By Jack Mariano (re-post from December 2012 issue)
The sixty five year old tradition lives on. Look out your windows and doors on Christmas Eve because he’ll be coming! Santa Claus will be making his annual “ride” through the Borough!
A lot of communities do this on the weekend before or even two weekends prior to the Holiday. Not in Parkesburg, Santa has to come around strictly on Christmas Eve just before he leaves for his worldwide tour distributing presents to children far and wide!
For me, as a youngster, peering out of our picture window on Third Avenue, seeing the “old Man” pass bye meant that it was soon time for bed and dreams of what gifts he would be bringing over night.
As far as anyone can tell, the annual “Santa Ride” began on Christmas Eve in the late 1940’s. Bud Wilde recalls the “Jolly man in the red suit” making the rounds on the 1937 Hale pumper.
For many years, when Santa couldn’t make the trip from the North Pole, his main helper in Parkesburg Mayor J. William Stroup made the trip around town, perched high a top one of the pumpers. Although Mayor Stroup was replaced in his office in 1965, he continued this tradition every Christmas Eve until the mid 1970’s.
Local historian Gerry Treadway recalls Christmas Eve 1966, where the snow was so deep the borough plows were unable to get all of the streets open. He and his wife Barbara. Treadway, walked with their kids down Strasburg Avenue to the school and watched Santa go by from that venue.
Other “helpers” that have made the “ride” have included Alan Wolfe and Earl Bryson.
For me, as a teenager and “post” teen, it meant leaving work and getting to the firehouse as quickly as possible, hoisting that big wooden chair up onto the top of the fire truck, carefully tying the chair off with rope, securing the generator onto the outside rear step and focusing the flood lights on the “Man, himself; Santa Claus.
The entire preparation took about a half hour and we used to begin around 5:45. Soon after, the “Claus” would arrive and we would assist him hp to his perch on the engine.
When I made the ride with Santa, in the 1970’s the trip took about two hours and “Stroupie” insisted on “hitting” every street. “All the kids must se Santa Claus” he said.
Today, there are twice as many streets and homes in Parkesburg and the trip takes much longer but these dedicated public servants would have it no other way! The “Santa Ride is one of the longest traditions in the Borough and all of them hope it remains that way!
Top Image: Engine 28-2 1962 Mack Pumper and Crew prepares for the Santa Ride – Christmas Eve Day, 1974. Left to right Chief Dick Klingler, Scott Smith, Ken Linsinbigler and Walt Morris, Jr.