Honoring Charles Howard would be tribute to a man who loved children

Posted 15 April 2015 at 12:00 am


There may be some who are unaware that Albion native, Charles Howard, established the world’s first Santa Claus School in Orleans County. Those who are aware of that piece of the past that belongs to us may not see it as such a big deal.

The genius of Albion’s Charles Howard may have been to realize how important Santa Claus could be in the development of children and how much it mattered that Santa be “done” right. The omniscient, loving and kind Father-figure in the red suit had to be convincing and the Santa “experience” indelible.

Mr. Howard recognized how important a belief in Santa Claus could be to the growth of a child’s conscience. Santa had the capacity to reinforce the importance of good behavior in very young people.

Santa Claus can certainly convey some of the best impulses of Christianity. How many of our parents and grandparents used him to help teach the magic of Christmas? Santa knew when you had been naughty or nice. He still is a Christ-like figure that a child can connect with, a means to understanding that it really is better to give than it is to receive. Santa Claus is the embodiment of good, and the mystique of Santa can be an important piece of a child’s emotional and social development.

I cannot help but think that the Santa my Grandma took me to visit at Sibley’s and McCurdy’s in the 1940’s was the real Santa, perhaps one of Charlie Howard’s protégés. In a wonderful way, some of us can say we still believe in Santa Claus thanks, in part perhaps, to Charles Howard.

For the Albion Betterment Committee, honoring Charles Howard’s work and place in local history makes perfect sense. A generation of local residents took understandable pride in having known and worked with him. Residents such as Mary Dreisel and many others helped him realize his dream. Macy’s acknowledged his work and featured him in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for many years.

We, too, have every right to feel positive about what he adds to our sense of who we are.

The Albion Betterment Committee believes that a monument dedicated to the memory of this extraordinary and nationally known figure would be an entirely appropriate tribute to his vision. Such a statue would make it clear that we are about what he was about. The Santa Claus “world” has recognized the significance of Charles Howard and so should we.

Gary Kent

Mr. Kent is one of the directors of the Albion Betterment Committee.