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Culver Christmas traditions through the years

December 24, 2012

Santa arrives by Culver fire truck in 1985.

Typical Christmas reports in the late 19th century pages of the Citizen focused on visits of residents to family members' homes for Christmas, as well as elaborate Christmas productions or services at one of Culver's churches, most commonly Grace Reformed (today Grace United Church of Christ) or the Methodist Episcopal Church on Main and Washington Streets.

By 1930, Culver had a "community Christmas tree," annually erected on the corner of Main and Jefferson Streets.

A longstanding tradition through much of the 20th century, the annual Christmas home decoration contest was in full swing by 1939, when the Culver Boy Scouts took top prize for their decorating of the scout cabin near the north end of Main Street (today Sharon Coffey's home).

Albert Stahl won the contest the following year, and Harry Sanders the following year. In 1963, the Don Mikesell home won the $10 first prize, one of many, many occasions the School Street house took the prize and delighted residents.

By December of 1943, however, all outdoor Christmas lighting was banned due to the war effort, with businesses asked to abandon their indoor lighting as well.

Another cherished local holiday tradition, Culver Academy's Christmas Vespers service of carols and readings was already noted as a tradition back in 1944, when Col. Ed Payson was band director and also led his musical charges to entertain during the cadets' annual Christmas party in the Mess Hall.

For the 1959 Vespers, choirs from the Methodist, Grace United and Emmanuel Evangelical United Brethren churches of the town of Culver joined with the Cadet Chapel Choir and the Culver High School Mixed Choir in presenting a Christmas program, according to a Christmas note from CMA superintendent Delmar T. Spivey. The war a thing of the past by 1946, Culverites enjoyed Miss Ruth Behmer playing carols over the Methodist church's tower speakers 30 minutes each afternoon during the Christmas season

The annual children's party Culver youngsters enjoyed last Saturday in 2012 was no new thing even in December, 1956, when "The El Rancho Theatre and the VFW (sponsored) their annual Christmas movie party and Santa Claus treat for the children of the community Saturday afternoon."

Another longstanding tradition was the Culver Military Academy faculty children's Christmas party. In 1958, it was held at The Shack, where Jim Miracle led the singing and Santa Claus visited, to the more than 100 children's delight.

Some 120,000 holiday letters and packages passed through the Culver Post Office during the 1960 Christmas season, said assistant postmaster Harold Fitterling

The Citizen was "mighty happy" to receive a Christmas greeting by Air Mail from Culver' Tommye Glaze, the 1960 "Miss Indiana" (and almost Miss America), who was touring with other students to entertain US troops in Germany, France, and Italy during the holidays.

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