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Mall Santa Wouldn’t Promise Gun

December 26, 1997

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) _ A retired mechanic was fired as a mall Santa because he refused to promise a youngster a gun for Christmas.

Jim Hilliker got a paycheck Tuesday from Jackson Crossing mall and was told not to come back to hear the Christmas wishes of youngsters.

Mall officials said Hilliker, who had played Santa since Nov. 22 with just two days off, was let go because he was ``exhausted.″

Hilliker, 70, a 13-year-veteran Santa who said he turned down three other bookings to return to the mall, saw his dismissal differently.

``My policy has been when kids come up and ask for guns, knives or live animals, I simply tell them that’s up to their mothers and dads,″ he said.

But after telling a boy last week that he wouldn’t bring him a gun, Hilliker said, the child’s parents complained to mall management and the father confronted him during a meal break.

Asked later to apologize, Hilliker refused.

``They said that I had told the kid that he couldn’t `have’ a gun,″ he said. ``I said, `No, that’s not the case at all.′ I told him I wouldn’t bring one.″

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