When child posts dreams at Glyndon, Santa replies

December 22, 1990|By Robert A. Erlandson

Just being careful, Lanah included a photo of herself to make sure Santa gets the right person in case he drops off a "soda maker, sewing machine, doctor set" in Glyndon on Christmas morning.

Megan set her sights lower, however, asking only, "May I please have some bubble gum," while Breanna took the broader view, "I want anything and everything," and added that "a Barbie would be nice," in case Santa needed particulars.

Because behavior sometimes counts at this season, Breanna added, "I've been a wild girl this year -- that's what my mommy tells everyone. I'll try to do better because I know you love me a lot."

These were typical of letters addressed to Santa and deposited in the white, child-height Box #1, North Pole, just inside the door of the Glyndon post office, located since 1974 in a restored 1904 railroad station.

While most branches send their Santa letters to the main post office in Baltimore, Glyndon Postmaster Mary Bloomberg carries on the tradition begun in 1955 by then-Postmaster Bertha Helms: The local staff sends handwritten replies to all letters to Santa that come to the station.

"It's your most important duty as postmaster -- to answer the Santa letters," Ruthann Pfanneschlag, 54, a 15-year veteran of the Glyndon post office, told Mrs. Bloomberg with a laugh.

Glyndon's post office is one of the few that provides personal replies, as does the post office in the Baltimore County community of Boring.

The Baltimore post office answers letters to Santa with legible addresses with a Christmas card containing a poem about Santa and the season, said Robert J. Novak, an employee in communications.

He said the main post office had received about 3,000 Santa letters this year.

About 250 were from needy people, children and adults, and they were separated for reference to individuals or business offering help, food, clothing or toys.

So far, about 170 of those had been paired up with an offer of assistance, Mr. Novak said, but the current economic downtown has led to fewer such offers. "We're trying to help," he said.

In Glyndon, when Mrs. Helms started the tradition of writing replies, the post office received about a half-dozen letters to Santa a season, and all from Glyndon, Mrs. Pfanneschlag said.

"Now they come from here, Owings Mills, Reisterstown, even Randallstown -- about 40 a year," she said.

Most of the letters are from 4- to 7 year-olds. "While they ask for things for themselves, they're not totally selfish. They usually ask Santa to take care of others, particularly if there is a new baby in the family," Mrs. Bloomberg said.

In some cases the parents have to ask the postal staff what their children request in the letters. One mother told Mrs. Bloomberg, "She won't tell me; she says Santa knows and that's enough."

Mrs. Bloomberg said she and Krista Knoerlein, another post office employee from Hampstead, wrote the replies at home in the evenings, "when we have time to sit down and think about it."

Mrs. Pfanneschlag said that "because I have horrible penmanship," she paid for the stamps and stationery and left the writing to the others.

"Santa shouldn't have bad handwriting" she said.

"We try to personalize every reply, but we never promise anything specific" because Santa's helpers have no way of knowing a family's particular circumstances, Mrs. Bloomberg said.

Some letters from Santa get special personal touches, however.

Mrs. Bloomberg, whose husband, Thomas, is postmaster at Hampstead, said their daughter, Shannon, 8, was at the in-between stage where she was beginning to doubt Santa's existence but wrote a letter "just in case." Her mom took advantage of the opportunity.

"Shannon has a little problem getting up in the morning, so I put a bug in Santa's ear and he mentioned it in his letter to her," Mrs. Bloomberg said. "When parents ask, we always add a little note about such things. It seems to help."

"When parents ask, we always add a little note about such things.It seems to help," she said.

"It's really fun to write the answers," Mrs. Knoerlein said. "They're so innocent. They still believe in Santa Claus, and that doesn't last too long."

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