Cherished holiday decorations auctioned in Pa.

November 19, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNECASTLE, Pa. - A longtime area holiday tradition that drew thousands of visitors over six decades to Waynecastle went on the auction block Thursday.

The Waynecastle Christmas scenes - a nativity, singing carolers, Santa and elves, a horse and sleigh, an organist and a church choir - were the must-see visit every Christmas season. The figures were motorized to show movement.

The display, which delighted children and adults, began simply with candles in the window of the home of Charles F. and Amanda Miller, said Amanda Reed, 34, of Sharpsburg, the Millers' great-granddaughter.


Reed and her sister, Araminta Flegel, 38, are the family's sole survivors, Reed said. Neither of the sisters attended the sale at auctioneer Matthew Hurley's Legacy Center at 2800 Buchanan Trail East.

The display began to take shape in 1934, said Reed, 34, of Sharpsburg. "It just grew from there. They started to get wooden scenes in 1934," she said.

Her great-grandmother found patterns for the early figures in a magazine and had a Smithsburg carpenter make them. Later ones were bought over the years already made. Reed's grandparents, Earl and May Moore, took over the display from their parents, she said.

The family ran a farm and a grain elevator business. Several generations of the family, including Reed and her sister, lived in the house, she said.

May Moore ran the elevator business after her husband died, Reed said. She closed the business in the late 1970s, but kept the holiday display going.

"It was kind of neat," Reed said.

Once asked why she did it, her grandmother said, if it made people happy then it made her happy.

"Grandma just turned it into a tradition. The only years it wasn't set up was 1941 after Pearl Harbor and 1973 when President Nixon declared an energy crisis," Reed said.

The display grew as the years went on. The family home was ringed with lights and floodlights illuminated the figures. Christmas music played over loudspeakers.

Hurley said the family started to set up the display around Thanksgiving. "They would turn them around for Christmas then keep them up for the 12 days of Christmas," he said.

People from miles around came every year to see the display, in cars, in vans and in buses. Church and senior citizens groups made the annual pilgrimage to Waynecastle Road. People would drive around during the holidays to see Christmas decorations and the Millers' display was always on the route.

Kalman Markus of Five Forks, Pa., said he moved to the area in 1973. "We went every year to see it. It was a highlight of the night," he said.

Merle McCleaf, 67, of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., and his son were loading the nativity scene into a pickup truck.

McCleaf said he saw the display every year for 45 years. "I'm going to fix them up this year and display them next year," he said.

Hurley said all of the displays were bought by local people. They drew a lot of attention, he said. "People were taking pictures with their children standing in front of them."

"In 1983, Grandma decided not to set up the display, but she received so many calls from so many people who wouldn't let her off the hook," Reed said.

"People told her they used to take their children to see the display, then their grandchildren."

May Moore stopped the display sometimes in the early 1990s. She died in 2001 at age 93.

No one interviewed remembered exactly what year the display was no longer there.

"We just pulled up one year and it wasn't there. What a big letdown," Markus said. "It wasn't really Christmas when the lights in Waynecastle went out."

According to Hurley, the six displays sold for more than $7,000 total. Large displays like the nativity scene, carolers-choir set and the woman at the organ sold from $1,200 to $1,500 each.

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