A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lights! Organ! Eagle!

Generations of Philadelphians have traveled to the old John Wanamaker department store in Center City Philadelphia during the Christmas season to watch the holiday light show. For those unfamiliar with the show, it is a lighting display on a wall five stories high above the store's center court. The show has Christmas trees and balls, snowflakes, sugar plum fairies, tin soldiers, a grandfather clock, a Christmas train, and Santa Claus. All these lights move in coordination with a pre-recorded narrated story. The finale is a dazzling water fountain display at the base of the wall. Philadelphians would cheer the show, vacate the center court, and, presumably, buy something on the way out of the store.

In recent years, however, the show has grown smaller and smaller under the current management, Lord and Taylor. Store management has reasoned that it has become necessary to curtail the show because the display is old (1955). First, they shut off the fountain, then various parts of the display, then limiting show times to every two hours instead of every hour. The Philadelphia Inquirer alluded to conspiracy theories for the gradual closing, but did not or could not elaborate. Most likely, they fear the loss of Lord and Taylor advertising revenue.

So be it! We have no such fear (or revenue) on this blog. Let's explore the theories...

Store management tells the public that the parts are old and can't be repaired... This could be true, so how about replacing the display rather than restoring it. After all, we have new technology; Hollywood can send an invasion of Martians to the earth, destroy cities with creatures as tall as skyscrapers, and create whole new worlds with just the click and drag of a computer mouse. Meanwhile, here in Philadelphia, we can't put two wires together to light up Santa! What is the problem here? Can't we find a five-story stepladder somewhere so that we can replace the old parts?

Or is Have the Lord and Taylor number crunchers determined that the shows don't really bring in enough residual business to justify the cost of repairs/replacement?

Or is it...the national landmark designation given to the old Wanamaker site? Could it be that the designation that protects the Wanamaker Organ and the Wanamaker Eagle (in the center court where generations of Philadelphians would meet each other when they rendezvoused in Center City) is also preventing management from repairing/replacing this cherished holiday institution?

Perhaps it's time for some well-connected and well-heeled citizens to step forward to save the lights. After all, the Wanamaker Organ has the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ (www. to look after its restoration and maintenance. Certainly a similar community action group could be organized to save the Lord and Taylor light show (even if it means saving it from Lord and Taylor). We should act before we are left with nothing more than two light bulbs - one red, one green - that flash intermittently in erratic, but festive, holiday patterns. Oooo...I can hear the excited voices of future generations of Philadelphians now!

(Thank you for coming to our Christmas light show. Now buy something!)


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