on the side of it.”

There was no postage on the envelope addressed to the North Pole. Harland Wulff said his mother, Evangeline Wulff, probably saved the letter and “stuck it in a book or a drawer.”

“Apparently, I was just learning how to write,” he said. “It looked like I erased it and redid it.”

He said he doubts the family will ever know for sure how the letter ended up at Arc.

“But it was found, and that’s the most important thing, and we’re going to cherish it,” he said. “David paid $3.99, but he probably would have paid $100 for it.”

Harland Wulff said that when his son called to tell him about the letter, he told him he should try to extend his lucky streak and “go buy a lottery ticket.”

David Wulff said that’s exactly what he did.

“Finding the letter was in the cards,” he said. “The lottery didn’t work out.”


Phil is the author of Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, a comprehensive guide to living a spiritual life. Who will benefit from reading it?

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