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Williamsport Sun: December 13, 1952 – First Salvation Army Kettles Were to Aid Shipwrecked Sailors

Annually, for more than 50 years, Salvation Army volunteers have stood on the streets of Williamsport in the cold, windy weather attending Christmas kettles.

Three generations, perhaps four, have grown accustomed to this Christmas scene.

They know that once the Salvation Army has put out its kettles or Christmas chimneys, the temperature has never dropped so low, nor the snow piled so high. Nor wind and storm, as to force abandonment of this Christmas program.

Because of this background, a representative of the “Sun” contacted Major Paul White, commanding office of the Salvation Army in Williamsport and Lycoming County, about the tradition behind the kettles. How did they come into use? And where?

The answer to those questions is a fascinating story explaining the Salvation Army’s benevolence at Yuletide.

Major White pointed out that the kettles, and more recently, the chimneys, are a symbol of what the Salvation Army stands for, “Kindness, courage and help for others.”

Over 60 years ago, he said, a group of sailors were shipwrecked off the American West Coast. This mishap occurred in a period of deep depression for the area.

Consequently, when the seamen were rescued and brought to shore there at a community of moderate size, there was little at hand to maintain them. But the Salvation Army accepted responsibility for providing shelter. It undertook also to feed them.

The SA funds became exhausted before the stranded sailors gained help from other sources. Finally, there was no longer any money to even a buy a beef bone for soup.

In this desperate plight the Salvation Army officer put their soup kettles on a street corner. Above it he placed this sign, “Keep the Kettle Boiling.”

A quick and generous response came from the folks of that seacoast village to the end that the sailors were thereafter well fed. This then evolved into an enduring Yuletide tradition.