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Group wants to name Route 31 in Albion for Charles W. Howard, founder of Santa Claus School

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 July 2019 at 10:13 am

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 – A group that has been doing projects in Albion to honor the life of Charles W. Howard, the founder of a Santa Claus School, wants to name Route 31 in Albion in honor of Howard.

The Albion Betterment Committee would like there to be signs at each end of Route 31 in the Town of Albion, declaring that section to be in honor of Howard, who established the school in 1937 and ran it until his death in 1966. The school was located at the corner of Phipps Road and Route 31. (The school has been moved to Midland, Michigan, and still bears Charles Howard’s name.)

The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday will vote whether to support the effort. The Legislature has a resolution on the agenda for the 4:30 meeting, which is in the new addition of the County Administration Building.

The resolution states:

“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 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 bet it

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Albion Betterment Committee had this sign honoring Charles Howard erected in 2015. It is on Route 98, on property owned by Gil and Donna Walcott, north of Route 31A.

RESOLVED, that the Orleans County Legislature supports the Albion Betterment Committee in their request from 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; 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 IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF CHARLES W. HOWARD, A LOCAL FARMER WHO FOUNDED THE WORLD’S FIRST SANTA CLAUS SCHOOL.”

The Betterment Committee in recent years has put up a “Believe” in downtown Albion, replaced the Santa Claus School sign at Howard’s property (now owned by Robin and Jill Stinson), and erected a welcome sign on Route 98 that declares Albion is the home of Howard, founder of the Santa Claus School. That sign includes a cutout of Howard’s likeness in a Santa suit.

The Betterment Committee has also raised more than $30,000 for a monument in downtown Albion for Howard. The group also has been a regular participant in the Strawberry Festival Parade with a Santa and Mrs. Claus waving to the crowd.

This wouldn’t be the first time in Orleans County a state road was named in honor of people. Route 98 in Genesee and Orleans counties in 2014 was named the Genesee and Orleans Veterans Memorial Highway. A brown sign with white letters was unveiled on May 22, 2014. That sign is by the Orleans County Marine Park in Point Breeze. Click here to see photos of the sign unveiling.

The state also approved naming Route 104 in Orleans County as the “American Legion Memorial Highway in Orleans County.”

The Albion Rotary Club last year worked with artist Stacey Kirby to have a 24-foot-long mural of Charles Howard as Santa in a sleigh over downtown Albion.

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