John Wayne orders Santa Claus suit from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in 1976

Over the years, celebrities who have visited Bronner’s, billed as the world’s largest Christmas store, include Olympic Gold Medalist Dorothy Hamill, Marie Osmond, Ted Nugent, Faith Hill, actor Dave Coulier of “Full House,” First Lady Laura Bush and Maria, Rosmarie and Elisabeth von Trapp. University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, Tiger outfielder Willie Horton and Detroit Red Wings Gordie Howe and Sergei Fedorov are among famous sports figures to visit Bronner’s.

On Dec. 15, 1976, Wally Bronner got a call in his office at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.

It was John Wayne.

John Wayne, the Academy Award-winning actor who appeared in more than 175 films, wanted a Santa Claus suit.

“I need the biggest suit you got,” Wayne told Bronner, recalls Bronner’s daughter, Carla Spletzer, who was 21 at the time.

She was in the office for the Christmas-themed store, which at the time was located on Tuscola Street in Frankenmuth, and picked up the phone to listen in on the conversation. Wayne asked for Mr. Bronner and introduced himself as “the Duke.”

“It was exciting,” Spletzer said.

Wayne ordered the suit over the phone and Bronner’s staff to sent it right to him, she said. The store stocked a suit large enough for John Wayne, who stood 6-feet 4-inches tall.

“Santas are pretty big,” Spletzer said.

Bronner’s extra-large rich velvet Santa suit now costs $289.


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