Helena kids make “calls to Santa” from historic Governor’s Mansion phone

Posted at 7:43 PM, Dec 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-10 17:15:15-05

HELENA – Kids in Helena got a chance to connect with Santa Claus Saturday afternoon at Montana’s Original Governor’s Mansion.

The kids were able to share their wish lists by using the mansion’s historic crank telephone.

“We’ve had a lot of kids in line at that old telephone,” said Bobi Harris, the Montana Historical Society’s historic interpreter at the mansion. “I’ve been cautioning them, on the first question, Santa asks if they’re naughty or nice. One child said he’s in-between.”

The phone dates back around 100 years. Callers had to turn a crank to ring a bell and alert the switchboard operator that they wanted to make a call.

“We had to have a Santa’s helper down here, because kids today don’t know how to use crank telephones,” Harris said.

There were other activities around the mansion Saturday. Visitors were able to make old-fashioned Christmas decorations, like paper chains.

The mansion is currently decorated for Christmas as it would have been in 1918, when Gov. Sam Stewart’s family lived in the home.

“People often like to think of the ‘traditional holidays,’” said Harris. “What better place to do that than a traditional house?”

The main room features a Christmas tree, based on a typical one of that era that would have included lighted candles. With help from Barnes Jewelry, it was redesigned to use electric candles. The tree also features blown glass ornaments from a donor’s collection.

The mansion will offer free admission on the next two Saturdays, Dec. 15 and Dec. 22, from 12 to 4 p.m. Tours will start at the top of the hour.

Calls to Santa