The Amalgamated Order
It all began with a catalog commercial AORBSinc had its beginnings in August 1994. At that time ten real bearded Santas were selected to appear in a commercial. It was for the German mail order company, "OTTO." Ten Santas in one commercial? Only in Europe! The filming lasted from 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon until 5:00 a.m. the next morning. There was a great deal of free time between takes and the Santas spent that time getting to know one another and become friends. One Santa took a few pictures of the group, which he offered to send to everyone later. After many stories and much discussion, Santa Ed Murphy suggested that the group get together one day for lunch. The Santas decided that January would be a good time, as all of them would be very busy in the coming months, and especially in December. They finally chose to have a luncheon on the third Sunday in January. They also discussed the need to have a name for their group. After kicking around a few names Santa Tom Hartsfield came up with
"Amalgamated Order." He thought this would be a name that humorously hinted at a union or club. They then added "Real Bearded Santas," and it became their fun loving, official name. They held their first luncheon, as planned, on the third Sunday in January, 1995. On 21 January 2007 they held their 13th annual gathering, now appropriately called the "Founders Luncheon." A second luncheon on the east coast, "Red Suit Roundtable" was held 11 February 2007 in Atlanta. In 1995 the organization began to expand its membership. Calls came in from other Santas who read or heard about the group in the media, or from friends. Plus, as the original ten travel, they invite other Santas they meet to join the organization.In the fall of 2003, when the membership now numbered more than 300 members (according to the original website page dated Oct 25 2003 - see www.archive.org), Tom Hartsfield, gave the ownership of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas to Tim Connaghan. He first tried to sell it to Tim but was unsuccessful, so he simply gave it to Tim. In 2007, ownership changed hands again, from Tim Connaghan's sole ownership to an incorporation status. This began during the first AORBS Santa Convention in 2006.In July 2006, AORBS held the first Discover Santa Convetion. Almost 300 Santas and 200 Mrs. Clauses arrived in the city of Branson MO for a three day event that sat records for the number of Santas in one place. The AORBS Membership more than doubled following the media attention that this convention garnered worldwide. In January 2007, Tim Connaghan began the structure change of AORBS, talked about during the July 2006 convention, and made it into a corporation. He appointed himself as President, and handpicked several of his friends to be the Board Members. AORBS then became The Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas Inc. or AORBS inc.
The original ten Santas are: Joe Crozier, Harry Frazier, Tom Hartsfield, Bob Kokol, Joe Leavitt, Jim Lewis, Ed Murphy, Leonard Ray, Frank Turner, and Jay Wright. While some of the "Original Ten" founders have passed on and have now met the Original St. Nicholas, some still attend the annual meeting each year. In the begining the original ten Santas decided to get together, to look at some photos that were taken during the filming of a commercial they had all appeared in. They met on the third Sunday in January, At the end of the meeting it was decided to meet annually on the third Sunday. Little did they know that first meeting would lead to an organization that now has over 1300 Santas listed, with over half of them as dues paying members. Below are photos from the most recent gatherings of Santas at the annual founders luncheon which is held each year, on the third Sunday of January, in Los Angeles. There is even a photo from the first meeting.