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New panel at Mount Albion tells life story of Charles Howard

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 October 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers
ALBION – Mount Albion Cemetery employees this morning installed a 2-foot by 3-foot interpretive panel that shares the story of one of the cemetery’s most prominent residents: Charles Howard.

Howard is best known as the man who started a Santa Claus School. He ran it from 1937 until his death in 1966. The school has been moved to Midland, Michigan, and still bears Charles Howard’s name.

Howard also was 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.

Howard 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.

He remains a revered figure in the Santa Claus community. This past April more than 250 Santas were in Albion for several days for a Santa Claus convention.

The Santa community created a Santa Claus Hall of Fame in 2010 and Howard was inducted in the first class.

He was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa and a consultant on the movie Miracle on 34th Street.

Bill Lattin, retired Orleans County Historian, looks over the new interpretive panel. Lattin worked with Albion students in creating the panel. Lattin, current Historian Matt Ballard, and local Charles Howard expert Ken McPherson all were consultants on the panel, providing inofrmation and sharing photos.

The panel was created by the AP US History students in Rich Gannnon’s class. More than half of the class has taken part in the Ghost Walk at Mount Albion Cemetery.

Albion students used money raised from past Ghost Walks to pay for the panel.

There will be another Ghost Walk on Saturday that will conclude at Howard’s grave.

To inquire about the Ghost Walk, call Susan Starkweather Miller at the school, (585) 589-2087 for reservations.

One of the photos includes Charles Howard with his wife, Ruth.

Takeform Architectural Graphics in Medina made the panel.

The panel is located next to the terrace where Howard is buried on the west side of the cemetery, south of the Civil War section.