THE MAYOR'S SPECIAL REPORT: Greencastle's Christmas tree and more

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.
Echo Pilot
A lot of work goes into the Christmas tree on Center Square in Greencastle.

What a beautiful Christmas tree on Center Square. So, what does it take for the tree to magically appear? Stay tuned. Do I have a story to write for you. Grab a hot cup of tea or coffee and join me. 

It’s another beautiful Sunday afternoon. The yard work is done for the season. The leaves have been transported to Tayamentasachta Environmental Center and the grandchildren are so disappointed. They’ve had a blast jumping in them. Greencastle public works employees are back to work. Welcome back, guys. Thanks to Mark’s Lawn Care for taking four days to pinch hit in collecting those leaves. Please don’t burn them. Leaves make great mulch for our environment. 

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How was your Thanksgiving? Tina and I enjoyed the traditional feast with family. Did you have Thanksgiving at home? Many did this year as restaurants were challenged with the commonwealth’s restrictions. One local restaurant (Mrs. Gibble's) had 500 takeout orders! Wow ... how many turkeys, you may ask? Oh, just thirty 25-pounders. I carved down two birds at home ... couldn’t imagine doing 28 more. 

Oh my, a special thanks to those who participated in the 10 Most Wanted Greencastle Police Department food drive. Hundreds of pounds of non-perishable food was brought to police headquarters and has since been donated to the Greencastle-Antrim Food Pantry. I so appreciate Ericka Faight, police administrative secretary, for her hard work and the officers who helped citizens with their donations. Non-perishable and monetary donations are always accepted at the food pantry located on West Baltimore Street at the Presbyterian Church.

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

You know COVID has really hit our first-responders and health care workers hard, locally and across the country. The call volume is increasing for them and they must risk exposure to help others — from responding to these EMS calls to arresting a homicide suspect on East Baltimore Street who traveled here from nearby Hagerstown. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Consider writing a brief note of thanks for our EMS, fire and rescue personnel, police officers, and health care workers and mail it to them. Be sure to wear your mask when out in public places. Yes ... it’s very important that you do so.

Shop Small Saturday was a great success. Downtown was busy and it was hard to find a parking space, which was great. Keep it up G-A! Support our small G-A businesses. Free parking continues the entire month of December. An abbreviated Heritage Christmas will be held Dec. 4 and 11. A special thanks to all of the chamber sponsors for your efforts.

More:Christmas tree arrives in Greencastle, COVID-19 quashes lighting ceremony

How about that Christmas tree? I’m listening to Glen Campbell sing beautiful Christmas music while I peck away on the laptop in the family room. I’ve enjoyed recent conversations with GW Electric’s Bob Wolff. So, how did the tree get there, Bob?

The work begins with the spring and summer for the G-A Chamber of Commerce, searching out a tree and local citizens offering them up. This is done much earlier in the year to inspect the tree for height, circumference, etc. The mayor thanks Trudy and Delbert Kennedy of Greencastle for offering up this year’s tree. GW Electric must safely cut it and maneuver under electric, cable and telephone wires to properly load it on a flat trailer. What happens on the Square prior to the tree’s arrival? Stay tuned. 

I wondered how the tree logistics were handled decades ago? Well, let’s reminisce about placing a tree (or what we thought was a tree) in the 1950s and 1960s. J.J. Alleman Electric Company was located on West Madison Street and would later move to South Carlisle Street. The Madison Street building was razed many years ago for a parking lot. Jake "JJ" Alleman was one of the many World War II veterans, like my Dad, who went in business upon their return from the war. I talked to son Dave on Saturday. Both sons, Dave and John, worked with their Dad for many years. Dave related that he would accompany his father to Frederick, Maryland, each Thanksgiving Day in a big box truck to purchase live mountain laurel and cedar trees. They would obtain more cedar trees from a farm just north of Upton. What did they do with the cedar trees? They would literally take the J.J. Alleman Electric Company manual ladder truck and build a Christmas tree in the “rotary traffic island” using the cedar trees and mountain laurel. Twenty-five watt light bulbs would be installed and hang around the Square. They would do the same thing around the even larger square in Chambersburg. Thanks, Dave, for sharing your memories. Since those days dozens of trees have been donated for our Christmas enjoyment.   

Meanwhile, back to Christmas tree 2020. Several years ago Bob (Wolff) fabricated a canister for mounting right in the center of the island structure. First, he must remove the center street light pole system with his truck crane, place it on a trailer and transport to the borough garage. The canister must be secured in the center and then he’s ready to transport the lone tree. The truck crane sleeves the tree into the canister, and it's secured and trimmed (could you imagine trimming such a big tree?). Lights are installed, not only on the tree, but around the square’s perimeter, as well as the garland. The lighting infrastructure is checked, and a whole lot more. But wait, there’s more! Do the lights look different this year? That’s because nephew Austin Wolff replaced some 2,300 incandescent bulbs with LED ones. Great job, Austin! They are beautiful. By the way, Greencastle’s light bill will be reduced significantly as the amperage went from 60 to 10 amps or about 85% less power (that’s electrician talk). A great big thank you to Greencastle’s Council and the Antrim Township Supervisors for funding support.

How much time goes into placing and displaying this beautiful tree and our Square? About 80 hours. I know Bob checks on things daily as he is dedicated to the community. Thanks Bob and Austin, GW Electric, the G-A Chamber and sponsors for making sure many smiles are realized.

Take your family to Center Square; stand in one of four corners (on the sidewalk); and have your picture taken with the tree in the background. If you capture the backdrop just right, you’ll have the moon in the picture. 

So there you have it. What a beautiful tree we have! Now back to Glen Campbell singing Christmas songs. I might even take a bicycle ride. Merry Christmas! We are blessed.