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by Jennifer Smart
WAKE FOREST — It was three weeks before Christmas when 9-year-old Tom Arrington wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking for a toy train. The year was 1927, and Tom, great-great-grandson of the first president of Wake Forest College, was already showing signs of the man he would become.
He opened his remarks by promising Santa he'd be a “good smart boy,” and he concluded with a brief report on the declining December weather conditions.
The letter is now housed in the archives at the Wake Forest Historical Museum, and a recent discussion of its contents on the museum's Facebook page generated dozens of “likes” and this comment from Tom's daughter, Hallie Arrington Hearn: “My daddy was the sweetest thing!!! (And he always hated cold weather, but he loved Christmas!)”
Even as a young boy, Tom was honest about these things, and his Letter to Santa is both funny and poignant. That’s why it's the centerpiece of this year's short program at the 66th Annual Wake Forest Community Christmas Dinner, where Hallie will read it in its entirety. It captures a moment in Wake Forest Christmas history, and reminds us never to forget what it's like to be a child.
As anyone who remembers Tom will tell you, he grew up to fill the attic of his Wake Forest home with an intricately constructed model city for his beloved electric trains — which he never tired of sending in circles — chugging, blinking, and puffing along the tracks in a magical world of his own creation.
This year’s Community Christmas Dinner will feature Tom's letter, and other “Letters to Santa,” as part of a traditional holiday celebration with friends and neighbors.
The dinner will be held at 6:30pm on Monday, December 2nd at the Forks Cafeteria at 339 S. Brooks St.
Following a Christmas invocation offered by the Rev. Dr. Bill Slater of Wake Forest Baptist Church, Karen Winstead and her cafeteria staff will serve turkey and dressing, roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, apples, and carrots, along with an assortment of desserts.
A brief program will follow, then Mayor Vivian Jones will recognize the winners of the Citizen of the Year, Organization of the Year, and Peggy Allen Lifetime Achievement awards.
The evening will conclude with Lori Eitel singing the season’s most beautiful Christmas carols and a short group sing-along.
Tickets cost $15 each and are on sale now at the Forks Cafeteria, the Wake Forest Chamber of Commerce, and the Wake Forest Historical Museum.
Tickets can also be purchased through local organizations such as the DAR, Wake Forest Woman’s Club, Rotary Club and the Wake Forest Garden Club.