Ed Moore and Jamie Horton work year-round to help stock The Santa Train for its annual run.
Ed Moore is Kingsport’s "Biggest Bum."
For the last 19 years, Moore has "bummed" everything from school supplies to Moon Pies; woolly mittens to stuffed kittens; striped candy canes to toy airplanes; and building blocks to athletic socks. Moore, however, is not your average panhandler. He does his bumming for "Santa Claus" and, in recent years, has been accompanied by his "bumming" companion Jamie Horton.
Both are employees of K-VA-T Foods, more commonly known as Food City. Moore has been with Food City for 52 years and started out as a stocker in Morristown. He has spent 47 years in management; 27 of those years as manager of the Food City on Eastman Road. During that time, no matter the time of day or night, Moore was a constant figure at Food City. He recently moved into corporate training and travels throughout Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee to various Food City stores.
Horton joined Moore in "bumming" 14 years ago when she became his assistant store manager at Food City. Moore received the job as Kingsport’s consummate "bummer" when Oakwood Grocery Stores closed its doors. For almost 40 years, Oakwood employee Raymond Galyon had the distinct honor of "bumming" for the "Santa Train."
"With the close of Oakwood, Raymond retired and Don Royston (Kingsport Chamber of Commerce member) asked me to step in and take over," Moore said. The bumming was initially hard for Moore because he didn’t have the same inside track as Galyon. Once he got the hang of it, though, Moore started talking with his store vendors and other retailers to gain donated goods for the Santa Train.
As the economy turned, so did the donations.
"Many of our food vendors are buying up companies so our draw is getting smaller, and the Santa Train crowds are getting bigger," Moore said. Fortunately, the Santa Train caught the eye of Florida-based Kids Wish Network a few years ago. Last year, Kids Wish Network donated $300,000 worth of pre-sorted toys that were handed out along the train’s 110-mile trek from Elkhorn City, Ky. to Kingsport.
The Santa Train is also fortunate to have many reliable donors like Georgia resident Jayne Lawless. For many years, the 80 plus year-old woman has purchased 200 Barbie dolls and knitted clothing for the dolls, each of which includes a purse with a one dollar bill tucked inside.
When Horton first started as Moore’s bumming companion, her role was mainly logistics. Now, she is an active participant in every aspect of the Santa Train and stands on the train’s back platform handing toys to Santa Claus.
In the last decade, CSX Transportation, provider of the Santa Train, has implemented more security measures and more provisions to ensure no child is left standing beside the train without a toy.
For more than 50 years, Santa and his helpers threw candy and toys from the train. Now, the train makes 12 stops in Kentucky and Virginia before its final stop at the Kingsport Christmas Parade. Santa’s elves now leave the train to disperse toys throughout the crowd. In addition, CSX employees who are loaded with toys are stationed at each stop to guarantee no child is left crying without a gift.
When the Santa Train made the two-way 110-mile trek to Kentucky, the railroad was required to give the train priority running. This in turn, shut down train travel from Cincinnati, Ohio to Spartanburg, S.C. for two days.
The goal of these new rules is to make the Santa Train a good experience for everyone involved. "We try our best to make sure every child gets something," Moore said.
And Moore and Horton work year-round to make sure that happens. Both agreed "bumming" for the Santa Train has never been a burden.
"It’s a joy giving back to the community. The kids really look forward to the Santa Train each year," Moore said.
"The Santa Train is about tradition and the people. Everyone looks forward to the arrival of the Santa Train because it signals the beginning of the Christmas season," Horton added.
To donate or for more information on the Santa Train, visit http://www.teamsantatrain.org/.comments powered by Disqus