Cobblestone Museum hosting program on Sept. 23 about Santa School founder in Albion

(Left) This is the cover of a 44-page booklet about Charles W. Howard that was compiled by an Albion middle school students in 2021. The booklet will be available for sale on Sept. 23 during a program by Ken McPherson. (Right – Photo by Tom Rivers) Ken McPherson, a graduate of the Charles W. Howard Santa School, meets Weston Burgio of Albion on Dec. 2, 2019 at Hoag Library in Albion.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 16 September 2023 at 8:32 am

CHILDS – The Cobblestone Museum will celebrate the life and legend of Charles W. Howard with a special program by Ken McPherson of Medina, a friend of the Howard family and a graduate of Howard’s Santa Claus School.

The program on “Charlie Howard, the Santa Claus School and Christmas Park” will take place at 1 p.m. Sept. 23 at the historic Cobblestone Church on Route 104.

McPherson said he was “roped in” to being Santa by Dave Green when he was dating Green’s daughter Lisa.

“I stopped at their house one day when Dave was getting dressed to be Santa at the Millville Church,” McPherson said. “I was a junior in high school then. The more I learned about Charlie Howard, the more interested I got.”

In 1981 McPherson bought his first Santa suit from Elizabeth Babcock of Albion. Babcock lived just down the street from Christmas Park and made the Santa suits for Howard.

“Then I became friends with Charlie’s daughter and family, Gail Bergeman, a friendship which continues today,” McPherson said.

He graduated from the Santa Claus School and has continued in his Santa role ever since. He hopes his presentation at the Cobblestone Museum will spark a lot of interest.

“Charlie Howard and his love of Christmas should never be forgotten,” McPherson said. “I hope everyone gets bitten by the same bug and carries on the tradition.”

It was in the late 1930s when Howard realized how shabby and unprofessional some Santas looked, and he wanted to do something about that. He started to convert three large barns on his farm into what became Christmas Park and the world’s first Santa Claus School. This small attraction became well-known and brought visitors from all over the Northeastern United States.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Ken McPherson, a Santa portrayer, visited the Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina on Nov. 30, 2018 for a pajama storytime. There were about 75 kids in attendance, who shared their Christmas wish list with Santa.

Part of Howard’s concept with Christmas Park was to give his Santa Claus School a working campus with a classroom, dressing rooms and extensive props to better educate the Santa students.

In 1948, Howard became Santa for Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City, which he continued until 1965. His Santa career led to appearances on television, in magazines and newspapers, including “What’s my Line,” “To Tell the Truth,” “The Tonight Show,” Life Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post.” He also contributed to “Miracle on 34th Street.”

McPherson will be showing memorabilia he has collected over the years, some from the late Mildred Baker of Medina. The former Mildred Wilson, she lived in a cobblestone house next to the Ward House for many years. She was a friend of Howard’s and ran the gift shop for him at Christmas Park.

The Cobblestone Museum also has a guest book signed by thousands of visitors to Christmas Park, which can be viewed during the presentation.

The event is free, but a free-will offering will be taken. Reservations are not required, but are appreciated.