1939 Nativity Tableau
As World War II was beginning in Europe, Perkasie unveiled their newest Christmas display, the Nativity Tableau. A mass choir of nearly 200 and all of Perkasie’s Pastors gathered on Friday December 8, 1939 at the Perkasie Reading Railroad Station for the dedication.
The dedication of the tableau was the culmination of a community project sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. The tableau is more than 20 feet long and 15 feet high. Mounted on a huge base is an open Bible. On one of the pages is a depiction of the manger scene. The opposite page shows the Wise Men following the star. The scenes have cut out metal figures that are attached towards the front of the scene giving a 3-dimensional appearance. Indirect lighting adds to the impressive scene. The tableau was made in Allentown, by William R. Weiss Art Displays.
When the Honor Roll of Perkasie residents serving during World War II was erected at the Reading Railroad Station, the Nativity Tableau was moved to a new location and assembled on the Market Street side of the First Evangelical Church of Perkasie (now The First United Methodist Church). It is believed the tableau was last used during the 1950’s and then stored away.
In 1998, the tableau was rediscovered in a storage area of the Perkasie Electrical Department’s garage. It remained there until 2013 when it was taken out of storage and placed outside awaiting disposal. Perkasie Historical member and electric department employee, Matt Lynch realizing the value of the tableau, alerted historical society members. Just hours before being taken to the landfill, Matt, Rick Doll, Bob Dunlap and Bob Behr moved the tableau to a storage location in Sellersville.
Perkasie Historical Society members Cathy and Chris Kleine have offered their front yard to display the tableau. Some of the metal cut out pieces have been taken out of storage and cleaned. During the 2020 Christmas season they will be displayed in the Kleine’s front yard for the first time in over 60 years. Hopefully in the future, the entire display will be able to be reassembled and displayed.
As the 1960’s began, the Borough of Perkasie looked at refreshing the community Christmas decorations. The lights that were strung across streets and intersections during the 1950’s were replaced with candle decorations attached to the telephone poles.
To highlight the South Perkasie Covered Bridge it was decided to create an “artificial” tree next to the bridge. The bridge move to Lenape Park in 1958 raised local awareness of the bridge and drew national media attention.
To construct the tree, the Perkasie Electric Department placed a telephone pole near the southwest end of the bridge. The light strings that once were strung across Perkasie’s streets were attached to the top of the pole. The strands would radiate from the top and attach in a circle on the ground. The result was a Christmas tree design when the red, yellow and green light bulbs were illuminated. A star with white lights topped the tree.
Christmas 1962, the town community tree at the bridge was illuminated for the first time. The covered bridge itself, was also illuminated with spot- lights creating a beautiful Christmas scene.
The tree at the covered bridge remained part of Perkasie’s Christmas lighting until 1980 when a small tree was planted at the intersection of Seventh and Market Streets. This tree, initially decorated by the Girl Scouts, and later the Perkasie Electric Department, became the town Christmas Tree and focus of the current “Tree Lighting Event.”