Monday, October 14, 2019


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Keeping the Tradition Alive
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor

Kurney and Pauline Spaar in the image of Santa and Mrs. Claus heading through the Square in Pennsburg back in the 1960's when the Penn Square Restaurant and The Peoples National Bank existed.  It was a time when the parade headed south to Red Hill from East Greenville.

        'Tis the season!  The time of year we take special measures to pause and reflect on our lives.  A time to remember special holiday events of our past.  Special holiday memories that you wish would never end.  Some we remember more than others.

        Knowing that it will become a holiday memory next year, we try and make this year more special than last.   Most special events include family and friends, but some were special trips.

        Perhaps your special trip included a Christmas ride on the Reading Railroad to Philadelphia to see old Saint Nick at Lit Brothers, and have lunch at the Horn & Hardart auto-mat.  Or maybe a bus trip on the old Perkiomen Clipper to Allentown for a day of shopping at Hess' department store.  Maybe a simple car ride to Perkiomenville to shop at the John Michael Brothers store.

        Nearly 50 years ago a family tradition was begun by Kurney Spaar.  It has been nurtured and has grown to three generations of the Spaar family.

        Kurney was born in Hereford and lived in the Hereford and Palm area all his life.  Spaar's parents, Susan and Augustus, operated the Hereford Hotel for over 30 years, beginning in 1911.  Perhaps that's where Kurney picked up his fondness for the horse and carriage.  It was reported that 'as soon as he could saddle a horse and hitch up a buggy, he ran the hotel stable.'  Back then, the business rented out mules and horses for riding and driving.  The family would also hold shows at the hotel that featured ponies and kicking mules.

        In the late 1960's Kurney hitched up his steeds and started the annual Christmas Parade that today still traverses Main Street from Red Hill to East Greenville.  Back then, one of the main sponsors for the event was the Red Hill Savings and Loan (remember them?).  I remember the boxes of candy and chicklets handed out along the parade route.

        When Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus (Kurney and his wife Pauline) made those trips nearly 50 years ago, it created the kind of fond memories that only this seasonal visitor can bring. 

        Ill health forced Kurney to suspend the annual mission in 1977.  But in 1996, and at the age of 83, Kurney lit the candle of our memories again.  Santa was older, and the trip shorter but the energy was there.  Spaar, in full Santa regalia, ended that ride by driving his horse and sleigh up to the drive-through window at McDonald's in Pennsburg.  Reportedly, it was something Santa Kurney had wanted to do for some time.

        In 2000 Tom Spaar, Kurney's son, decided to light the spirit of the annual visit along Route 29 by the jolly old elf.  Tom enlisted the aid of his wife, Kathy, to take on the top billing and invited family and friends to help out.

        Today Santa, and his family and friends, still decorate the sleigh for this annual trek for the parade which has morphed into an "animals-only" march.  It is a unique event that delights all who come to watch.

        Due to a recent illness, Tom won't be able to don the Santa suit this year and has turned the task over to his son, Matthew, whose wife, Jamie, will stand in for Kathy and sit by her husband's side.  Family friend Tom Phillips will control the reigns as the procession passes through the boroughs.

        With the elves busy at the North Pole this time of year, it's important to have help to stage a parade.  Lest you think the family tradition ends there, let me add that the work of making sure there are enough oranges to hand out falls to Tom's son, Scott Spaar, while his wife is busy registering the parade participants.

        The grandchildren of Tom and his brother, Dennis, will be busy handing out oranges along the parade route along with other volunteers.

        Tom insists that his illness is only temporary and that Kathy and he will return to their seats in the sleigh next year.  Kurney Spaar had an infectious Christmas spirit and so does the rest of his family.

        The parade route hasn't changed much over the years.  It starts in the parking lots of the Red Hill Fire Company and First Niagara Bank on Fourth Street in Red Hill.  The parade kicks off at 1 p.m. and travels Main Street from Fourth Street in Red Hill, through Pennsburg, and on to Fourth Street in East Greenville, where the parade will end.

        On Sunday, with the help of family, friends and community, the Spaars will do it again.





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