By Derek M. Otto
Ever since Edgars department dtore in Boston, MA began having a “Santa’s Helper” appear in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the 1890s, many communities have noticed that the jolly elf appears in their communities too. The Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving, most children would begin that blessed period of “good behavior.” Springville is not alone in having one of “Santa’s Helpers” check in during the days before Christmas Eve; however, he has chosen a variety of ways to do it.
Santa has been very fond of fire trucks. In the Early 1950s to the 1980s, Santa could be seen in East Concord at the Fire Hall, arriving by fire truck. For many years, this was the place to sit on Santa’s lap, as the East Concord Fire Department put on their Annual Christmas Party.
In the late 1960s, snowmobiling was becoming a very popular sport in western New York. Each year, the WNY Snowmobiling Association would have a Christmas festival in Boston, NY. Believe it or not, Santa introduced snowmobiling to us; this is the preferred method for Santa getting around in the North Pole. Of course, at a snowmobiling party, Santa Claus appeared riding a snowmobile.
Sometimes Santa would send very special helpers to Springville. He did this in 1973. The Manufacturer’s and Traders Trust Company, better known as M and T Bank, built a brand new bank on Mechanic Street to replace the old one on the corner of Main and Mechanic Street. To help with the festivities, Santa sent the big guy from Channel 4. Santa helped Mr. Klatt, the bank president and Mr. Frank, the Springville mayor, cut the ribbon on the new M and T bank. Santa also brought his helpers, the “Snow Girls,” to help distribute prizes that included a huge 25-inch color TV and three black and whites sets.
This was a big event for Springville—in the Buffalo Region, this was the Santa if there ever was one! According to local broadcasting historian Steve Cichon, “The Santa Show brought the magic of the North Pole into Buffalo living rooms on WBEN-TV from 1948 to 1973. The show ran for 15 minutes daily at 5 p.m. from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. The show consisted of Santa reading letters from WNY boys and girls. But its long run… and the feelings it engendered… Makes it an all-time Buffalo classic.”
In 1975, Santa arrived mysteriously and appeared at the Annual Jaycees and Retail Merchants Children’s Christmas Party. He had to appear twice in two days; it is believed he showed up by touching the side of his nose. Who knows?
He always showed up this way at the Bob Johnson Chrysler dealership’s annual party. In Springville, this was once last chance to see Santa because the party was usually the Friday before Christmas.
Not to be out done in the late-1970s, Ames Department store in Springville would help Santa come to Springville in the most unusual way. Santa would jump out of an airplane and parachute to the roof of their store! To make sure it went well, Santa be on the roof already to go and see kids, and he made another Santa’s helper jump out of the airplane. Amazingly, the Santa’s helper was never hurt! It did, however, fill the Ames department store parking lot (the current Tops Supermarket).
The 1980s brought in a new way of transportation for Santa Claus— the helicopter. From 1980 until 1991, Santa Claus arrived in the Springville Municipal parking lot (behind the stores) by helicopter. The annual event, sponsored by Bob Parsons of Bob’s Newsstand, brought Santa to Springville. Mr. Parsons hired the special helicopter to bring Santa for the Springville Area Chamber of Commerce Christmas Party at the town hall.
Growing up in Springville, most generation Xers, like myself, can remember the Saturdays after Thanksgiving as the Saturday to see Santa. Not every year went smoothly. Some years were windy, like in 1991 when Santa came in Springville’s 1921 fire engine, or some years the snow was so thick as it was falling, Santa was quoted as saying,” I should have brought Rudolph.”
Since 2010, Santa has been taking more traditional means of coming to Springville. Every year, the Concord Historical Society has invited Santa to visit during their Annual Concord Country Christmas and Santa comes by his sleigh and reindeer. He keeps his sleigh parked outside just to remind kids he is coming. According to Mel Miller of the Concord Mercantile, “He [Santa] usually flies in on one of the reindeer that day, and he keeps the reindeer in a special pen so they don’t fly away when visiting.” He also collects letters that have been dropped off in the North Pole mailbox on that day, too.
With Thanksgiving over soon, I bet many kids will start to be more nice than naughty. But you never know in Springville— if you see a fire truck and no fire, or hear helicopter or airplane or even a snowmobile, it could be Santa Coming to check up on you.