The Magic Ship of Christmas started 34 years ago when the troop’s scoutmaster, the late John Espinoza, acquired a 35 foot ship built over the frame of a 1963 Studebaker. He got dressed in a Santa suit and grew a beard to look the part. The scouts wanted to join the fun and dressed as Santa’s helpers, and the Magic Ship of Christmas set off for its maiden voyage throughout Morgan Hill. The Magic Ship has become a tradition that adds to the charm of our community. In fact, many long-time residents remember it from their own childhoods, and now share the tradition with their children and grandchildren.

Over the years changes have been made, repairs to the engine and clutch and repainting the ship and updating the decorations. John Espinoza was the original Santa and wore the suit for many years. Others have been Santa since, but no one as well as the current Scoutmaster of BSA Troop 799, Phil Peterson. Every summer at camp he begins growing his beard so that by Christmas he looks the part. Once the holidays are over he again shaves the beard and stays that way until the next summer. One younger brother of a scout told his friends that he went camping with Santa, Phil plays the part so well, many think of him as Santa.