De Smet firemen's Christmas tradition has deep roots

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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A Christmas morning memory for many people who either grew up in De Smet or spent the holidays visiting relatives here, is the excitement of hearing a fire truck siren and knowing there would soon be a knock on the door.


For more years than any living resident can remember, De Smet volunteer firemen have given up a few hours with their families on Christmas morning, no matter the weather, to drive around town in fire trucks and go door-to-door handing out brown paper sacks filled with candy to every household with children, and some without children.


Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Wolkow has been on the De Smet Volunteer Fire Department since 1998. He recalled one time as a youngster thinking their neighbor’s house was on fire because he saw the fire truck next door. And then a fireman came to his door with candy. Now, Wolkow is one of the firemen bringing candy to people’s front doors.


“It’s just neat to get up to the houses and see the smiles and excitement on kids’ faces,” he said. “And people visiting often don’t get to see fire trucks unless something bad is happening.”


The De Smet Volunteer Fire Department was organized on Feb. 5, 1923, with 20 members. And on March 20, 1923, they acquired their first fire truck.


The Christmas morning candy give-away apparently began soon after the fire department was organized. There is no mention of it in any local Christmas news articles between 1923 and 1929, but a story in the Dec. 26, 1930 edition of The De Smet News alludes to the practice already being a tradition at that time. A paragraph reads, “On Christmas day, the firemen will make their customary trip about town with their truck, distributing candy and nuts to the homes. This good-fellow errand is looked forward to in homes with children and without children, for the firemen know where a bag of candy will be appreciated.”


Donna Palmlund

Staff Writer

The De Smet News

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