Berks County Christmas – Day 20 – Christmas 1960

This is what Christmas looked like in the December 25th,  1960 Reading Eagle.

Christmas 1960

For the residents of Muhlenberg Park, jolly Santa Claus this year added a new twist to his visit. He arrived three days ahead of schedule and, instead of going about his duties in his usual secret way, he enlisted the help of Girl Scout Intermediate Troop 177. These girls, wearing little elf hats, helped St. Nick deliver over 400 candy-filled stockings to youngsters on the list. As a part of the borough’s fifth annual Christmas parade sponsored by the Muhlenberg Park Civic Club, Santa, in the person of Edward Wielkopolski, and his caravan traveled 10 miles, visiting almost every home in the community.

Wearing his shiny black boots and bright red velvet suit decorated with white fur, St. Nick made personal visits to shut-in children who were not able to greet him at the door to receive their stocking. In the accompanying picture, Santa takes time out from his rounds to read a Christmas story to 7-year-old Edward Thompson, son of Mr. and Mrs. George W. Thompson, 644 Linden St., Muhlenberg Park, who had come down with the chicken pox.

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(Left) Three little girls who anxiously awaited the arrival of Santa Claus in the annual visitation by the Muhlenberg Park Civil Club greet him at the door of their home. Receiving candy-filled stockings from the jolly gentleman are these daughters daughters of Mr. and Mrs. William R. Eaken Jr., 3250 Harrison Ave., Muhlenberg Park, Left to right: Barbara, 3; Karen, 5; and Deborah, 6.

(Right) Santa’s helpers, complete with elf caps, stop by a gaily decorated lampost at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Harold R. Hain, 3254 Harrison Ave., Muhlenberg Park, to sing Christmas carols. Members of the Intermediate Girl Scout Trool 177, these girls helped Santa dekuver the candy-filled stockings. Left to right: Sandra Adams, Sandra Mertz, Fay Drehrer, Blair Wielkopolski, Patricia Peck and Susan Levan, all of Muhlenberg Park.

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Fox North Theatre

Opened as the Fox Theatre on 21, Aug. 1964 and  was located in the Muhlenberg Shopping Center on the 5th Street Highway (Rt.222), just north of Reading. The Fox Theatre was renamed the Fox North Theatre when Fox opened the Fox East Theatre on 3 May, 1971. The Fox North Theatre was equipped for 70mm film. It had one screen and boasted 525 seats.

Fox North Theatre
Grand Opening article in the August 21st, 1964 Reading Eagle

The Fox Theatre was built and operated by Fox Theatres of Reading PA. The original manager of the Fox was Paul Angstadt who later became mayor of Reading.

At that time Fox Theatres of Reading was a weak sister in the Reading market. The Reading market was considered by the distributors at that time to be part of the Philadelphia territory and thus Fox was competing for product with the Colonial (Stanley Warner), the Embassy (Fabian), the Astor (William Goldman) and later the Eric (Sameric). All of these major chains had a large presence in Philadelphia and product was often split and pictures were often ‘blocked booked’ based upon a chain’s control of what was happening in Philadelphia. Since Fox Theatres of Reading did not have any venues in Philadelphia they often struggled to get pictures for the Fox in Reading despite being a premium 70MM house.

“I remember at one time the Fox was reduced to playing Deep Throat in 1972 for lack of product. Although the Fox did play Star Wars for over a year, it was then unable to secure “Empire Strikes Back” which played across the street on one side of the Eric bowling alley twin in mono sound while the 70MM Fox played some third rate piece of junk in 35mm. According to what we were told at the time Empire had been block booked into all of the Sameric theatres in the Philadelphia territory which is why the Fox could not get Empire.” – Muviebuf – Cinema Treasures

Fox North Theatre
Fox North Theatre pictured in 1982

The theatre closed in 1988, and the building is currently housed by a Pep Boys.

The Reading Fair

The Reading Fair had it’s first fair in 1854 at Penn’s Commons, in what is now City Park. It wasn’t until 1915 that the Fair was held at it’s most remembered location in Muhlenberg Township. They built a Horse Race Track and grandstands which were opened to the public in 1916. The fair was hugely successful, and remained successful due to it’s availability of transportation being near both Reading and the Pennsylvania Railroad lines. People came in from all corners of the state to watch races and a variety of other amusements.

Eventually with the changing times, the racing transitioned from horse into motor vehicle racing. It became so popular that the Fairgrounds eventually held an entire season of racing, starting in March and only closing in late fall.  In 1978, the last fair was held on the Muhlenberg site. The grounds were sold to developers that ended up constructing the Fairgrounds Square Mall. The last full season of racing was also held at the fairgrounds in 1978, though 1979 held a few racing events due to delay in the construction of the mall. The Fairgrounds Square Mall was completed in 1980, and still held a smaller version of the fair on it’s grounds until 1994. Since 1999, the Fair has been moved to Bern Township, on Hilltop Road. This year’s fair takes place August 6th through 12th.