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A High Flying Christmas

A High Flying Christmas

For Seamond Roberts, Snow’s Christmas delivery of 1946 was particularly poignant. Battered by the hurricanes of 1938 and 1944, the Cuttyhunk Lighthouse, where she had grown up, had been torn down and her father, keeper Octave Ponsart, transferred to Martha’s Vineyard’s West Chop Lighthouse. In addition to losing her childhood home, the seven-year-old was still smarting from the fact that a longed-for Christmas doll had broken on the Cuttyhunk rocks when the Flying Santa dropped it from his airborne sleigh several months earlier. The only mitigating feature of being uprooted was modern conveniences. (“Wow! I was fascinated by flushing toilets,” says Roberts.)

What she didn’t know was that her mother had written a letter about the broken doll to Snow. That Christmas, he landed by helicopter in order to safely hand her a new doll. “I found out years later, he paid for that helicopter out of his own budget money!” says Roberts, who became a fan for life. “I knew he was not the Santa, nor the one at the stores, but a special guy who made sure that lighthouse children and Coast Guard children didn’t get overlooked.”

A High Flying Christmas

Brian Tague, the president of the nonprofit Friends of Flying Santa, which today continues the mission of Wincapaw and Snow, says Snow’s trips were at some risk and expense to himself and his family. “The planes were leased each year. . . and modified with a window flap big enough to throw the presents. Flying Santa signage had to be added and then there was the cost of the packages.” It was also hard to find a pilot willing to circle the lighthouse towers at such low altitudes. “There were many who wouldn’t fly the route because they thought it was too dangerous.”

Dolly Snow Bicknell, who accompanied her parents on the annual flights, writes in the foreword of her father’s book The Lighthouses of New England, “These flights were bumpy, rough, and scary, but I always knew that this was something really special, and that the keepers genuinely appreciated my father’s efforts.”

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