Who knew that an idea generated at a simple neighborhood party in DuBoistown in 1957 would give rise to one of this area’s most special and enduring Christmastime institutions?
That special institution is “Candy Cane Lane, located on Sumner Street and Spring Street in the borough of DuBoistown.
Candy Cane Lane was born in a time in America where neighbors and neighborhoods were closer together and where everyone looked out for one another and felt a real sense of community and where neighbors were cherished friends as well as neighbors.
“Those us who live on Summer Street were a pretty tightly knit neighborhood that did a lot of things together including having neighborhood picnics,” Martha Kropp, a resident of Summer Street and one of those who helped get Candy Cane Lane started, said.
“At one of these picnics the 16 families living in the neighborhood thought that it would be a nice idea to really decorate our houses big during the upcoming holiday season of 1957. Erma Fullmer was the real sparkplug behind the idea. Each neighbor chipped in about $10 for the cost of buying lights and we each would be responsible for the cost of the electricity. In addition to lights we added things such as a Nativity scene, toy soldiers, snowmen, elves, Santas and reindeers and of course, candy canes. We got a lot of our stuff at a good price when the old Tri-State went out of business in the early 70s. We never had any idea that it would grow to be such a big thing and become a Christmas institution in this area and help people to make DuBoistown well known as a major Christmastime destination.”
Paul Fullmer said that he and the other neighbors who operate Candy Cane Lane “never worry” about their electric bills connected with operating all the beautiful lights associated with their special holiday display.
“We all know that our light bills will probably double during the time that we have Candy Cane Lane and we budget for that. Each person is responsible for their own light bill and we don’t get any kind of rate reduction or discount from PPL, Fullmer laughingly said.
He said that putting together Candy Cane Lane takes hundreds of hours of work and that the work often begins in late October. The major work was done on November 17 but he and the neighbors believe all the work is worthwhile when they see the smiles and “oohs!” and “aahs!” of the children and adults who yearly trek to see their display. He said they have it lit up every night from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s.
“We derive a lot of satisfaction out of seeing how happy are when they come up and see the lights and we really think it helps people to really experience the magic and wonder of the Christmas season,” Fullmer said.
He said that for about the past 15 years, Comcast and the previous entities that operated the local cable system assisted in helping to string the lights on the wires go across the street through the use of their bucket trucks, before that he said the neighborhood residents just set up ladders and did it.
Fullmer said there was only one year that Candy Cane Lane was not lit up and that was 1973 during the Energy Crisis precipitated by the Arab oil embargo that year but he said things returned to normal the following year. He said that residents of the neighborhood participate voluntarily and enthusiastically choose to be a part of the Candy Cane Lane experience.
He points out that the DuBoistown Volunteer Fire Department provides the money for the purchase of candy canes that are handed out to children who visit Candy Cane Lane by the volunteer elves that inhabit the lane. According to Craig Kropp, son of Martha Kropp many of the elf volunteers are associated with B.B. Aquatics, a private, local youth aquatics group that has people from all over the county involved.
The Borough of DuBoistown took extra notice of 2017’s special 50th anniversary of Candy Cane Lane, according to borough council president Michael Caschera.
December 9 has been proclaimed “Candy Cane Lane Day” by the DuBoistown Borough Council and there will be a special parade through the community marking the special occasion as well as the dedication of the new borough park.
“Candy Cane Lane has meant a lot to the people of DuBoistown over the past 50 years. It has kind of put us on the map. When I travel to Reading on business and people ask me where I am from and say DuBoistown, they always refer to Candy Cane Lane,” Caschera said. “Many of us as kids remember going each year to see Candy Cane Lane and we now take our own kids to see this wonderful thing. It is truly a part of the local Christmas experience and kids get real excited because they know it won’t be long until Santa comes.”
He said after the ceremony dedicating the new borough park the parade will make its way through the borough and up Candy Cane Lane and at a ceremony presided over the WKSB on-air personality Gary Chrisman, the special proclamation designating December 9 “Candy Cane Lane Day” will be read.
“We want people from all over the area to attend this and to see our enthusiasm for this special Christmastime tradition,” Caschera said.
The ceremony is also a tribute to the dedication of the neighborhood families that have made Candy Cane Lane such an institution over the years.
Some of the original families that helped get Candy Cane Lane started include Paul and Erma Fullmer, Paul Fullmer, Jr and his wife Miriam. Mr. and Mrs. Donald Fullmer, Paul and Shirley Seese, Harold and Martha Kropp, Charlie and Vincie Maneval, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Smith, Ralph Thornton and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas McNutt, Sr., just to name a few.
These and other later families have provided a loving and living legacy that helps to literally and figuratively light up the Christmas season for the thousands of people who visit the special magic place that is Candy Cane Lane.