Santa Comes to Waldoboro: An old tradition upheld by the Waldoboro Firemen’s Association

By Jean Lawrence | Dec 19, 2013

Christmas and children: the two words just go together especially in the town of Waldoboro. In fact, Christmas began with the birth of a child and is still celebrated with great joy by children all over the world. The tradition of remembering children during the holiday season is a long one in the village of Waldoboro as civic groups, town workers, church and community volunteers work tirelessly, some all year long, to make sure that the holiday is special for the children of the town.

One long-standing tradition has been the arrival in the village of Santa Claus with his bag of Christmas candy goodies. As far back as the early '30s, the members of the Waldoboro Fire Department worked with the merchants of the village to assemble bags of candy and a piece of fruit to fill Santa’s sack. The firemen made sure that Santa arrived safely to distribute the goodies, and in 2013, the tradition is still going strong.

From 1930 through 1985, James Harkins served as Santa Claus for the Fire Department celebrations in the village. The tradition began during the Depression years when Harkins made a promise to Chief Charles Freeman to provide for village children’s enjoyment candy and oranges donated by the local merchants. When Retired Deputy Chief Allan Benner was a boy around 1935, he remembers his father Ralph and the fire volunteers filling the bags with candy at his home for the Santa Claus visit. He recalls the bag’s contents as being a cup of peanuts, five pieces of hard candy and two chocolate-covered vanilla cream drops. Each bag was accompanied by an orange. Richard Wallace remembers standing in freezing cold on the sidewalk of Main Street near the Sproul Block through the late 1940s waiting for Santa to arrive in Dodge Engine Number 1. For many years, Lt. Carl Waterman was the leader of the candy purchases and bagging experience. A day or so before Christmas in 1970, a blizzard covered the area with many inches of snow. In some instances, snow piled right up to the first floor window sills in some houses, and Santa’s arrival was delayed until Christmas Eve itself. Neighbors on Wagner Bridge Road ventured down to the village with their six children and brought back bags of candy for the new boys on the road. Their knock on the door, smiles, and Merry Christmas greeting that accompanied the bags of hard candy were signs that the love and concern of the village’s firemen are shared with and by all within its boundaries at this special time of year.

Over the years, Santa has arrived in a variety of fire engines. Most memorable for some folks were Old Engine No. 3, the ladder truck, and even Rescue. One snowy year, Santa arrived in a sled pulled by Chinook dogs supplied by Perry Green and driven by Earl Griffin. Brian Bowman took over the Santa duties for one year following Jimmy’s retirement, and Frank Overlock Jr. has continued from 1987 to the present as Waldoboro’s Santa.

For years, the fire department raised and decorated donated Christmas trees on the corner of the Sproul Block property (before demolition). The area at the Main Street end of the block was the perfect site for the town’s Christmas tree, and its lights and decorations made a central setting for the merchants and firemen to share their Christmas greetings. After Gay’s Store burned in 1962, a Christmas tree was planted on the opposite corner, and for years the town decorated the tree and Santa visited that spot.

The Waldoboro Firemen’s Association still makes sure that Santa visits downtown in the village of Waldoboro each year. This year, on Sunday, Dec. 22, a fire engine parade composed of local and area department engines will leave the Waldoboro Fire Station and move down Jefferson Street at 6 p.m. Santa Claus, in Ladder No. 1, will arrive at the intersection of Jefferson and Main streets where he will distribute the goodies which the firemen’s association faithfully supplies. Children and adults who are children at heart are invited to come to the village to view the parade and visit with Santa.

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