Mr. Peanut decked out for Christmas

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 19, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

While the rest of the city has been aglow with Christmas lights and dcor, Mr. Peanut, looming over the corner of West Washington and North Main streets, seemed a little forgotten until two women saw fit to light up his life.

&uot;Mr. Peanut helped found this city and put it on the map,&uot; said Betty Asbell of Whaleyville. &uot;We just felt that he had been forgotten and we couldn’t stand for that, so we went to the park around 12 a.m., with a ladder, to put a Christmas wreath on his arm.&uot;

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Asbell’s sister, Kathleen Wilson, currently lives in Powhatan, but that fact did not negate her devotion to the trademark known ’round the world, Mr. Peanut.

&uot;It seems that all the city’s efforts had been focused on decorating the Seaboard train station,&uot; said Wilson. &uot;For my sister and me, giving Mr. Peanut a wreath for Christmas was sort of like putting the star on the top of the tree. It just made us so happy.&uot;

Asbell said it was no easy task, getting the ladder up and maintaining her hold on it while still holding onto the wreath. Her sister stood by at the foot of the ladder, offering whatever support she could muster in the chilly temperatures of midnight.

&uot;I slipped the wreath around his arm, secured it with a piece of floral wire without damaging Mr. Peanut, and then I got down from the ladder as quickly as possible,&uot; said Asbell. &uot;Several people passed by in vehicles and I’m sure they thought we were city employees even though we were wearing Santa hats and all. We were worried about the city people (employees)… we thought they might see us and call the cops on us. But, we managed to escape the park on our &uot;sled’ before they caught us.&uot;

Sledding (driving?) away, the sisters decided they needed to check out Mr. Peanut with his new wreath.

&uot;He looked so Christmassy and happy to know that someone finally remembered him,&uot; said Asbell. &uot;We drove around the block to check him out again, and we thought for sure that we saw him wink and wave to us.&uot;

The sisters, both natives of Suffolk, said their grandfather, the late Linwood Branch, was employed by Planters Peanuts until he retired back in the early ’40s. They grew up in Suffolk where Mr. Peanut was born out of a drawing by Antonio Gentile, a 13-year old Suffolk youth.

&uot;We had always loved Mr. Peanut and watched his dapper style change over many years,&uot; said Wilson. &uot;Back when we were children, Planters and Mr. Peanut were the focus of this city and everyone around the world recognized Mr. Peanut and Suffolk was the &uot;Peanut Capital of the World.’ We are proud of this heritage and we couldn’t let Mr. Peanut be forgotten this Christmas.&uot;