Santa arriving by airplane? It was once a county tradition

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For most everyone around the world, the Christmas season means that Santa Claus will soon arrive with toys and goodies. Most believe that St. Nick travels around the world on Christmas Eve with his sleigh and reindeer – but there was a time in Switzerland County more than 50 years ago that the Jolly Elf arrived through a much more modern mode of transportation.

Those who weren’t around Vevay in the early 1950s have heard stories about Santa Claus landing on Main Street via airplane, but as impossible as that might sound, former resident Linda Scott Harrell – now of Madison – has the pictures to prove it.

Linda Harrell’s father, Charles Scott, spent several years flying Santa Clause into Vevay using Charles’ 1946 Aeronca Champ airplane. At that time, Charles Scott owned and operated “Scott’s Flying Service” – which was headquartered where the Vevay Dairy Queen building now sits.

According to Linda Harrell:

“Dad would circle Vevay with everyone on Main Street anxiously awaiting Santa’s arrival. He landed on the one mile strip of road west of town where the school is now, and taxied from there to downtown. At that time, there were no power lines crossing the road.

“The Indiana State patrol and Vevay police would close off that part of Main Street so Santa could arrive. He would then proceed to the Hoosier Theater, which my grandparents – Venus and Minor Bakes – owned. There Santa would pass out treat bags to all of the children.”

Linda Harrell continues: “My dad would then take Santa back to the plane and would turn the plane around the flag pole that used to be at the intersection of Main and Ferry streets, and fly him back to the North Pole. I can remember thinking that I had to be very, very good because my dad really did know Santa Claus and knew where he lived!”

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Along with supplying Vevay Newspapers with these wonderful photographs of Santa’s visit in 1951, Linda Harrell also sent along a clipping from a December issue of the Vevay Reveille-Enterprise, which covered the arrival:

“Old Santa Claus, unless snow, hurricane or heavy rain blocks his plane, will land his plane on the state road either west or east of Vevay, Wednesday afternoon, and will taxi to the flag pole.

“He has changed his time of arrival to about 1:30 p.m. on account of some rule that school kids throughout the county must attend classes until noon that day and the busses make a bad deal for cross routes in the country whose little passengers must hurry home and plait their pig tails or brush down their cowlick before coming to meet old St. Nick as he alights from his plane and moves on to the Hoosier Theater where, after the big free show, he will dispense presents to any and all kids 12 years old or younger.

“Two big factors are helping old Santa this year including his personal pilot, Charlie Scott, who was a member of the famous Ferry Command during the last war and who is furnishing his own personal plane for the big event together with going in with the generous Veterans of Foreign Wars to furnish all the treats that will be given out as well as providing the big free show at the Hoosier where Dickens’ Christmas Carol and comedy shorts will be shown.

“And then, of course, there is Old Santa himself who is used to his Donner and Blitzen but is somewhat wary of airplanes and only because of a real and abiding love for kids, would consent to a low altitude ride over the county to broadcast his Christmas Carols – even though he has the best and most experienced pilot to be obtained.

“Every kid who possibly can should come to Vevay on Wednesday afternoon to see this wonderful thing of Old Santa Claus dropping down out of the sky to hand out presents for any youngster who will attend.

“There will be other things here too that evening including the giving of the many gifts awarded by Vevay merchants who are trying hard to make all of us realize that this 140 year old town is one of the friendliest and best places in the world to come and trade – and be appreciated.”

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Vevay Newspapers thanks Linda Scott Harrell for this wonderful peek back into Switzerland County history; and invites others who may have more information or photos to share them with our readers.

It is Vevay Newspapers’ hope that this information and these photos have brought back some wonderful Christmas memories to brighten everyone’s holiday season.

Merry Christmas.