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Palmerton Area Historical Society holds Christmas banquet

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Kathy Long shows the book she read to the people at the banquet after she finished her program. She is talking to Janine Carazo about it.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Kathy Long shows the book she read to the people at the banquet after she finished her program. She is talking to Janine Carazo about it.
Published December 27. 2012 05:01PM

Jane Borbe, president of the Palmerton Area Historical Society, thanked people for coming to the annual Christmas banquet at Blue Ridge Country Club on Dec. 10. She said it had been a busy year with the society helping celebrate the centennial of the incorporation of Palmerton borough

The Little White Church held a patriotic ecumenical service. The tree was decorated in red, white and blue.

The sermon was on the subject of hope with the Rev. Frey singing and playing the guitar.

George Ellison, who used to live next door to the church, returned for a visit. He watched them put coal in the church but never entered. He was happy to enter now and see the church.

Next year the borough will hopefully gain its historic district designation in the category of a company town. If that is resolved, they will begin to work on an Appalachian Trail designation.

Mary Beth Beers had the first copies of the holiday memories book she put together.

Volunteers are needed at the Heritage Center. There are two-hour shifts.

Kathy Long, a storyteller who also leads tours at Asa Packer Mansion, read a story, "The Christmas Tree Ship."

The major event in the book happened in 1912, 100 years ago.

She saw the book on the Weather Channel, and wanted to put an autographed copy in the library in memory of her sister, who was born Christmas Day 1912.

Every autumn a boat captain, Rouse Simmons, took a load of 5,000 evergreens in the hold and another 500 tied to the top from Thompson's Landing on Lake Michigan to Chicago. A spruce was tied to the top of the highest mast.

It identified the Christmas Tree Ship. The ship became a symbol for Christmas. Trees were given without charge to churches, orphanages and the needy. The captain became known as Captain Santa Claus

"He would dance on a watery floor, then slumber would beckon in the great rocking chair of the water," said Long.

But in 1912 he watched the sky darken. It was a cyclone winter. The U.S. Lifesaving Station picked up distress signals. Fishermen found a corked bottle with the captain's last message. In 1971 scuba divers found the ship intact and upright

The captain's wife, Barbara, took on the captaincy of the Christmas tree ship the following year. She became known as Mrs. Santa. She sailed for 21 years. Other family members took over the ship. His daughter became known as the Queen of the Christmas Trees.

In 1924 a fisherman found the captain's wallet.

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter takes disadvantaged children on a memorial trip each year.

Long said her Christmas gift to the audience was a list of other things that happened in 1912: On Jan. 4 the smallest earth-moon distance of the century was reached. On Jan. 6 New Mexico became the 47th state and on Jan. 29 martial law was declared in a textile strike in Massachusetts.

Feb. 14 saw the first diesel submarines commissioned in Groton, Conn. On March 1 Albert Berry made the first parachute jump and the Campfire Girls were organized on March 17. On April 6 the first electric starter was used in a car and on April 15 the Titanic sank.

A North Atlantic Ice Patrol was formed on May 19 and on May 29, 15 women were fired at Curtis Publishing for dancing the Turkey Trot on their lunch break.

On July 1 the Woolworth building in NYC became the tallest skyscraper at 792 feet. Jim Thorpe won the decathlon on July 13.

There was a ticker-tape parade for Thorpe on Aug. 24 and on Aug. 27 Edgar Rice Boroughs published "Tarzan of the Apes."

Oct. 14 Palmerton was incorporated and Mary Packer Cummings died on Oct. 29, leaving the homestead to the town of Mauch Chunk.

On Nov. 23 Rouse Simmons "Christmas Tree Ship" went down in Lake Michigan and on Dec. 28 the San Francisco Municipal Railway started operation on Geary Street.

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