Jaycees crowned Michelle Gibson ‘Little Mary Christmas’ in 1970 contest [Lancaster That Was] | LancLife

Excerpts and summaries of news stories from the former Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster New Era and Sunday News that focus on the events in the county’s past that are noteworthy, newsworthy or just strange. 

In December 1995, what would become an iconic piece of the local tourism landscape was first proposed to a township zoning hearing board.

But first, another iconic tourist attraction had to be sacrificed to make way for it.

East Lampeter Township heard a proposal from the owner of the Willows, a hotel and restaurant combination that had been a mainstay of Lancaster County tourism for decades, about demolishing his business to make way for a 1,500-seat, state-of-the-art musical theater.

What would eventually become the American Music Theatre was set to take shape at 2425 Lincoln Highway East. That site had housed the Willows – renowned for its Glass Kitchen restaurant – since 1931. Groundbreaking on the theater project would eventually take place in the summer of 1996, with the theater opening in the spring of 1997.

In the headlines:

Clinton, GOP seek deal on budget

NATP forces take over from UN as Bosnia peacekeepers

100 Santas run amok in store

Check out the Dec. 20, 1995, Lancaster New Era here.

Thanks to the Manheim Jaycees, 5-year-old Michelle Gibson was the guest of honor at a Christmas celebration in 1970.

Michelle was named “Little Mary Christmas,” an honor that came with an array of prizes donated by local merchants, ranging from appliances and furniture for Michelle’s family to gift certificates and candy for the honoree herself.

Also included was a record of “Little Mary Christmas,” the song from which the contest took its name, which was written by local musicians Walter Baum and Ben Iannone. 

(The maudlin Christmas tune later became something of a campy cult classic, with a version appearing on “A John Waters Christmas,” a CD of oddball Christmas songs released in 2004 by the Baltimore-based film director.)

Michelle beat out 140 other girls, ages 2-10, for the title.

In the headlines:

2,000 riot against US in Okinawa

4 aircraft shot down in Vietnam

DC9 jetliner hijacking fails

Check out the Dec. 20, 1970, Sunday News here.

Eight inches of snow only served to worsen the prospects for speedy mail delivery from the Lancaster post office in December 1945, which was already snowed under by a torrent of holiday cards and packages.

Two hundred extra workers were added to the post office staff to cope with the torrent of mail, which officials said was the highest volume ever processed at Christmas time. 

The extra employees were added not only to the main floor of the processing center, but also to the various delivery routes, which were running slowly because of winter weather.

In the headlines:

Solons OK liberalized GI bill

All fathers now exempt from draft

Truman proposes plan for merger of armed forces

Check out the Dec. 20, 1945, Intelligencer Journal here.

The front page of the Dec. 20, 1920, Lancaster Intelligencer included two items about the especially busy holiday season.

The first was about throngs of Christmas shoppers flooding into downtown Lancaster. The Lancaster city trolleys were operating at full capacity, and trains bringing shoppers into town from the outer regions of the county were packed with passengers.

Merchants reported that, in terms of business, Dec. 18 was “the biggest Saturday ever experienced before Christmas.” Business was expected to increase even more in the final days before the holiday, as was typically the case.

The second item was simply a list of names – the “Christmas rush” had begun in the marriage license bureau, with 15 couples applying to wed in a single day.

In the headlines:

Earthquake kills many in South American towns; people are panic-stricken

Emergency tariff bill to be rushed

Check out the Dec. 20, 1920, Lancaster Intelligencer here.

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