Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Memories...Mary Pulley's Hill!

American Fork circa 50's-60's...
This story is for all the children who grew up in and around American Fork, Utah during the Mary Pulley years.  I have many happy Christmas memories, but there is one I share with thousands of others.  This was long before modern drive-by light displays, electronically controlled spectaculars with lights flashing to the rhythm of "Party Rock." or something by Mannheim Steamroller.  This light display was something to behold in our low-tech lives.  Trees bedecked with countless strands of colored lights surrounded a peaceful nativity scene, carefully painted wooden backdrops large enough in scale to be seen from the street.

Mary Pulley...
Before I continue I want to say a few words about the woman behind the display.  Mary Pulley was one of those wonderful women every town should be blessed with.   Her long life was filled with service to the community beginning in 1929 when she represented American Fork as our first "Poultry Day" Queen.  She presided over the picnic, parade, ball game, races, carnival, program and dance...a very full day indeed.  She kept her poise even when a young server at the banquet spilled hot cocoa on her white satin gown.  She simply blotted it up and went on with the festivities. Her later photos show a woman of graceful stature and serene demeanor.

A Beloved Tradition Begins...
Miss Pulley began her traditional Christmas display in 1942 as a gift to the children and it continued until her death.   Her home was situated at the bottom of a hill on several acres of graceful lawns planted with large trees...the perfect site for a large display.  People could easily drive by to see the lights. She brought in Santa Claus to stand at the gate at the end of her driveway and hand out candy-canes and oranges to carloads of children.  This gift was considered extraordinarily generous...because this was during that period of war rationing.   In the picture above, a local family and Santa are standing next to the sleigh from the Santa can see how large the scale needed to be.  I wish there were more pictures.  I would love to have one of the display to show you.  All I have is my memory...and we know those are unreliable!  If anyone wants to share their memories in the comments...I would love that!

A more modern Santa.
A few years ago, some well-meaning folks tried to revive the tradition.
Some things you can't bring back.

A Memory Movie...
I know it's not possible that there was snow every year...but in my memories our car moves slowly in the endless line of vehicles waiting to pass by the display.  I can hear the crunch of tires on packed snow...that is...I could if my little brothers and sisters would just settle down for a bit.  They bounce about in the old station wagon like balls in a pinball game...getting on Dad's last nerve.

Finally, just as Dad has bluffed for the last time about getting out of line and going home...we pass the last house and trees that conceal the magic.  There's plenty of the slow admire the manger scene. To "ooh and ahh" over the lights and enjoy the tinny blast of "Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer" coming through the speakers nailed to trees and power poles.   When the vignette of Santa's Sleigh moves into view we grow more and more excited.  Santa is there!  He's waiting at the end of the drive with treats for each of us.  I'm hoping for a candy cane or maybe a small Hershey Bar.  

Dad tells us to open our windows.  We do so and the frigid air pours into the car.  Santa is stamping his frozen feet and steam from his breath "encircles his head like a wreath."  We yell out our Christmas wishes like one chaotic fast-food order and receive our long-awaited treat of chocolate marshmallow Santas.  I hate marshmallow Santas, but I would never be ungracious to the Big Guy.  With a "Merry Christmas" he waved us on. 

I still have dreams of the downtown stores and businesses of my childhood.  My favorites memories of Christmas include the decorations that hung across Main Street

The Christmas Train!

Santa's Sleigh and Tiny Reindeer!
I so wish I could see them again...hometown mainstreets were magical in those days.  Still...after a fun family drive to see the lights...we all wanted to end up here...

The Hi-Spot Drive Inn! 
When little brother Tommy learned to read...Hi-Spot was his first word!  We were so proud! This was not our only family favorite, but I love this picture.

Christmas is coming! Yikes!
I'm glad I felt well enough to get this written.  Hubby finally made me see a doctor this morning.  I have a lovely case of tonsilitis...huh?  Anyway...glad it's not strep but I still feel lousy.  I have so much to do and Grandkids in Idaho that need visiting this weekend.  Pray for the meds to work.

Note:  most of the pictures are from the book American Fork City:  The Growing Years by Betty G. Spencer.


Lisa Jo said...

LOVE IT! so many memories! ya know when Tom was preteen Mom would take us to the HIspot... and it never failed he would go in there flurt with the girls and come out with a bag of free food! he was such a charmer... Mom and i would look at our cokes and look at his bag ... so not fair LOL Sandy gave me a picture she took of Tom walking out of the Hispot once after one of his flurt sessions LOL i treasure it!

pattipie said...

I loved the post. I remember the marshmallow santa and I think we gobbled them down fast. I think sandy saved hers until later to eat slowwwllly in front of us!!

Cari Key said...

This actually brought a tear to my eye. I so remember those days of driving past Mary Pulleys to see the lights and greet Santa. Thanks for sharing Shirley! Loved it.

Betsy said...

Hi Shirley,

I hope the meds work and pray that you'll be feeling better soon. I really enjoyed your post. Doesn't it seem like things were just so much better when we were young? I like going through small towns this time of year because many of them still put up those old-fashioned decorations. It just takes me back. My daughter has been catching up on your blog and was oohing and aahing, so I need to keep reading!


Lynn said...

Oh Shirley!
This was such a fun post!! Thank you for sharing your childhood memeories with me!! How wonderful for your community to have a wonderful lady like that in it!!! I hope the meds kick in soon!

Little Susie Home Maker said...

What a wonderful post. I like the way you tell stories. I really enjoyed it so much. Feel better soon!
Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

I stopped tonight at a neighbor home so that my children could watch the lights flash to the beat of music we tuned into on the radio. I told my daughter about Mary Pulley and my childhood memories of listening to her music from my home not far from Mary Pulley Hill. I told her what an amazing life she lived and thought wouldn't it be neat to find her story written somewhere so that I could share it with my kids. When we got home I googled Mary Pulley and I am so delighted that you have recorded your memories along with this history. Thank you!!! My daughter is sitting by my side and we read your story and looked at the photos together. I am so glad you shared this!

Ann Mitchell said...

My dad, brother, and nephew used to help fix the Santa when he wouldn't wave! Great memories!!!

We can do hard things! said...

Hi there. Such a nice tribute to Mary Pulley. My parents took us there as children, too. ☺ Anyhow, the reason I stopped by today was the Hi spot picture. My parents spent all their weekends there and would love to have a picture of it for their wall. ☺ Is that from the library, or do you have the original? Thanks for any info you can give me. Chelesta Rasmussen Stueck