The Legacy of Fire Truck Santa: West Mifflin

Fire Truck Santa from the West Mifflin #3 fire station, 2023. Via Facebook.

The third weekend in December meant more Advent candles, school winding down, and Fire truck Santa.

Those of us who grew up with volunteer fire companies often enjoyed a tradition of someone’s Dad/Uncle/Cousin playing Santa. This while they circled every street, distributing lovely treats. The full sized Clark bar was my favorite.

For me this was the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s. But the tradition stretches back decades. I cannot even find the origins, but there are hundreds of references stretching back to the 1940 from South Carolina to Oregon. Someone should research this, right? Some communities had full fledged parades, others personal delivery. The tradition continues. I’m not sure about the Clark bars.

Send me your stories about your fire truck Santa.

I found some wryly amusing clippings detailing the years when Santa couldn’t come to town in 1985 (fighting actual fire) and 1989 (cold weather.) I also found some modern Facebook updates, informing kids that Santa landed at the Allegheny County Airport which is located near #3  to join them for recent cruises, now called ‘Santa Treats.’ 

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Perhaps it is simple nostalgia, but I find it endearing to remember simple memories where the magic was created without lights, mirrors, or a three hour wait. West Mifflin is home to Kennywood which has a holiday lights event that is nice, but horrifyingly expensive and focused on artifice.  But light shows and magical memory stations are for parents, not so much children. Come to think of it, parents who grew up experiencing the same traditions as I described above. So maybe I’m not onto something?

Bringing Santa to the people in the community instead of using Santa to lure people into commercial spaces seems to be a lost, but perhaps much-needed tradition.

West Mifflin had four volunteer fire companies. The trucks rolled our after CCD. Kids and parents came pouring out of our homes. I close my eyes, transported back to the child standing on the edge of our sidewalk, waiting for the magical moment. Santa didn’t disappoint. He made me feel as special and important as all of the other kids.

And he fused that little Styrofoam Advant wreath into my memory, too. They were intertwined.

I blogged about this in 2017 and the post is always very popular. It wasn’t just West Mifflin. IMcKeesport and Ross and New Kensington and everywhere had this tradition.

It is nice to have a good memory of a fire truck, not tinged by sadness or worry or worse.

Merry Christmas, Fire Truck Santas everywhere.


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