As long as there is a hint of ice out yonder, I will stay safe and snugg in Squirrel Haven. That means that I have not seen all the familiar sights of Christmas. The only decorated houses I have seen this season are the ones within view from the big chair in the living room - Staubs, across the street, with it’s bright colored lights and the electric Santa standing by the chimney; Millman’s brilliantly outlined home; and I can see, reflected in Betty and George’s windows across the street from us, the fabulously decked out Gallagher and Kuchar homes, both dripping with those electric "ice cicles" which are so popular.
Elsa and John have described the sights outside of my viewing range. The great big tree that John and Jill King outlined with white lights. The houses on Byberry and on Terwood Roads that are apparently done by people in the same family (same last name on the greetings), both of which are top notch examples of excess. Peter told me about the house on Moreland Road that is what they call "over the top" with decorations.
The places that I remember best include a house over on Fitzwatertown Road that Pete would drive us to see every year. I think this was around the late 1960s and early 1970s. There would be cars parked so people could get out for a good look. Before that, we would take the children to see the lights in Greenridge Farms, which is off of Buck Road before you get to County Line, Once, Pete took us to see the lights of Manayunk and Conshocken - they were really something to behold.
The light I miss seeing more than any other is the star atop the cathedral. Our family’s favorite Christmas Eve Children’s Service was the 4:00 p.m. service - when we went in, it was still light out, and when we came out, it was dark and we would look up at the top of the cathedral tower and there it would be, the star. It was a moment that was always fresh and new. (In 2014, the star is lit during Tableaux, two Sundays before Christmas - still as inspiring as in 2000, just lit longer.)
The star itself is a light bulb atop a long thin pole of some sort. One year - I think it was in the ‘80s - Ariel Gunther was heading up to check it or something. Now, Ariel was no spring chicken at this point. When he got to the top, he collapsed. He said he was just winded, but the people who were with him were justifiably alarmed. They called the rescue squad.
Now, imagine trying to get someone who is all the way up on the top of a cathedral tower back down. They literally had to call in the Navy. Soon, rescue helicopters were buzzing the cathedral, but they realized that air lifting Gunnie wouldn’t work. What they finally did was to have Navy personnel "rappel" him down the side of the tower. I can only imagine how mortified Gunnie was, especially as he kept telling everyone he was fine, that he had been winded and that was all. You can imagine the local news had a field day.
We found out just how famous the incident was a couple weeks later, when Mim,
Elsa and yours truly were doing some Christmas shopping in Wilmington, DE.
Mim asked the lady at a shop if she accepted checks. Yes, she did. Mim wrote out her check, only to have the woman ask her for her driver’s license and a credit card for verification*. Well, Mim did not have a credit card. As she explained to the woman, if she had a credit card, she would have put the purchase on that. The woman would not budge. Then her eyes lit on the address on the check. "Are you from the town where that man was stuck up on the top of a church?" she asked. "Do you know the man they had to get down?"
Mim acknowledged she was from Bryn Athyn and that, yes, she had known Mr.
Gunther for all of her life. "Well, SURE we’ll take your check!" Is that amazing or what?
It reminded me of when I was at Strawbridge’s in Jenkintown and a salesgirl would not accept my passport as verification for a check because I have never driven and I have never had a credit card of any type. Phyllis Pitcairn happened to spot me just after I had been turned down flat and the two of us greeted each other happily and did some catching us. After we parted and I headed for the escalator, the salesgirl caught up with me. "Well, Mrs. Lockhart, if you know Mrs. Pitcairn of course we will accept your check." I never have and never will understand what passes for sound business practice.
When you go past a brightly decorated house or look up at the "star" atop the
cathedral, take an extra look for me.
Holiday hugs and love - the Gramster
* That was standard practice back then - approval of a check required both a driver's license & a credit card. Go figure. elm