Wednesday, December 25, 2013


It exists now only in memory or in grainy old videos or home movies. There are some old photos still left and that special rendering done by artist Phil Ponder, framed and memorialized in many Nashville homes.

It was Fred Harvey's "Gift to Nashville"...a bigger than life-sized nativity scene that from 1953 to 1967 made this city a special place to visit and grow up each holiday season. Sure what the department store magnate provided made little historical sense (a symbol of Christainity in front of a replica of a pagan temple), and sure they'd likely be little chance such a display would be legally allowed in today's politically correct atmosphere, but you just had to be there each year as a child or an adult to understand how pretty and memorable the display was as the Christmas carols played and the lights changed colors (even if the colors were like those artificial holiday trees some of us had at home).

Here's a video look back at the Centennial Park Nativity Scene, courtesy of Nashville's WNPT-TV and it's MEMORIES OF NASHVILLE program produced a few years back. Caution, you might see a voice and face you recognize....

It was snowstorms like the one I mentioned in the video back in 1967 and one of the city's rare White Christmases in 1963, plus the constantly up and down holiday temperatures of Nashville's climate that ultimately ruined (rotted) the display beyond repair. It was sold and used in Cincinnati shopping center for a year or two before it was completely scrapped.

And so it was gone by the time our Centennial Class made it to Vanderbilt in the fall and winter of 1969. But for those of us who grew up in this area it will never be forgotten, although it is a bit daunting to realize you now have to be close to 50 years old or older to have many memories of that special display.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

1 comment:

Unknown said...


It's hard to believe it's been 46 years since the Nativity Scene's last appearance. I remember freezing to death as a kid, cause you had to stand there through all four colors for your visit to be official. My favorite color was the plain white light...somehow that just seemed more "natural."

Harvey's Department store itself was a major visit itself. It was the largest of Nashville's Big 3 stores (Castner-Knott and Cain-Sloan) being the others.

It was 5 floors on a complete city block complete with a merry go-round and kids area on I think the 4th floor. Parents would drop their kids off while they shopped, and everybody was perfectly fine with that.

The Downtown Nashville of our era was a world apart from the campus, but most students would remember The Old Ryman Auditorium, Tootsies, Ernest Tubb's, The Arcade, Printer's Alley, The Lowes Crescent, Tennessean, Knickerbocker, and Paramount theatres.

You could blog for months on the city, Hillsboro Village, Green Hills, The Warner Parks, and Giant Foods (open 24 hours a day!)

Great article today.