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County Legislature votes in support of dedicating Route 31 in memory of Charles W. Howard

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 August 2019 at 11:43 am

Albion man created Santa Claus School and Christmas Park

This photo shows Charles W. Howard with a Santa at Christmas Park in Albion. Howard operated the Park and a school for Santa Claus in Albion until his death on May 1, 1966.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature wants to dedicate Route 31 in the Town of Albion in memory of Charles W. Howard, an Albion native who ran a Santa School from 1937 until his death in 1966.

The Legislature on Wednesday passed a formal resolution in support of naming a section of the road in honor of Howard. The matter requires the support of the State Legislature and the signature of the governor.

“Mr. Howard brought national acclaim to himself and his home town by establishing the world’s first Santa Claus School,” according to the County Legislature’s resolution.

Howard also established Christmas Park in Albion on Phipps Road near Route 31. He portrayed Santa in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City for 18 years.

He developed the Santa School after noticing many Santas didn’t have training, and didn’t always interact with children well or meet a standard for dress. He established decorum for Santas and his Santa Claus suits became popular.

Howard remains a revered figure among the Santa portrayers world-wide. They have an annual conference, which twice in the past decade has been in Albion.

The Santa school is now in Midland, Mich., and it continues in Howard’s name.

The Legislature was going to vote on the resolution for Howard last month but tabled the ovte until it had a response from Howard’s family, on whether they approved of honoring Howard with the signage and dedication.

Jane Holland, Charles Howard’s granddaughter, sent an email on July 31 to Joe Gehl, one of the directors of the Albion Betterment Committee. The Betterment Committee has stepped up efforts to recognize Howard’s role in the community. The Betterment Committee has put up a gateway sign on Route 98, declaring Albion as Howard’s hometown. The group also has “BELIEVE” signs in the community and is working on a memorial bronze statue of Howard in downtown Albion.

Holland said the family endorses having Route 31 be dedicated for Howard, who was a farmer and active in the community as a volunteer, in addition to running Christmas Park and training Santas at the school.

“Grampa was a humble man of little means but a big heart and a giving, caring soul,” she said in her email. “To see him honored on his beloved trail to and from the town – the family still today cherishes and welcomes its comfort when we visit – would be a great privilege.”

She thanked the Betterment Committee and other community for their interest in preserving Albion’s heritage.

Albion students in 2015 unveiled an interpretive panel about Charles Howard near his grave at Mount Albion Cemetery. The panel shares lots of information about Howard, who was also a farmer and a toymaker with a flair for the dramatic. He was part of community efforts to build a model of Niagara Falls with 10,000 gallons of sweet cider in 1928. He also helped make a 12-foot-wide apple pie in 1929 and a create a 14-foot-high cake that weighed 3.5 tons.

The full resolution from the Legislature states:

“SUPPORTING DEDICATION OF A PORTION OF NYS ROUTE 31 WHICH PASSES THROUGH THE TOWN OF ALBION IN MEMORY OF CHARLES W. HOWARD

WHEREAS, Mr. Charles W. Howard was a resident of the Town of Albion for his entire life; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Howard was proud of his home town, county and country; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Howard brought national acclaim to himself and his home town by establishing the world’s first Santa Claus School; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Howard portrayed Santa Claus in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for 18 years;

WHEREAS, Mr. Howard passed away in 1966 without receiving from his local neighbors the proper recognition he deserved; and

WHEREAS, the Town of Albion and the Village of Albion have both adopted similar resolutions in support of this request; and

WHEREAS, Jane Holland (granddaughter of Charles W. Howard) on behalf of the Howard family, has sent an e-mail message approving of and thanking us for so honoring Mr. Howard in this fashion; and

WHEREAS, the ALBION BETTERMENT COMMITTEE (a not-for-profit charitable organization which was formed in 2003 with the intent to promote the area’s natural assets and to set the area apart from every other community in the country) is asking support to dedicate a portion of the NYS Route 31 in Memory of Charles W. Howard; now be it

RESOLVED, that the Orleans County Legislature supports the Albion Betterment Committee in their request to the State of New York to have a portion of State Route 31 – when entering the Town of Albion (Northwest corner of Transit Road from the east to Southeast corner of Wood Road from the west) to be dedicated in Charles W. Howard’s name, subject to permission from the Howard Family; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Legislature supports signage to be placed along that portion of Route 31 to read:

THIS SECTION OF NEW YORK STATE ROUTE 31 (PASSING THROUGH THE TOWN OF ALBION) IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF CHARLES W. HOWARD, A LOCAL FARMER WHO FOUNDED THE WORLD’S FIRST SANTA CLAUS SCHOOL.”

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