More children and adults alike in Fishtown may know neighborhood native Margaret “Marge” Wible simply as Mrs. Claus.
The 400 block of Miller Street resident has filled the role of the mythical figure for neighborhood organizations for two decades.
“The kids know me in the neighborhood as Mrs. Claus,” Wible said. “In fact, my own nephew was misbehaving and his mother said, ‘You better watch Mrs. Claus.’ And I said, ‘You’re going to be on Santa’s naughty list.’ Now every time he sees me in the neighborhood, he says, ‘I’m being good, Mrs. Claus.’ ”
Wible first took on the role at the 2000 Fishtown Neighbors Association Children’s Christmas party.
“It was right after my husband passed away, about 21 years ago,” Wible said. “Right after that, FNA decided to have the kids’ Christmas party. And, we started it, we asked different businesses to donate.”
The first year, Kentucky Fried Chicken, previously located on Girard Avenue, donated food and Wawa donated drinks.
“It turned out big because we had working families and a lot of kids in the neighborhood. And, it turned out fabulous,” she said.
Fishtown Neighbors Association hosted the parties at the Fishtown Recreation Center from 2000 to 2007 until Fishtown Action formed.
FACT continued the annual tradition at Holy Name of Jesus parish hall, with a sponsorship from Rivers Casino, until 2016, with Wible reprising her role every year.
In 2018, Rivers Casino, then SugarHouse Casino, hosted the event on site.
The casino also covered catering and provided entertainment at the event for previous years.
Getting into character comes easily for Wible, whose white-as-snow hair and wire-frame glasses make it difficult to see anyone else by Santa’s right-hand woman.
“Appearance-wise, I put on the outfit, I look like Mrs. Claus,” she said. “Whatever else comes out is what the kids make of me.”
She started borrowing a hand-made costume from a fellow neighbor and former FNA board member, then Wible began renting one until she bought her own at a Halloween costume store.
Wible goes all out in her appearance, with one exception.
“I don’t wear a hat,” she said, laughing. “I’m not a hat person. Even in the winter time, I wear ear muffs. If it’s snowing, I’ll wear a baseball cap with a hoodie over it.”
Aside from neighborhood civic groups, Wible has made appearances as Mrs. Claus at the American Legion Elm Tree Post 88 Christmas party the last few years including this past Saturday.
She also greeted hundreds of families during the Fishtown Kensington District BID Candy Cane Lane drive-thru event at The Fillmore last weekend.
And, she will make a special stop at St. Laurentius School this Wednesday to spread the spirit of Christmas.
“I’ve never been booked for Mrs. Claus, and now I just have different groups wanting me to be Mrs. Claus,” said Wible, laughing. “I was kidding around with my friend and I said, “Guess what, I need an agent.” But I love it, especially now this time of year with everything going on.”
Wible’s time spent as Mrs. Claus is completely voluntary.
Outside of playing Mrs. Claus, Wible stays active in the community by volunteering at The Great Fishtown Spelling Bee and the March Academic Madness.
She’s also a member at Lutheran Settlement House.
And, she’s never short of family to entertain, with two children, five grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
From family to the Fishtown community, spreading cheer to local families is the reason Mrs. Claus comes back every season.
“That’s what it’s all about. It’s about the kids and the families,” Wible said. “Even if it’s 2020, or when I first started years ago. It’s the same thing: families and kids. It’s a great feeling to make the little ones happy.”