In the summertime, Noel, Missouri’s location on the Elk River means that business booms, as canoers and kayakers brave the crystal-clear waters in search of adventure or relaxation (depending on when they choose to “float”). But in the winter, the post office is where the action is.
Remember that scene in Miracle on 34th Street when the post office brings in bag after bag of letters for Kris Kringle?
Picture that scene in numerous US cities. Tens of thousands of letters to Santa Claus are delivered to post offices in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; North Pole, Alaska; Christmas, Michigan; Santa Claus, Indiana; and Noel, Missouri. You can get a long list of similar names here.
I can’t speak for the rest, but Noel, Missouri wasn’t named to create a Christmas tradition. It was named after C.W. and W.J. Noel, owners of a local sawmill. Nearly fifty years later, in 1933, President Roosevelt appointed a new postmaster who was of French descent. He took note of Noel’s Christmas connection and brought it to the attention of the powers-that-be in town.
Of course, town fathers are always looking for ways to promote their towns. The only celebrity to respond to their requests for recognition was Kate Smith, the singer. She started dedicating songs to, “Noel, the Christmas City.”
In gratitude, the town began sending fruitcakes to Ms. Smith every Christmas, including one 300 pound one baked in a tree-shaped pan. (Not sure how much she appreciated those gifts, but that’s another story.) The idea to get folks to send their Christmas packages to Noel for a special postmark worked. (Of course, it isn’t an official postmark. It’s just an imprint, but still…) You can go here for instructions on how-to.
The town got another unexpected boost when, in the 1960s, it was completely left off a map of the state’s resort areas. A good-natured move to secede and the offer of Arkansas’ governor to annex them, put Noel back on the map.
I’ve never sent a letter through a Christmas city post office. Have you?
Images courtesy of the Noel, Missouri Post Office. Special thanks to Don Spiares, Postmast EAS-18 for sending me the updatedstamp images.