Community Christmas Trees

43_image01As the lovely notes of ”Oh Come All Ye Faithful” rang out into the wintry twilight of last Sunday afternoon from the group of carollers, young and old, who were assembled around the newly planted Community Christmas tree, the memories of some few among them went back over the years to other Christmas trees in other parts of Wayne.

First of these community Christmas trees was the one planted to the right of the Wayne Primary School, at the instigation of a woman always deeply interested in civic affairs, Mrs. James B. Riley, who lived for many years on Pembroke avenue. In the early 1900’s she arranged for the planting of this fir tree in a spot where there would be ample space for carollers to gather around it.

Though never a lighted tree, it created a center for outdoor Christmas music for several years. After it was deserted for a more centrally located tree, it became the “birds’ Christmas tree”, decorated with choice tid-bits of food for the small feathered friends of the children of the Wayne Primary School. This trimming of the tree for the birds remained a custom until a few years ago.

Then there was the big fir tree on the Louella grounds near the mansion. Groups of young carollers gathered around it as they made their rounds along the streets of Wayne and St. Davids, before arriving at St. Mary’s Church in time for the Christmas Midnight services there.

Later, in December, 1922, carol singers gathered for the first time around the well-remembered, beautiful, tall fir tree, located where Halligan’s toy store now stands. For many years it was one of the Christmas landmarks of the Main Line, as its many lights shone out along Lancaster Pike. That Christmas season of 1922, when it was first lighted, Edgar L. Hunt, organist at St. Mary’s Church and music instructor at Radnor High School, led the singing around the tree. Many felt that this tree and the ground around it should in some fashion have become the permanent property of the Township, in order that its lights at Christmas time should continue to shine down through the years. But that was not to be.

And now again Wayne has a handsome Christmas tree of its own, which may be seen on page 1 of this issue – the gift of Mr. and Mrs. E. Mortimer Newlin, given in memory of their young son, Frank Battles Newlin, who was killed in an automobile accident during the year just past.

Three members of the Community Garden Club were on the committee to select the variety of tree which should be chosen and the site which it was to occupy. Much thought was given to both questions by Mrs. P.H. Mell, J. Armstrong Mills, and Roy Kersey. Finally, a Douglas fir of the largest dimensions that could be transplanted, was chosen from the stock of William H. Doyle, of Berwyn, a well known nurseryman. Many sites along Lancaste Pike had to be ruled out because of plans for future widening of the roadway.

The location finally chosen is just to the left of the entrance of one of the community’s oldest churches – the Chapel of the Wayne Presbyterian Church, built more than 80 years ago on ground donated by J. Henry Askin, founder of Wayne. With its twinkling, multi-colored lights below the clear white star at its tip, it is indeed a beautiful sight to be enjoyed alike by Wayne residents and the many passers-by along the highway.

The gratitude of the community goes out to its donors, Mr. and Mrs. Newlin, to the Presbyterian Church and to the Garden Club members, who are the custodians and caretakers of the tree. This gratitude the community is expressing in some small way by its lighting of the tree.

(The North Wayne tree, the Wayne Terrace tree and the Rosemont tree will be discussed in next week’s column.)

Shown above, attentively listening to the Christmas carols being sung by children under the direction of Jesse Zerr, is a portion of the large audience which attended the dedication of Wayne’s new community Christmas Tree, held last Sunday in front of the Chapel of the Wayne Presbyterian Church. Several hundred persons attended the ceremony, at which the tree was lighted for the first time. (Photo by Stellabott)