Brundidge to welcome Christmas

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, December 2, 2014

When Santa Claus comes to town tonight, Brundidge will be as comfortable to him as an old shoe.

After all, the Christmas lights that will welcome Santa to town are the same lights that have been welcoming him and the Christmas season to town for generations.

Brundidge Mayor Jimmy Ramage remembers awaiting the Christmas lighting of the town when he was a young boy. His sons waited just as anxiously for the string Christmas lights to signal that Christmastime was here. Tonight, Ramage’s granddaughters will be among the many who participate in the lighting of the town for Christmas 2014.

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When generations of Brundidge residents think Christmas, they probably have images of the simple strings of colored lights strung across Main Street.

“Our Christmas decorations go back more than a half century,” Ramage said. “Back to the early 1950s and we hope they will last another 50 years or more. These lights are a Christmas tradition for our town.”

That Christmas tradition is the reason the city’s governing body made certain the “Christmas lights,” would long be a part of the Christmas season before making the decision to move the city’s utilities off Main Street.

“Tommy Strother and James Boutwell, with People’s Electric, had the idea of stringing the colored lights across the street,” Ramage said. “They designed the strings to include holiday messages, stars and other ornamentations. Those same strings of lights have been a part of Christmas in Brundidge ever since.”

Back in the 90s, the city was awarded a grant to upgrade its downtown area. The sidewalks were to be redone, lantern-type lighting was to be installed and the utilities were to be moved to the back street. But there was problem.

Removing the “light poles” would mean there would be no poles from which to string the Christmas lights.

Ramage did not say the project would have been put on hold if a way had not been found. However, he said, “A way had to be found.”

“The string Christmas lights were too much a part of our community for us not to find a way to keep them,” he said. “We found a way.”

Fittings for metal poles were figured into the downtown design, and Christmas came “as usual.”

But the string lights are just one part of the town’s classic Christmas decorations. Santa’s Workshop on the library grounds, along with Santa joined by his reindeer and sleigh adorn the lawn of City Hall and came on the Christmas scene in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Ramage is not sure when First National Bank purchased the Nativity scene designed and hand-painted by Brundidge artist, Larry Godwin, but guesses it was somewhere during the time he was in college in the 1960s.

“That Nativity scene has been around for a long time. Larry’s artwork is so realistic. It was a meaningful addition to our Christmas decorations,” Ramage said.

Godwin’s Nativity scene is located on the grounds of Salem Baptist Church on South Main Street, and another Nativity scene is housed in a crib constructed by city employees on the lawn of Brundidge United Methodist Church on North Main Street.

“We also have a Christmas tree and decorations at Galloway Park and at the Liberty Tree Park on the north side of town,” Ramage said. “On the south side, we have a display of white lights to welcome motorists. And, we have a lighted tunnel that leads to Brundidge Station, which is in the downtown area.”