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The Real Santa visits York in 1957

From BON-TON ad in The Gazette and Daily on Friday November 15, 1957

A BON-TON ad in 1957 emphasized “THE REAL SANTA will land at the York Airport, Thomasville, Saturday Morning, November 23, at 8 a.m.” I discovered this ad while doing a multi-year search of newspapers for my previous post: Santa flight that started a York tradition in 1946.

From 1956, and onward into the 1970s, the Bon-Ton Santa flights arrived the Saturday before Thanksgiving at The York Airport, near Thomasville; to signal the start of the Christmas shopping season. From that airport, Santa was taken by car to a Sleigh Float awaiting him on West Market Street at Richland Avenue and starting in the late 1970s, Santa arrived directly to the York Fairgrounds via helicopter. From those locations, the Santa parade proceeded to the downtown Bon-Ton Department Store. The festivities culminating with Santa climbing the Fire Company’s big aerial ladder into an upper story window to make his headquarters in The Bon-Ton Toyland.

I was curious why “THE REAL SANTA” was highlighted in this specific Bon-Ton ad. This ad, during 1957, was the only one that I’ve discovered where this emphasis was made.

The story behind the Real Santa visiting York in 1957

The discovery of the following Sears Roebuck & Company ad provided a reason why the Bon-Ton emphasized “THE REAL SANTA” in their ad. Looking through newspapers in prior years leads one to believe Sears started flying their Santa into the York Airport, at Thomasville, in 1957.

Sears ad in The Gazette and Daily on Friday November 15, 1957

However, Sears moved their Santa’s arrival one week ahead of the traditional arrival of the Bon-Ton Santa. Thus the day before arrival of the Sears Santa at the York Airport on November 16th, 1957, the Bon-Ton placed the one-time ad informing the public that their “Real Santa” would be arriving a week later on November 23rd.

Sears downtown store had been located at 153 West Market Street, which is in the same block of West Market Street as The Bon-Ton. Sears was the first prominent store to move out of downtown York when they became the major anchor store of the York County Shopping Center; which opened in stages during the Fall of 1955. Sears was the first store to open in that complex; doing so on August 11, 1955. That location is now occupied by the Giant Food Store in the York Marketplace on East Market Street in Springettsbury Township.

The Sears Santa traveled slowly by Lincoln Continental convertible, via the Lincoln Highway eastward from Thomasville to the York County Shopping Center. His headquarters in Sears was located in Toyland, at the north end of the store, and just outside the garden section was transformed into a winter wonderland complete with a merry-go-round and rides.

Links to past Christmas posts:

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