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Funny and moving letters to Santa from Pa. kids

Plus, how you can make their lists come true.

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Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.

December 9, 2022
Inside this edition: Lotto pick, art mystery, holiday classic, War on Drugs and Christmas, ski tourists, history markers, and Santa Claus is coming to town.
A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have won the MLB's first draft lottery and will get the first pick in 2023. With that in mind, a bit of baseball trivia:

Former Pirates Manager Lloyd McClendon had a penchant for memorable ejections. His most memorable happened in 2001 and ended with him taking something unusual with him. What was it? 

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)
Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One thing worth reading: The Inquirer (paywall) reports that strange, sci-fi inspired mosaic rectangles that launched a Philadelphia art mystery are now showing up in a Pennsylvania city two hours away.

» One thing worth watching: A frame-by-frame, high-def remake of a 21-year-old and inescapable Pennsylvania Lottery holiday commercial in side-by-side format. Rita and Joe never looked crisper.

» One thing worth sharing: This year's "it" gift is a holiday album recorded by the Philadelphia Eagles and produced by hometown hero Charlie Hall of The War on Drugs. And it's, uh, not bad at all.

» One thing worth knowing: You might see more Ohioans at Pennsylvania’s Seven Springs ski resort this year. That's because the new owners have four Ohio parks and passes are transferrable.

» One more thing worth knowing: Pennsylvania has approved 36 new historical markers covering the Haines Shoe House, the first all-minority lineup in major league baseball, Keith Haring's home, and more.

Spotlight PA's top original news stories of the week.
» COVID-19 UPDATE: Your guide to finding resources on cases, vaccines, and tests

» Pa. House power struggle likely heading to court
» Gov. Wolf's office won't explain private law firm hires
» You’re invited! A free 1-on-1 with Gov. Wolf on his legacy
» Pa. moves to formalize LGBTQ protections in state law
» 89% of rural Pa. towns lack property upkeep rules
» Penn State private plane soars in a budget crunch
Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED..
A red and white mailbox reading "Letters for Santa."
(Charles Fox / Philadelphia Inquirer)

In 1904, a Pennsylvania boy named Goosey White wrote Santa a letter.

In it, he asked for a bike and "steam hammar," which is either a reference to a dangerous piece of industrial equipment or something appropriate for a child to request. Let's assume the latter.

Goosey added in the postscript, for emphasis: "Don't forget I'm a hammer boy." Luckily for him, nothing gets past Saint Nick.

(Here are more historical letters to Santa from Pennsylvania's very direct youth, many of them also worried about his memory, and one merely pleading with him to cool it with all the cats.)

Eight years after Goosey's missive shipped, the United States Postal Service launched Operation Santa, a program that let local postal workers adopt and respond to Santa letters sent by less fortunate children.

The program marked a serious shift from the long-standing and decidedly unmerry practice of destroying or returning letters to Santa under a USPS policy concerning mail sent to a fictitious address.

The rule was repeatedly violated by staff.

Even the bosses flouted it: In 1894, a postmaster in Connecticut came through for a seven-year-old named Fannie who begged "Sandy Clous" to come to her house after missing it the year before.

Now you can be the Sandy Clous and supply the magic by adopting a letter and sending a gift through the Operation Santa program.

(Pro-tip from a colleague: Consider a gift card to a store like Walmart that lets the parent do the shopping and which also saves on shipping.) 

This year's raft of adoptable letters are browsable by state.

Here's a sampling from Pennsylvania.

Chrisjayliz wants a Gabby's Dollhouse and assures Santa that the family's actual house will be well stocked with cookies and milk, "so don't worry." 

Another letter, this one from Conor in Pennsylvania, says things are tight for the family this year. "My mom ... is a stay-at-home mom and my dad was out of work due to COVID and is trying to get back."

Six-year-old Joshua says he was nice this year but needs to work on "expressing my feelings" and "being kind to others." That honest self-assessment deserves a "Playstation gift card" or "flying orb ball."

Eleven-year-old Jaylin, a "Straight A student" with "some downfalls," likes sneakers and video games and Legos.

Others are doing their best to believe, despite some mixed messaging.

A letter from Mya begins: "My friend says your not real but my mom says you are. I don't know what to believe."

Mya adds: "But mom says its about giving and not receiving and about the magic and love ... I think she should be an elf." 

Another child, Eva, writes: "I don't really understand what Christmas is or understand fully who you are. But I know I love the lights and music and I'm always a good girl for my mommy ..." 

Eight-year-old Christian — a member of Chrisjayliz’s family — "won't ask for much," "just Lego Ninjago and Lego Pokemon."

And Markus, 5, wants warm clothes and learning games. 

Some of the letters linked above may already be adopted out by the time this newsletter reaches you. (It appears Conor's was as of Thursday.)

But there are many more where those came from and more certain to come. Qualifying letters to Santa will be accepted if postmarked by Dec. 12. Letters need to be adopted — and packages shipped — by Dec. 19.

Here's more info on the program, how to adopt a letter from a child or family, and how to submit one from your child or family. 

Colin Deppen, PA Local editor (aspiring hammer boy)

Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED..
A notable quote about Pennsylvania or one made by a notable Pennsylvanian.
"For me, the shake brought back childhood memories of riding bikes to the neighborhood Pensupreme store to buy popsicles."

PennLive reporter Sue Gleiter taste-testing the 2023 Farm Show milkshake flavor, orange cream, and you can too at pop-up events this month
Our favorite photo of the week submitted by a PA Local reader.

A Victorian procession at the 38th annual Dickens of a Christmas event in Wellsboro, as seen by Don H. last week. Send us your photos or artwork, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

People in Victorian-era-style costumes walk down the street during Wellsboro's Charles Dickens-themed holiday celebration.
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
Former Pirates Manager Lloyd McClendon pulled first base out of the ground when he was ejected from a game against the Brewers at PNC Park in 2001, making him the first person to steal first base. 

“I have to say, it’s probably not my proudest moment,” McClendon told TribLIVE eight years later. “But it’s probably the most comical.”

Thanks for reading PA Local! We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? 
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

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