Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, November 30, 2003, Pg. 2
This Tuesday, December 2 at 6:15 p.m. in the evening will be the “Albion Aglow” holiday parade in downtown Albion. Fifty-plus years ago however, Albion used to have a Christmas Parade during the day which attracted hundreds of children and adults alike. Albion’s Christmas parades used to be held on the Saturday in December one week after Thanksgiving weekend. This annual event was so popular, there were even two parades: one in the morning at 10:30 a.m, and one at 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon! Sponsored by the Albion Merchant’s Association, the parades drew big crowds and the cash registers of Albion’s downtown merchants were ringing with Christmas cheer.
Downtown was always decorated for this event. There were two Christmas trees that were placed right in the middle of Superior St. One was located just north of the railroad tracks before the intersection with Michigan Avenue, and the other at the intersection with Ash St.! I’ve got a photograph of the latter and will print that next week in this column. The local Albion Post Office annually placed a nativity scene on the small hill outside of their building. For those who don’t know what a nativity scene is, it consists of hollow plastic images of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, and animals including donkeys, sheep, straw (real), and a wooden “latheboard” manger with strung electric lights. These were so religious-looking that the U.S. Supreme Court had them declared unconstitutional and you don’t see ‘em anymore in public places.
The 1953 parade was the last. Organizers lamented it was too cold and too much work to get everyone to participate. Beginning in 1954, there was no Christmas parade. Instead, Santa Claus would make his grand appearance on the roof of the Commercial & Savings Bank (now Citizens Bank). The Albion Fire Department would escort Santa down from the roof on their aerial ladder and truck, and escort him to his “Santa house.”
This Christmas season in our Historical Notebook we’d like to feature the 1949 Christmas parade. On this particular parade Santa even brought his reindeer! Santa (Edwin Butters of Coldwater) had brought some reindeer down from the Territory of Alaska in 1947 on a transport plane from a remote Eskimo village. He spent the subsequent time training his herd at his ranch three miles south of Coldwater.
Santa came to Albion that year with his red sleigh which had small rollers/casters attached on the bottom in order to make his sleigh move easily (no, they weren’t made by Caster Concepts, but that’s an idea for a future “high profile” job for them) on the brick pavement. The sleigh was pulled by the live reindeer. The parade started on N. Superior St. by the Post Office and headed south to Ash St., where it turned east, then north on Ionia St., into the Market Place.
Santa and his entourage were engulfed by hundreds of area children the entire length of the parade. Santa briefly stopped in the middle of downtown, where he was presented with a scroll listing the names of all the “good” little girls and boys worthy of receiving presents that Christmas. The afternoon parade was led by the Albion College Band; Santa and his reindeer traversed the same route again. Between the parades (a three-hour interval) there was numerous picture-taking and “movie moments” with Santa and his sleigh and reindeer in the Market Place. Does anyone still have their 8 mm. movies of this event?
From our Historical Notebook this week we present Santa and his reindeer in the center of downtown Albion on December 10, 1949, along with hundreds of Albion area children and their parents as they make the trek during the annual Christmas Parade. In the distance we can see vibrant downtown businesses such as Merit Shoes, Vaughn & Ragsdale clothing, Cartwright Shoes, Mitchell’s Confectionary, Weatherwax Drugs, Tuchtenhagan’s Jewelers, Frost’s Shoes, the Commercial & Savings Bank, and the Bohm Theatre. How many of our readers remember this parade?
1949 Christmas Parade in Downtown Albion
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic