Blogs > Remember When Virtual Museum

Photos and stories about the rich history of The Reporter's coverage area. Readers are encouraged to submit their own stories and photos for this blog and the weekly Remember When feature in The Reporter, which runs on Mondays. Contact us by email at, or write us at 307 Derstine Avenue, Lansdale, PA 19446 for details.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Last word on Santa...

Last week, if you remember, we had a few holiday photos that included a 1962 shot of Lansdale’s Mardi Gras Parade, and photos from Santa’s headquarters in Lansdale, which the contributor also thought had come from 1962.

This week we received an update from Bob Nuss of Hatfield, who had been involved with the house and wanted to clear up a few items.

He included a few photos, one of which shows a workman busy on the new “North Penn North Pole,” an expansion of the Santa Claus house of previous years, while in the distance, a wrecker is razing the last remaining old building on the lot at the corner of Green and Courtland streets. The photo is from Nov. 19, 1965.

In the Santa photo, Sandra Slotter, 4, of Lansdale, is seen outside the headquarters. A date on the back of the photo indicates it appeared in The Reporter on Dec. 15, 1965.

Another photo shows the empty lot with the Santa house and Christmas tree, which is described in the following.

We’ll let Nuss tell the story:

“Lansdale’s first Santa house was erected in 1963. The house was to be placed on the Krieble property at 23 West Main Street, which is now a public parking lot.

“The location was abruptly changed on that morning because of difficulty removing the iron fence adjacent to the sidewalk for access. The powers that be were frantic about what to do next so they decided to go to Plan B.

“Someone came up with the idea to place it in the eastern-most access drive from Main Street to the Madison parking lot, between the Sam Fruit shoe store and Beinhacker building.

“This was not a problem due to another entrance drive close by, next to the Sun Ray Drugstore.

“The new headquarters was built in such a way that it could be taken apart or lifted onto a trailer and stored. I was told it fell prey to vandals during the off-season sitting in a storage facility off Moyer Road.

“Opening night was business as usual for the Mardi Gras Parade. It started in the early evening with the lighting of the Christmas lights along Main Street as the parade traveled west from the Memorial Park area to the former Acme parking lot.

“But this year was different. After arriving at the Acme, Santa (alias Dave Fesmire of Mt. Vernon Street, Lansdale) took a turn and headed back to Green and Main streets for the grand opening ceremony of his new headquarters.

“In November 1965 there was a second and much larger Santa headquarters built on the lot of the demolished Longacre building at the corner of Main Street and Railroad Avenue. This was also the first time the Mardi Gras Parade would be held during the day on Saturday.

“Merchants from Lansdale and surrounding areas donated all the materials for both buildings. Some of these were Krupp Meyers and Hoffman, Line Lexington Lumber, Snyder’s of Hatfield, Lansdale Lumber and Millwork, Shearer’s Lumber of North Wales and Sherwin Williams Paint.

“A local builder donated the labor and locals completed the finishing touches. Mattero’s scrap yard of West Seventh Street sent an old rubber tire crane and lifted a 30-plus-foot fir tree from a property along Railroad Avenue near Courtland Street, carried and placed it next to the house as a Christmas tree.

“Lansdale Electric braced it with rope and strung lights. It was remarkable how the Jaycees along with the borough coordinated the many merchants and businesses who responded on both occasions.

“During the Santa house era, the Hatfield Jaycees established an annual ‘Santa Calling’ project. It was a direct telephone line linked with Lansdale and Souderton. Each area had a local number, which was tied together so children could call Santa. These calls were made during evening hours and answered by Santa at the Lansdale headquarters.

“When construction was about to start for new office building, Santa’s headquarters had to be removed and placed in storage off Moyer Road. This second Santa house stood abandoned until around early 1971, when a group of local men gave it new life.

“They disassembled and relocated it near the town of Rock Port, Carbon County, close to the Lehigh River. It was rebuilt and eventually enlarged as a hunting and fishing cabin in the middle of the Lehigh River Gorge State Park.

“I was told that it still stands but is unrecognizable, and is now owned by the state. It became the headquarters not of Santa, but of the park rangers who patrol the Lehigh River State Park.

“Thanks to the Lansdale Historical Society for their assistance in my research.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Christmas re-run

Don’t panic when you look at these photos today because yes, the holidays are behind us.

But when Judy Weiner of Lansdale sent these photos to us last week, we just could not resist sharing them with all of you.

She has the photos dated as 1962.

Weiner noted:

“I came across these pictures from The Reporter from my mother’s belongings. She passed away in 1992 and my stepfather, Bill DiPietro, passed away last year and I found these among photos in a box.

“My mother is the one in the pictures with the guys who entered a contest to design Santa’s house. Maybe somebody will recognize themselves or a family member in there.”

In that photo, Daniel Kollar, designer of the new Santa Claus headquarters in Lansdale, is given 25 silver dollars for his work by H. Richard Eyer, vice president of the Lansdale Chamber of Commerce. Weiner’s mom, Mrs. Lou Lukens, was chairman of the contest for the Lansdale Art League.

Weiner continues:

“I especially liked the Mardi Gras Parade — check out that reindeer. Was that the first Mardi Gras Parade? If anybody knows the answer, let me know. Also, I’m curious to know Santa’s name.”

In that photo, you’ll ee that the parade was held at night. The caption noted that the crowd was estimated at 15,000.

In the other Santa photo, the jolly old man waves as he stands outside his headquarters, which were located on Main Street, opposite the end of Green Street.

Well, Judy, we can tell you that the 2009 Mardi Gras Parade was the 59th parade. As for Santa — maybe he just goes by St. Nick!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

When parks weren't passive

Remember the ferris wheel at West Point Park? How about the Wild Mouse?

Or maybe you preferred heading up to Menlo Park in Perkasie, where you could ride the amusements, bowl or roller skate.

On Tuesday, you’ll be transported back to the days when area recreation spots provided relief from the heat for more than a century.

That’s when the Lansdale Historical Society fights the winter blahs with a touch of summer at its Community Program titled “Amusement Parks.”

The program features the history and photos of four area amusement parks that attracted huge crowds during their heyday.

All four of them — West Point Park, Edgewood (Whites) Park, Forest Park and Menlo Park —were popular spots that trace their beginnings to the 19th century.

Their rides, midways, lakes and picnic groves were visited by thousands each summer.

In the photos you see here today, West Point Park is featured, with the ferris wheel and the train in the spotlight.

The popularity of these parks diminished after the 1950s. West Point Park and Forest Park were replaced by housing subdivisions. Whites Road Park and Menlo remain as municipal parks geared to swimming pools, picnicking and other recreational activities.

The program will also include Allentown’s Dorney Park, which serves as example of an amusement park that survived by expanding and by adapting to changing lifestyles over the years.

A special show featuring Willow Grove Park will be scheduled in the future.

The Tuesday program will be held at the Lansdale Parks and Recreation Building, Seventh Street and Lansdale Avenue, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

There is no admission charge but donations are appreciated.

For information, call (215) 855-1872.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cold treats

As we kick off the new year, it may be a bit chilly to think about heading to a snack bar.

But, on the other hand, maybe this photo will warm you up a bit.

Before McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, fast food was pretty much a home grown in these parts.

According to Dick Shearer of the Lansdale Historical Society, who supplied this photo and information, the prosperity of the 1950s led to a spate of locally owned roadside stops that specialized in hamburgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, ice cream cones and the like.

Some had tables or counter service; others were walk-ups where customers lined up to order their food, which they ate in their cars.

Every town and highway had at least one of these eateries, which were popular with teens who borrowed dad’s car or Little League managers who wanted to treat their players after big games.

Among them were White’s Liner at Valley Forge Road and Sumneytown Pike, Hagey’s in Souderton, the Curly Top at Welsh Road and Route 309 and an occasional Dairy Queen — the first of the national chains to come into the area — and the Big Pixey, with locations in Montgomeryville, Upper Gwynedd and Collegeville.

Another busy spot was the Frosty Cup — which is featured in this photo — on Bethlehem Pike near Route 113 in Hilltown Township.

The Cup is long gone, but memories of its tasty barbecue on a bun last a lifetime.