In 1934, Marie Andrews’ father started a tradition in Lykens, Pennsylvania, that continues to this day.
To thank the customers of his hardware store and electrical appliance repair shop, Richard Klinger outfitted a sound truck with evergreens, sat on top wearing a Santa Claus suit, and drove through the town, distributing candy and oranges to children.
In the years to come, the truck would be “electrically decorated,” in the words of one newspaper account, and tour the towns of northern Dauphin County. For more than 75 years, three generations of the Klinger family kept the tradition alive, and it continues today with their support and under the auspices of Lykens Borough. Cowboy singer Gene Autry even sent Marie’s dad a thank-you letter for featuring his recording “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
“It’s still called ‘Klinger’s Float,’ and it still goes out on Christmas Eve,” Marie said. The annual event took a lot of work on the family’s part. Marie remembers the first year when she bagged peanuts to be handed out.
Graduating from high school in 1943, she learned of a wartime program paying for nurses’ training. Harrisburg would have been close, but she figured if she could go anyplace for the training, why not try Philadelphia?
“I don’t know how I had the guts to do it,” she said. First, she applied at a Philadelphia hospital where a friend was studying. When that program accepted her right away, she thought, “If they would take me without even knowing me, maybe Penn would take me.”
She had to pass a lot of tests, but she made it into the University of Pennsylvania. It was an excellent program, with thorough training and strict standards. By the time she graduated, the war was over. Back in central Pennsylvania, she married and had her sons.
Marie worked at several jobs until becoming a school nurse in Central Dauphin School District, outside of Harrisburg, where she stayed for 28 years.
“I liked being with the kids,” she said. “It was an interesting job. There were lots of nice people to work with.”
Her sons attended Central Dauphin schools and, apparently inheriting their grandfather’s handyman genes, studied engineering in college. They both live in the Harrisburg area, and Marie now has four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a third on the way.
From her cheery personal care suite at Homeland, Marie likes to knit. Family members receive gifts such as a stocking cap in Philadelphia Eagles green and white, or a receiving blanket for the new baby.
She has lived happily at Homeland since 2012. She enjoys volunteering in Homeland’s library, as well as taking exercise classes and attending music events. From her window, she watches birds in the trees, including a cardinal that sometimes shows up.
“We do a lot of nice things,” she said. “I go on the shopping trips. I do well. I have a lot of friends. I’m very comfortable here.”